Or else - do you deliberately work to keep God at a distance because a God Who mixes into your affairs and personal life does not seem like a Safe God?
Do you feel that God must think you're a failure because you can never do anything right?
Do you absolutely seethe at the idea of calling God "Father" because you're fed up with patriarchy and male repression?
Do you think that all God wants from you is to go to Church and obey the rules - and that makes you all right with God - and "saved"?
I don't know if you've ever thought about it this way, but the biggest influences on how we think about God are our relationships with our parents and our siblings and our relationship with our Church and our Bible. We consciously or unconsciously mentally paint a portrait of God based on the people we know, the Church we know, and the passages of Scripture that are pointed out to us.
If you constantly worry about being "perfect" so that God won't be angry at you, think about your relationship with your parents. When you were little, or an adolescent, or maybe even as an adult, did you/do you worry that the wrong word or slightest misstep will call down the wrath of Dad or Mom? And/or, maybe the main passages in Scripture that are used at Church to make you obedient have been the Old Testament ones about God getting angry with a sinning people.
But the prophets also gave us an image of God which was the one that Jesus used:
"YHWH, YHWH, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and abounding in faithfulness. For the thousandth generation, YHWH maintains kindness, forgiving all your faults, transgressions, and sins. (Exodus 34:6-7)
Jesus speaks of a loving, patient God. He speaks about God as the Good Shepherd, who goes after the little sheep that strays, or the patient Father who waits in the road for his runaway son to appear, and pulls him into a hug when he finally comes home. Yes, Jesus talks about obeying the rules and the possibility of going to hell, but that's to wake us up to the vital importance of our choices: do we choose to love, or choose to hate? Choose to give life, or choose to give death, with our words and actions?
If you deliberately work to keep God at a distance because that's "safer," were you physically or emotionally abused by a parent, and since then, intimacy is difficult for you? Why would you want an intimate God Who could hurt you or betray you? Yet this God in Scripture promises to be faithful to us from generation to generation. In spite of being abused, can we grow to trust life to give us good things, good things that outweigh the bad things? Can we see God's hand at work in our lives in every moment of love, laughter, or trust?
If you constantly feel like a failure because you're not "perfect," were your parents perfectionists who constantly held you to unreachable standards, or pushed you to compete all the time, or criticized or belittled you? Remember, that God tells you that you have worth simply because you ARE, you exist. "You are valuable because you exist, not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you ARE." (Max Lucado)
Does that line in Matthew - Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" give you an anxiety attack? Well, Luke's version of that line is "Be compassionate therefore as your Heavenly Father is compassionate." That includes being compassionate to yourself. Jesus says "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," meaning that you have to love yourself first!
Do you absolutely seethe at the idea of calling God "Father" because you're fed up with patriarchy and male repression, and you feel as if a Father God would have no respect for women? Theologian Elizabeth A. Johnson says that the Churches need to use more than just male language about God:
"While officially it is rightly and consistently said that God is spirit and so beyond identification with either male or female sex, yet the daily language of preaching, worship, catechesis, and instruction conveys a different message: God is male, or at least more like a man than a woman, or at least more fittingly addressed as male than as female. Upon examination it becomes clear that this exclusive speech about God serves in manifold ways to support an imaginative and structural world that excludes and subordinates women. Wittingly or not, it undermines women’s human dignity as equally created in the image of God." (from "She Who Is.")
God absolutely contains not only the essence of the masculine, but the essence of the feminine. Fr. Richard Rohr says,
"Most women prefer circles of sharing to pyramids and hierarchies. They prefer conversation to construction. They will usually choose nurturance and empathy over competition and climbing. They will normally choose connection over simple performance games."
The Trinity is a Circle of Sharing and mutuality, a Divine Dance. God loves conversation so much that Jesus is called the Divine Word. God is also nurturing, comforting Mother in Scripture - In "Isaiah," God says "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you." – Isaiah 66:13. Jesus laid aside competition and social climbing and washed his disciples' feet as a servant, telling them to do likewise. Then, instead of intriguing to be crowned king, he embraced a criminal's death on a cross.
But if we seethe about male patriarchy that undermines the dignity of women, does part of that anger stem from having an autocratic, patriarchal father, grandfather, or brother? Is God called "Father" in some way "catching the heat" from that painful, infuriating relationship?
