Getting the love we always wanted from the perfect parent we never had

When we were small, our parents were godlike to us. They had all power over us. We probably thought they had all power in the world.

This experience imprinted on us, and subconsciously we assume that God is like our parents. Better said, we project our parents onto God, and so expect God to treat us and the world like they did.

But nobody’s parents are perfect. Most lose their tempers or criticize their children unfairly from time to time. Many sometimes place unreasonable demands on their children, or punish them harshly, or control them with shame. Some parents abuse or neglect their children.

And so we may believe God watches over us with a critical eye and is never satisfied with anything we do. Or we may assume God is just waiting to turn his back on us when we screw up. Or we may think we need to work hard to earn God’s favor and love. Or we may figure that no matter what we do God’s not going to care about us anyway, and so we give up trying.

But God’s more like the perfect parent none of us ever had. He wants to see us grow up well. He never loses his temper or patience with us. He knows there is sometimes pain and difficulty in our lives, and he wants us to turn to him for comfort and encouragement through it so he can help us become stronger and more loving. He knows we make mistakes and sometimes even deliberately do the wrong thing, but he won’t turn his back on us, or shame us, or punish us no matter how bad it was.

At our cores, we all want to be loved. God wants to love us. Our fears that God will let us down in the way our parents did gets in the way of us simply accepting that love. We have to keep working on our relationship with God and over time come to see him as he truly is before we can simply accept the love he has for us.

If you are a parent, consider what a service to your children it would be if you modeled your parenting after the way God loves. Not only would your children feel your love for them more strongly, but it would make their image of God be so much closer to who he really is. It might help them more readily accept God into their lives.

When I turned to God, he showed me that love paves the way, and that to follow him all I have to do is hold up my hand for him to grasp.


9 responses to “Getting the love we always wanted from the perfect parent we never had”

  1. Scott Palmer Avatar

    A wonderful and poignant blog post. Both parents and people who’ve had parents can benefit from its message.

    I like a quote from Oscar Wilde: “Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes, they forgive them.” I’d substitute “eventually” for “sometimes.”

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks, Scott. If we don’t eventually forgive our parents, we’re doomed to a pretty miserable life.

      1. Scott Palmer Avatar

        I think that the main thing for which we forgive our parents is not being perfect. That problem stems more from our unrealistic expectations as children than from anything our parents do.

        When we become adults and have made plenty of our own mistakes, we start to understand our parents much better.

  2. versa kay Avatar

    When I was young I read a quote by some one to the effect that he aspired to be the sort of parent he wished he had. I felt that it was a sacrilege to feel that way,and more so to explicitly state so in public, whatever reasons he might have had to feel so about his parents and irrespective of his great intentions and aspirations about the way he wished to bring up his children. I do not deny that there were occasions when I felt suffocated with or frustrated by something or other my parents did now and then But then they .surely must have had their reasons which appeared good enough for them to act that way I only wish that when I am gone my children should feel that they wish to have the sort of parents they had had, if and when they happen to have another birth.

    1. Jim Avatar

      I don’t think it’s wrong at all to want to not repeat our parents’ shortcomings. I think all parents have them, because nobody is perfect!

      1. versa kay Avatar

        There are parents and parents. But it is enough for me if God takes after my parents. This is no reflection on others’ parents, but it is only that my expectations of the Lord are not very exacting.
        But I can understand if my children have much more sublime hopes in respect of The Lord.

  3. Michael Avatar

    The third part of the talk given on a Kairos Prison Ministry weekend is entitled ‘Friendship With God’ and touches quite a bit on what you shared here. Even if the participants did have a decent family life or upbringing in the church, they feel God is unapproachable because of what they have done. We know that isn’t true though. He’ll run to the Prodigal that finally returns home. Hallelujah!

    1. Jim Avatar

      It’s hard to accept that God sees us through Christ-colored glasses. It doesn’t matter how far down the scale we’ve gone, God accepts us, period.

      1. Michael Avatar

        Amen. And I’ve seen Him change the hardest of hearts.

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