My father was a STRICT FATHER type; he was far from perfect, but felt he had primary responsibility for supporting the family as well as overall authority on all topics, setting strict rules and enforcing them. My respect and obedience sprung from self-reliance and self-discipline. The rules were always followed, without compassion or empathy for individual situations. I learned through my early teens to get good grades, excel at golf, win beauty competitions and not do anything that would bring disrespect to the family. Anything else was a sign of weakness and I wouldn’t be loved.
I viewed God in the same way, as a STRICT FATHER. When I’d fail at living up to God’s standards, the guilt was incredible and cumulative; just as I had to earn my earthly father’s love, I had to earn God’s love, too. If God didn’t love me the fault rested squarely on my shoulders.
On a mission trip to South Africa in 2007, the people I traveled with had a different view of God: instead of a STRICT FATHER, God is a NURTURING PARENT, developing His children by caring for and respecting them, and encouraging two-way communication through prayer! These people were obedient to God out of their love and respect for Him, not out of a fear of punishment! Amazing!
I was pretty confused for the next six months! The God I knew who kept a moral scorecard and doled out regular punishment when I disobeyed didn’t exist in my new friends’ world. Could it be true that their joy and fulfillment in life were a product of their empathy for others, their tremendous desire to nurture others to develop their own potential for achievement and enjoyment? Forgiveness and not judging others were the foundation of their view of the world!
It was on Pentecost Sunday in 2008 that I finally got it! Through the work of the Holy Spirit, I understood what it is like to know God: to feel God’s love, to be able to see clearly the brokenness and pain in others around me and to expect to give and receive the fruits of the Spirit in my everyday life.
I had been yearning for 50 years for God’s love, but I’d made a horrible mistake. I was trying to earn God’s love when he already loved me.
If I lived all of my life the way you wanted me to,
If I said all the right words in the quiet moments with you,
Would you love me more than you do now?
Could you love me more?
No, you’ll love me just the same.
Kim Hill – (Album: Broken Things)
What about you? Are you still trying to earn God’s love? Quit trying. He already loves you; the Holy Spirit is ready to transform you.