Each of us learn lessons from our parents. Some lessons are intentional from parents who understand to some degree their influence over their children’s lives. Other lessons are taught silently through example frequently unknown to the parent. As with all things in life, parents can only teach from what they know. Many parents carry forward what they learned from their own parents whether good or bad. My childhood lessons were obedience, distrust, and hatred.
Early on, I learned that the role of the child was to be obedient. If you didn’t listen, there would be at the very least disapproval – frowning or angry faces. Enough disapproval and anger would lead to pain. You would eat what you were given whether you liked it or not because you were to do what you were told. You could be present but not heard. Some of my childhood is difficult to remember clearly. Time makes memories clouded. I must have been a noisy child as I remember being told to be quiet a lot even to the point of having my mouth taped shut in school. But my stronger memory and ultimate lesson was that I had nothing of value to say. There was no value to my thoughts and silence was best.
My lessons of distrust stemmed from my father’s complete failure to be my protector. There is an unspoken expectation that the father’s primary role is to protect his family. Parents are supposed to love their children unconditionally and out of that love blossoms the drive to nourish and protect their children. Unfortunately, we live in a broken world. And even though each child is programmed with the need for love and protection, not every parent can live up to these basic needs. The child injured emotionally and/or physically by a parent is left to face the shattering blow of betrayal. Instead of knowing love, the child learns that they are in fact unloved. The child may even begin to think that they are unlovable. “If your own parents don’t love you, who would?” Then the reality sets in that no one can be trusted. Again, “if you can’t trust your parents, who can you trust?” If the only people on earth tasked with your well being are untrustworthy, you are on your own. This is the beginning of the emotional wall. Since you can only trust yourself, you must keep everyone else at a distance.
For me, this distrust of everyone lead to a hatred of people. I found friendship and acceptance in our pets. Even here, I discovered cruelty. And looking back, there is no surprise in this. If you cannot properly care for children, your pets are in trouble; after all, they are only animals. But no so for me. They were all I had. In my world, people were uncaring, rude, selfish and down right mean. My response was greater distrust, growing hate, and retreating deeper into my walls. Truth is, I was learning to be just like them. It was all about me, and who cares about anyone else.
Looking back on my life, it is clear that this destruction of my ability to trust was my greatest hurtle on the path to healing. The betrayal of emotional and physical abuse by someone who was meant to love you is destructive to the very core of your being. Time does not heal all pains. In fact, if left unhealed, time will only allow those pains to fester into a monster of disease and rot. After decades of searching for healing, I am convinced that only God can heal such wounds. And here is the rub. Here is where the devil laughs in delight at his win. Where the devil relishes in the power of his lies. God is our heavenly Father. Depending on your past, you either understand this point or you are lost right now. For me, father was the most vile thing in my world. Hearing the words father or daddy made me want to gag. If I couldn’t trust my earthly father, how in the world could a possibly trust a heavenly father I didn’t even know. Wouldn’t God the father be just like an earthly father just with more power?
We are left to compare God the father to our own father because that is all we know. As children, our years are so short and our perspectives so limited by our experiences – experiences possibly even manipulated and crafted by broken parents. My father isolated my mother and I hundreds of miles from our family. He moved us to a remote no where land with limited contact to anyone. It was a place where he could have complete control over us. He owned my experiences.
Trust issues can only be overcome through relationship and understanding that the other truly cares about you. This can be an almost impossible feat when you are buried so deep within your own walls and filled with hatred. Relationships are hard to build if you are in hiding and loathing other people.
So how do you get to know God and understand who He is especially as a Father? You won’t truly start to understand who is He until you reach out to Him and start a relationship with Him. And yes, you will need to start it. He is patient and gracious; but please remember, time is our enemy. He also honors our free will and will not force Himself on us. (Though some people have had powerful encounters with God – you can read about Saul/Paul meeting God in Acts 9:1-19.) For me, He was patient and allowed me to open up to Him slowly. He understood my trust issues and gave me space to determine when I was ready. I imagine many people have this experience. We go through life under the pretense that we will take care of ourselves and only when we have no where else to turn do we ask for help.