This Sunday I’m looking at distorted images of God. On Father’s Day we face the temptation of thinking all the best thoughts about fathers and then saying that God is the ultimate Father. But sadly our perspectives on the nature of God are skewed by our experiences of family. Instead, we’re challenged to reshape our approach to family based on the healthier images of God found in Scripture.
Juanita and Dale Ryan, in their 1990 study, “Recovery from Distorted Images of God”, provide some really helpful debriefing on this matter. The book’s no longer in print but it’s available for free as a downloadable pdf from the National Association of Christian Recovery.
“None of us lived in perfect families. Many people have experienced parents or other family members as emotionally distant, unreliable, abusive, unrealistic in their expectations, inattentive or abandoning. As a result, we may see the God of the Bible through distorted lenses. These distortions interfere with our ability to talk honestly with God, to share our feelings with him and to trust him. Our distorted images of God keep us from fully experiencing his love.”
I’ve led groups through this material and found a mixed response. Some people don’t enjoy deconstructing their images of God. It’s actually quite painful to let go the ‘God’ you’ve had all your life. Others have found it a liberating experience to acknowledge that their family environment was not ‘perfect’ and that they are still on a learning curve.
I like what Juanita says on the Spiritual Abuse Recovery site:
“What ought we to do when we find that we serve a god who is not God? There is only one answer in the Bible. Throw the bum out. Get rid of him. It is an idolatrous attachment, and it can’t be reformed, restructured, rehabilitated or restored. This is not a point where it is appropriate to be moderate. We need to clean house. The god who gives us nothing but fear or shame is not God. Fire him. Or her.”