If we get "frozen" into a parent-child relationship with God, we may constantly think of nothing but the importance of obeying God's rules. Children are raised by giving them a set of rules. Christian children are given the Ten Commandments and must be baptized. Catholic children are told to go to weekly Mass and receive the Sacraments. The parents of adolescents give them a time to be home by. Rules are vitally necessary. But rules don't make the whole of a relationship. And God wants a relationship with us!
Obeying rules isn't necessarily the most important part of our relationship with God or others. Adulthood goes beyond obeying rules. Someone can be faithful in marriage, but still lead a life of marital selfishness and disinterest. You can obey all the rules at work, and still do a lackluster job. One can say all the prayers in Mass or for the rosary while his/her mind is on the night out with the girls or the upcoming football game. One can compartmentalize so thoroughly that the face he shows to the public is kind and law-abiding, but in private he is a conscienceless sinner.
Obeying the rules is the absolute minimum in any relationship. Real conversation and communication and caring in practical ways for the other is maturity. Transparency in lifestyle and relationships is maturity. But - is rule-keeping the main way your parents lived or live their lives? So rules-oriented that there is no real life and spirit beyond keeping the letter of the Law in marriage, parenting, or at work?
If we have either a stressful or immature or non-existent relationship with God, is it because we still think of God as a Parent Figure, and we've had or have a negative relationship with one or both of our parents? Or even with the culture they embody? If so, then think of the healthy, intimate, relationships in your life, and widen your understanding of Who God is.
If you think of God as a Perfectionist who demands rigorously that you be perfect, think of someone in your life who has forgiven you and who accepts you as the flawed and lovable person you are. That's who God is like. That person reflects the Face of God to you. Tell God your sins, simply, humbly - and God forgives you and forgets. God never stays distant from you - and comes closer to you when you sin to "bring you home."
If you think of God as Someone Who can get mad at you at the drop of a hat, think of someone who is cheerful, accepting, and who has a wonderful laugh. That's God's Joyful face and God's infectious laughter.
If you don't like the idea of a God Who is in your life, think of someone who is intimately in your life and who you feel safe with because he or she loves you gently, tenderly. That's how God loves you. That's God's gentleness and tenderness for you shining through.
If you think that God thinks that you're a failure and can never do anything right, think about the very simple, ordinary things Jesus, God and human, asks us to do: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give drink to the thirsty, accept the stranger. I'll bet that you do all those things. If you want to grow, expand the circle of people you do these things for to include those who have no one to care for them. Every time someone smiles at you in thankfulness, God smiles at you through them and with them.
If you have trouble picturing God as "Father," perhaps because you have negative images of fatherhood, think of someone you know who is a good father. It may be your husband or your brother or a friend. Why do you love this person's way of fathering? That person is showing you, very practically, how God fathers you. And God also mothers you, and is the Spirit of Love, and a Rock, and Sun, and Breath, Wind, Beloved. Be creative in the Names you call God, even as we use so many love words and special names for the special people in our lives.
Throughout our lives, as we mature, and as our relationships mature, God should become much more than a Parent Figure in our lives. God in Jesus is our brother and friend. God the Holy Spirit is Wisdom/Sophia, the creative Force Who quickens us and the planet with new life. God is also our Beloved, the One Whom our hearts hunger and thirst for, Whom we are united with at our core. Relationships go way beyond rules - they're a transparent, ever-growing lifestyle.
Remember that in God's eyes you are valuable because you exist; you have worth just in being you. Trust that God loves you, that God always listens to you, that God never finds you boring or unlikable. Talk to God. Tell God your concerns and troubles. Stay in quiet conversation your whole day, from morning to night. Take time to be quiet together, too. Just gaze at God and know that God gazes back at you.
Ask God to purify and mature your relationships with your parents and siblings, both the living and the dead, for the dead and their influence on you are still alive. Ask God to heal your memories, to show you the way God was with you and strengthened you at all times. Ask God to show you how God can bring good and growth and new life out of pain and darkness and dead-endedness. For God is God, and like no other in your life - ever.
"YHWH, YHWH, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness, and abounding in faithfulness. For the thousandth generation, YHWH maintains kindness, forgiving all your faults, transgressions, and sins. (Exodus 34:6-7) Believe it!!!!!