The following passage is from the August 2013 edition of The Sun. It is part of the "Readers Write" section, where readers submit their own personal stories. While I'm still on the mend, I'm not sure how frequently I'll be posting. The good news is that the meds are working and I am feeling better.
My father engaged in a refined method of child abuse: he made many demands and rules, and if we broke those rules and did not admit our wrongdoing and beg forgiveness, the consequences were brutal. I lived in fear of him.
I am speaking of my heavenly father, not my earthly one. I was constantly afraid of doing something wrong and displeasing God, and I was filled with shame over the thought that his "only begotten son" had to suffer and die to compensate for my horridness. I felt unworthy of his love.
Maybe one reason I struggled so much with my relationship to God is because my earthly father was a kind, hardworking farmer who never went to church. He had a roaring laugh and loved to shock his kids by reciting off-color ditties. I never once doubted that this father loved me, because I experienced his love on a daily basis. Although I was told that my heavenly father loved me, I had also been told that he was a jealous God, and I had the Bible, his very word, as proof.
As I entered my fifth decade, weary of living in fear, I grew brave enough to confront God directly. That's when I experienced the Divine Mystery for the first time. I realized that humanity had boxed in and humanized that which we cannot comprehend; that the real God cannot be the paternalistic deity I had worshiped.
I had always been taught to love my neighbor as myself--a worthy goal. Yet, I hadn't been able to love myself while I'd lived in fear of a vengeful God. To treat my neighbor that way would have made a bully of me. If all neighbors treated each other like that, the world would be full of bullies.
Oh, wait: it is.