A guest post by Janet Eriksson …
About 10 years ago, I took an inner healing class where I learned that the way we see God as adults can be shaped by the way we saw our parents or primary caregivers in childhood.
Parents Can Affect the Way We See God
For example, if a parent abused me, I might expect (in my heart) that God will abuse me somehow. Even though I say, “God is good,” I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop. I never quite trust Him.
This expectation can be very subtle. My heart may hold onto a hidden belief that God is against me. I keep seeing evidence of that expectation, even though I say out loud, “God is good.”
As another example, if a parent wasn’t around much in my childhood or didn’t spend time with me, I might expect the same from God. So I struggle to sense His presence. I don’t expect God to show up when I need Him most. I try to take care of myself instead.
Or if a parent didn’t seem interested in anything I had to say as a child, I might conclude God isn’t interested either. My prayer life suffers because even though I talk to God, I don’t really believe He wants to hear from me. Mom or Dad modeled that for me.
Because these expectations are often hidden in the heart, I don’t realize I’m seeing God in this skewed way. But if I start to explore these areas where I struggle in my relationship with God, the Holy Spirit will bring to mind those childhood experiences that affect how I see God.
As I learned about these kinds of situations in that inner healing class, the examples made sense to me. So I asked God how my parents might have affected the way I see Him. I was shocked at what God showed me.
Why I Feared God Would Die
My dad died suddenly when I was only 15. It was a terrible trauma for me. I had been locked into that trauma for 27 years. I couldn’t even talk about my dad or think about him. Memories of the event and memories of my life with him were shoved into a closet in my mind, with the door bolted. I avoided the subject of death. When people talked about someone who died, I grew very uncomfortable and left the room.
When I asked how that affected my relationship with God, He showed me that I also thought God would die and abandon me forever. I thought when it came my time to die and go to heaven, God would already be gone. No wonder I was terrified of death.
Inviting Jesus into that Place of Trauma and Death
My prayer minister and I invited Jesus into the place in my heart where I was stuck in trauma. I felt like Jesus understood my shock and grief. He wept with me, and He lifted the trauma off of me. Jesus showed me He was there with me when my dad died. I could literally see the memory of the paramedics taking away my dad, but Jesus was still standing there with me, holding onto me, and He never left me.
As suddenly as my dad had died, that’s how sudden the peace was that filled my heart. I could breathe again. I felt joy instead of sorrow because I knew my dad was absolutely alive – still the vibrant and fun-loving person I remembered. He wasn’t lying in the ground somewhere. He was hanging out with Jesus. And finally I knew, with my whole heart, Jesus would stay with me too. He wasn’t going anywhere!
I repented for judging God – for believing the lie that He would die and leave me – and for not really believing He was eternal. That unbelief had been hidden in my heart. I always said God was eternal, but in my heart I didn’t believe it. That’s why I struggled so much around “death.” The truth I spoke with my lips – that Jesus gives eternal life – was not what I held in my heart. You can see where that creates a constant struggle.
Thanks to Jesus, a Lot Has Changed
Since that time, so much has changed. I’m able to talk about death and able to mourn with people when they lose someone they love. My wonderful memories of my dad have returned. I can talk about him with my family and can see the ways I resemble him (my sense of humor, especially). I have found old photos and set them around my home (where before, I only set out photos of my mom).
This Christmas, as a special treat, my sister showed a DVD she had made from old home movies. For the first time, I got to see my dad in his younger years, before I was born. I loved every minute of watching him and have asked for a copy of the DVD so I can watch again. I never could have done that without the healing Jesus brought into my trauma.
Janet Eriksson is a prayer minister, writer, editor, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of five books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches online at https://adventureswithgod.blog/.