A friend of mine recently lost her adult daughter to a chronic illness. In her eulogy, she referred to her daughter as her baby. To a parent, it is hard to forget those first snuggles, smiles, and giggles.
Even though they might be taller than you now with a sassy come-back, thriving in their career, or a parent themselves, you always remember your child as they first were — your baby.
But what about you, the child who is now an adult? How are you supposed to apply this to your understanding of God?
What Is the Meaning of Children of God?
For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful; I know that full well. Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be (Psalm 139:13-14).
From the moment you entered this world, you were a child of God. It doesn’t take some special thing you do or become to make God love you or to become acceptable to Him.
When God looks at you, He sees His child. A person He loves unconditionally, meaning, there is nothing you can do that will make Him stop loving you.
To be loved by God is not based on your performance, how many convictions and standards you keep in an attempt to reach holiness or the personal choices you make.
Why Is it Hard for Some Children of God to See God as a Father?
The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father’ (Romans 8:15).
Those who had an abusive upbringing or who have a strained relationship with their father may justifiably struggle with viewing God as a loving parent.
Their image of a father is violence, assault, anger, rejection, or absence. Abuse can take place in Christian homes but is frequently ignored or covered up for many reasons.
Fear is the greatest motivator for turning a blind eye to accusations of abuse. Individuals are not well equipped with the tools necessary to identify abuse and, subsequently, are uneducated with how to handle such things. Communities either are not prepared or have chosen to deal with abuse “in their own way.”
Another common reason abuse is compounded is the belief in the ultimate authority of a male — women and children are to be in submission, thus leading many religious constructs to sweep abuse under the proverbial rug and protect the perpetrator.
Also common is that a child’s (or woman’s) story or cries for help are ignored because he (or she) would never do such a thing — they are a pastor, deacon, teacher, or elder — we cannot sully the name of a godly man.
Passivity and ignoring a child’s needs can be other ways in which children are wounded by their fathers. Much study has been done in more recent times on the effects of emotional abuse.
Emotionally abusive fathers shame and belittle. They may give their child the silent treatment as a means of punishment and control.
Another characteristic is not permitting the child to express their own emotions without an explosive or dramatic situation ensuing. In her book, Childhood Disrupted, Donna Nakazawa states,
Over time, emotional volatility and stress reactivity leads to physical pain and relationship pain. Parents who can’t manage their own feelings and reactions can be terrifying to kids. They’re a chronic, unpredictable stressor in their children’s lives.
If you lived a childhood full of fear, pain, and feeling unloved by your father (or mother) please know, that this is not from God. As quoted in Luke 13:34 when Jesus is lamenting over the city of Jerusalem,
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”
The true heart of God, the protecting heart of God, wants to shelter you and surround you with His love. He will never abuse your body or soul. He is a loving Father.
Children of God and Fathers Who Love
Most men are not hard-wired to be nurturing, that’s historically been considered a more “feminine” trait. But men are programmed to be protectors and providers. Committed to the care of those they love, willing to sacrifice to meet their needs.
A loving human father is not a perfect dad. A loving human father makes mistakes, but he will come back to find restoration. A loving human father does not want to abuse their child physically, mentally, or emotionally and respects their boundaries.
A child feels loved when their father listens to them and spends time engaging in their world. A child feels love when their father gently teaches, provides security, and is excited about the little things that matter to them. A child feels love when they know they are safe, valued, and wanted.
Frequently, men get a bad rap in society. They are shown as bumbling and idiotic in TV and movies (An Everybody Loves Raymond type). Men so often receive the blame for everything wrong in our world today.
And while it is true many men must learn to take responsibility for their actions, behaviors, and liberties — not shaming their victims, lording their superior gender, or excusing abusive behaviors — it is also true that there are good, solid men in the world who have devoted their life to morality, kindness, and commitment to those they love.
You were told to follow God’s example. This can be learned, in part, by understanding the unchanging character of God and the emotions displayed by Jesus Himself.
Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).
Adult Children of God
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).
If you are a parent, you know the passion you have felt to protect and provide for your child. You don’t love them because of how they perform, look, or respond to you. You loved them from the moment you first saw them.
Take all of those feelings and memories and think of this, God is your Father — He has those same feelings for you.
When a parent’s job is done correctly, they have helped transitioned their child into adulthood, moving from teacher to consultant.
As a Christian grows in their faith, such as a child growing up, your relationship with God changes.
You have seen His heart; you have experienced His commitment to you. You have learned from Him and have an understanding of biblical guidelines, morals, and teachings. You’ve grown from a baby into an adult, in a spiritual sense.
As an adult, your comprehension of who God is has matured and, hopefully, you also are living out the truths you have learned along the way.
You will always be God’s child, no matter how old you get, no matter what you do or what happens to you. Indeed, Munsch’s book echoes the heart of God, “I'll love you forever.”
Photo Credit: ©Unsplash/benwhitephotography
Rebekah Drumsta’s work has been globally reaching by serving with various nonprofits and organizations. Her background is diverse including educational and online content development, event coordinating, international relations, and public speaking. Currently, Rebekah delights in being a homeschool mom and Life Coach. She serves as Director of PR for an international non-profit while also hosting her personal blog, RebekahDrumsta.com which focuses on recovery after religious trauma and spiritual abuse. Rebekah holds a BA in Urban Ministry and Family Crisis with a Christian Counseling Minor, an MA in Religious Education, and is a Certified Professional Life Coach. She has made appearances on and consulted with sources including BBC, NBC, ABC, The Daily Telegraph, and a variety of other platforms.
This article is part of our Christian Terms catalog exploring words and phrases of Christian theology and history. Here are some of our most popular articles covering Christian terms to help your journey of knowledge and faith: