Dad. Daddy. Pops. Papi. Da. Father.
During my youngest years, I called my father “Daddy.” Daddy was someone to hold me when I was tired, or frightened, or just in need of a hug. Daddy had all the answers; he could turn my tears into giggles, my pouts into apologies. His stern word could melt away rebellion; his smile could fill my heart to bursting.
As I grew older, he became “Dad.” Dad was wise. Dad gave good advise– even when I didn’t always take it. Dad listened and showed interest in what I said. Dad challenged me to do better, think deeper, try harder, and work smarter. Dad didn’t pick me up and carry me, but he was there beside me when I needed someone to lean on or lend a hand. Dad was my coach and advocate.
As an adult, Dad sometimes became “Pa.” Pa was someone who had “been there”. He had experience, and wisdom. He had patience and compassion. But his days of coaching and propping me up were fewer; his days of sharing his own faults, his unfulfilled dreams, his regrets–commiserating rather than commanding– grew more and became more precious to me. He was still my father, but he was also my friend– a fellow traveler on this road; one I knew well and loved dearly. One I respected and trusted, even though he was not perfect.
I was blessed to have a father who was good and kind; a man of integrity and humor; a man who loved his family more than life, loved his neighbors, his community, music, nature, animals, and good food. Most of all, he loved God. Not with fire and brimstone fanaticism, but with humble astonishment that God would send his son to die for him. He lived in the wonder of that truth– that “whosoever believeth (in him) should not perish, but have eternal life” included him.
I say all this, not just to honor my earthly father, or to thank my heavenly father for that relationship, but to point out how prayer is often a reflection of how we view fatherhood. Some people have a difficult time praying and trusting God because they have never known an earthly father; or they’ve only known earthly fathers who were distant, unapproachable, or abusive. If this is the case for you, may I encourage you to ask God to reveal himself in a fresh way, with a name and vision that is personal and distinct from the earthly father you have known. Some people view God as “Daddy”–someone who fixes everything, holds us close, and keeps us safe. And he is all those things. But he is also “Dad” who wants to challenge us and coach us to grow and develop our character. He is “Abba”, and “Senor”, “Lord,” and “Father” and “Papa”. He is not “Pa” in the sense I knew my father, in that we are not his peers when we reach adulthood. He has no faults to share, no regrets. But he wants to share that precious intimacy that comes with time and familiarity–he wants us to develop trust and love as we get to know him better, however we call him.
There is one clear difference between God and any of our earthly parents– God is GOD– he is the creator and ruler of galaxies, and of microcosms, omnipotent and omniscient, omnipresent and eternal, holy and sovereign.
And when I pray, I pray to him– almighty King of Kings– and my Father!