One of my earliest and most precious memory is when my father came home from work one day. I had a new toy gun and holster, cowboy style, and I ran to the driveway to greet my father. Spontaneously, he started playing with me as we had a good old fashioned shoot out chasing each other around his car. I was probably in my early threes. It was pure joy, playfulness, togetherness and love. I worshipped my father. I wanted to be absorbed in him, no space between us. One.

As I grew older, developing my own personality, our relationship lost that playfulness. My father, with a growing family and responsibilities became less of a playmate and more of a disciplinarian and with my rebellious nature, I provided him with plenty of opportunities to discipline. It was combined with the very accepted, during that era, physical punishment of children. A few times it was severe. I had both a deep love of my father but I also developed a serious fear of him. I know that my own children would say the same of me, except I replaced the severe physical punishment with a severe fear of my anger – which is just as damaging.

During my later childhood years, we attended – and I should say religiously – a strict evangelical church. It was here that I was introduced to a God and a Jesus that was much different from the one I knew as a young child. Here I met a God who still loved me, but as the Cosmic Disciplinarian, God was quite willing -because his nature gave him no choice – to cast me into a burning pit with my teeth gnashing and pain beyond pain and forever screaming. It was called Hell. My Heavenly Father, the one the preacher would end his sermons about with a near scream of his own and a plea for me to accept God’s wonderful love before it was too late for my eternal soul, started to look like most of the earthly fathers around me only with eternal consequences for disobedience.

As I grew older and we both developed a deeper understanding, my dad and I grew closer and enjoyed our time together. As he grew older, he seemed to want more playfulness from me. As I grew older, with a growing family and responsibilities, I became less playful. It is somewhat of a dance this relationship between children and parents. I was fortunate that my father would live long enough that I recognized that there was a much deeper love between us – even deeper than those early joyful childhood moments.

The Heavenly Father of my religious upbringing was another story. Never would nor could my earthly father turn his back on me for more than a day, at his angriest, much less an eternity in Hell. This has been my number one obstacle in developing an authentic relationship with my Creator. I fear God… and can you really love someone, something that you fear? It is like those stories of the princess who is being made to marry a prince who is not her true love. Something is missing.

I’ve been spending time in meditation, contemplation, and prayer. I’ve been reading too. The other night I had to admit to God that I was afraid of him/her/it and that that fear would stop me from having a true, loving relationship. This is one reason why I didn’t raise my children in my own childhood’s religious tradition… along with enjoying sleeping in on Sunday mornings! They needed to develop their own faith, or lack thereof, but fear would not help them get there. It is so hard to shake this fear of God and old evangelical friends and even some scripture would suggest one shouldn’t try to do so. But I can’t seem to dance with joy with that image of God. I am far more attracted to and desire a relationship with the God who says “I know what it feels like to be human. I know rejection. I know pain. I know heartache and loss. I know temptations. And, I know the grave. Yes, I know fear too. I also know forgiveness and resurrection and I know love because I am Love. All is connected through My Love. All things are created through My Love and All that I created is good.” This is who I want to worship, be absorbed in, no space between us, One.

Many would say I am wrong and Hell is my future home. I am going to choose Love as my future and I trust that God understands what it is like to be human; I do believe that he became One.