I published this back in May of 2013 on a different site…
To this day, when I’m around the body of Christ and someone starts talking about God as Abba Father, or me as His daughter, I can’t help but tear up. I’ve been listening to this song a lot lately, “Abba,” by Jonathan David Helser. Why is it that the imagery of God as my loving Father gets me every time? Why does the very word “Father” squeeze past any defenses and pierce my heart so?
Well, it’s because of my relationship with my earthly father. Though I grew up in a Christian home, our family was not the shining example of Christ. As an adult looking back, I have more clarity on why we were so unhappy, and I hold no bitterness in my heart towards my parents or my family. If anything, I love them more and more with each passing year.
I was named after Corrie Ten Boom, the Dutch woman who, with her family, hid Jews in their house during the Nazi’s reign of terror. If you haven’t heard of the Ten Booms, read “The Hiding Place.” It’s incredible. (Or watch the movie on Youtube!). Corrie and her sisters called their dad “Papa.” I’m not sure why, but my siblings and I also call our dad “Papa.” After being homeschooled until fifth grade, I learned that all my public school friends called their fathers “Dad” or “Daddy.” I think it’s special that we grew up with a unique name for our dad, and I cherish it.
It’s hard to tell the story of my family without also sharing part of my story. See, once I went into public school, I soon shed the Christian skin I had been wearing and became immersed in all the “world” had to offer me. I am sure that it grieved my parents to see their innocent and precious child soon become enraptured with guys, clothes, friends, and honestly myself. The gap between me and my dad widened. I liked it that way – parents were lame and in the way of my “image.” I don’t think he knew how to even begin to build a bridge to get to me. Soon we were living on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon in the same house, passing like ships in the night.
Only, the tricky part was he was still my dad and had authority over me. Unfortunately, I was the typical rebellious eldest child. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. He tried to lay down the law; I resisted. The law got more strict; I rebelled. And then press repeat for about eight years. I was the child who, upon being threatened with punishment, yelled “FINE!” …got grounded a few more days…and finished the conversation with “Whatever!” (Sigh). I was living in the pursuit of image and self, and I was blinded to anything else.
Regrettably, because of this deep chasm between us, I grew up without a lot of affirmation from my dad, verbal or physical attention, and with a serious hole in my heart. I can think back to times when he tried in his own way, but I would have none of it. I was unyielding and filled with a lack of grace.
I began down a path of searching for fulfillment. I opened and closed the doors of alcohol, drugs, and relationships, but none contained what I wanted. Each door claimed satisfaction, happiness, and gratification. But each failed to deliver. I had opened myself up to the world, but I found it wanting, lacking. Of course, I’d rarely admit this to myself, but it was true nonetheless.
I’ve walked the road of destruction, the wide way, and I can confirm that nothing lives there. There is no true pleasure, no joy, no peace. Just fleeting illusions, shadows of the Truth, and an unending hunger for MORE.
Miraculously, I can look back and see when my heavenly Father spared me from much. While my earthly father was unaware of what I was up to, my heavenly Father was watching and guiding and prodding. The bad decisions I made came with consequences, but almost never to the full extent. This was a work of God’s mercy in my life, and I am forever grateful. It’s like I was running around in the darkness thinking I was playing hide and seek, but really I was stumbling, unaware of the dangers lurking, and about to fall into the pit.
None of this is to blame my Papa. He has his own story, and I’ve come to understand the dynamics of our relationship more as I’ve gotten older (and hopefully a little wiser). Once I moved out of the house to go to college (and when I became a Christian a few years prior to that), our relationship got a lot better. Once God got a hold of me, my dad no longer had to discipline me. The Holy Spirit was fully in action.
I don’t take God as Father lightly. I have seen and tasted of “fatherlessness,” and it’s defeating. It takes life instead of giving it. I am grateful that my father is alive and well, but I’m even more grateful that my Father is ruling and reigning on His throne.
These verses come to mind:
Ask, seek, and knock: it will be given, you will find, it will be opened.
If a son asks for bread, what father will give him a stone instead?
If an earthly father knows how to give good gifts, HOW MUCH MORE will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask!
[My paraphrase of Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:9-12]
So when I remember God not as a distant being, but as my Abba, my Daddy, sometimes I cry. Because He is so good to me. Because He rescued me from the pit. Because He has given good things to me. But mostly, because He loves me unconditionally.