When my oldest daughter was about eight, she asked me if I thought she looked pretty. “Absolutely,” I said…“Beautiful. Gorgeous. Sooo pretty.” With a hint of dissatisfaction, she replied, “Dad, you’re supposed to say that.”

My daughter’s statement expressed the way that I frequently felt about my heavenly Father when I was growing up—that He sent his Son to die for me, but that was his duty—that it was a large inconvenience to him—that He loves me—but then, he has to. In other words, my Father didn’t love me just because he loved me. He loved me because he was supposed to love me. It was a matter of obligation, not delight. And on my part, I needed to be thankful and obedient and not rock the boat. Let a sleeping God lie. Try not to do anything stupid. But if I did, when I sinned, I was to wake God up to the fact, ask him for forgiveness, and then check myself into the penalty box to suffer for a time until he calmed down.

Some days, the suffering started even before I hit the penalty box. That was usually my cue: You have done something wrong; now go to your room! Most Sunday mornings at church reinforced this underachieving and grim life cycle: “Thank you for coming; you don’t deserve his love; come back next week for more reminders of the abundant life.”

If I could just pull it together, maybe he would bless me or at least not punish me. That probably wouldn’t happen, but I had to at least keep trying.

That is how I saw God for much of my life. And I’m not the only one. Many believe God is mostly mad at us, on the verge of getting even, and setting some record straight. Others see God as distant and disinterested, unconcerned about our daily affairs. Then again, maybe he’s behind the inconveniences and hardships of our lives. I wish I had a nickel for every time I‘ve heard a man talk about God “whacking” him upside the head with a two-by-four.

Which of that is true of God?

Is any of it true?

If there is more to God than that, then how does it all work?

Who is he really?

What is he truly like?

In your time alone with God:

Why may our greatest obstacles to becoming the Beloved Sons involve the lies we believe about the Father and what He is like?