As I was getting to know our Catch the Fire family, I heard them refer to God the Father as “Daddy” or “Daddy God.” The first few times I heard it, it honestly made me uncomfortable. How could they be so informal with GOD? I thought. Isn’t that like, sacrilegious?? Or at least disrespectful?
I was raised in a rather traditional church environment. We rarely discussed God as Father, except as we recited the Apostle’s Creed or during a baptism. And we certainly never approached the thought of Him as Daddy.
One night in Toronto as I was listening to Duncan Smith teach, I bristled a little bit every time he referred to Daddy.
That’s so–irreverent, God! I argued in my head. Who does he think he is?
The answer came, clear as day: He thinks he’s my son.
In the same moment, I had a memory. In 2012 I had the privilege of traveling to Israel on a tour; and as part of the tour, we visited the Western Wall. It’s a busy place, soldiers and tourists and worshipers and prayers and families all in one big mass of humanity, and we were in the middle of it. I’d said my prayers, and was waiting for the rest of our group while observing my surroundings.
A man stood about 15 feet from me, his back turned to me. Just to my right I heard a little voice: “Abba! Abba!” the voice cried, high and a little desperate. I turned to look, and a little boy, probably three or four years old, was running past me, arms outstretched. The man in front of me turned around; his face broke out in a smile and he squatted down, stretching out his own arms. The little one ran as fast as he could, and jumped into what was clearly his father’s–his daddy’s–arms. His daddy stood up, holding his little one, and they hugged and talked and laughed as they walked away.
Since then, I’ve often come back to that memory, to why I felt the need to be so formal with God. I mean, He’s God, right? So we’re supposed to be reverent and formal and stiff. We’re supposed to treat Him that way.
We quote Romans 8:15 frequently, but do we really know what it says? “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!'” In Hebrew, the word Abba is a term of endearment, the equivalent of–wait for it–Daddy. When we receive the Spirit of adoption as sons, our relationship to God changes. No longer do we stand far off, no longer is there a need for formalities. Just like the father in the parable of the prodigal son, our Abba has been waiting for us to turn to Him, for us to run into His waiting arms.
Slaves don’t get to approach the master with affection. Sons do. Slaves don’t get to be bold with the master. Daughters do. Slaves aren’t heirs of what the master has–sons are. Daughters are. We get to approach Him without fear, with the knowledge that we have been adopted, and that we have full access to Him.
I’m learning to approach Him this way. One night as I prayed, I started out with Dear Father. I heard a little chuckle in my heart. I smiled, and tried again. Hi, Daddy, I prayed. It’s really, really good to be Your kid. I felt His smile, His embrace. I knew it wasn’t about what I called Him; it was about my heart, that in choosing to call Him Daddy, I was choosing to embrace both who He is as my Abba, and who I am as His kid.
He’s been waiting–to run to you. To scoop you up into His arms, hold you close, to hug and laugh and talk. He is waiting, to be Abba, to be Daddy. He delights in you! He really isn’t interested in a stiff, formal, arm’s-length relationship with you. He longs to be affectionate with you, and for you to be affectionate with Him. He loves it when you crawl up in His lap and let Him wrap you up in His arms. Let Him be your Abba, your Daddy.
Go ahead. Run.