4 years of age: My Daddy can do anything!
7 years of age: My Dad knows a lot…a whole lot.
8 years of age: My father does not know quite everything.
12 years of age: Oh well, naturally Father does not know that either.
14 years of age: Oh, Father? He is hopelessly old-fashioned.
21 years of age: Oh, that man-he is sooo out of date!
25 years of age: He knows a little bit about it, but not much.
30 years of age: I must find out what Dad thinks about it.
35 years of age: Before we decide, we will get Dad’s idea first.
50 years of age: What would Dad have thought about that?
60 years of age: My Dad knew literally everything!
65 years of age: I only wish I could talk it over with Dad once more.
My dad passed at ninety-five years of age in 2016. I miss him immensely. The relationship I had with him was much like the one in the quote above. In his day my dad went full circle, from being the smartest, most loving, powerful, and generous man on the planet, to being the greatest fuddy-duddy, stuck-in-the-mud, hard-nosed, know-nothing guy… and, as I matured, back to being the wisest, most generous, open, supportive and loving man I had ever known. Call me crazy, but he really changed as I grew up. <Smile>
I cherished every day as another precious gift—an opportunity to be in his presence and soak up as much wisdom and love as I could.
Do you remember how, as you grew up, your father really changed? In much the same way as we evolve spiritually, our relationship with and perspective of God seems to change as well. Of course, we know it is we who change, not God.
If you are “old” enough, can you recall the TV programs from your childhood such as FATHER KNOWS BEST, THE DONNA REED SHOW, MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY and LEAVE IT TO BEAVER? Beyond being entertaining and clearly silly, they depicted the father in the family as the hardworking, all-knowing, all-forgiving, all providing, mentor, protector, and role model in the “typical” fully functional (ya right) American home of the 50s. While many call those TV programs an aberration of the way it really was and is still today, I think they made a statement about one of the greatest desires which lies inherent within each of us; the desire to feel loved, guided, cherished, provided for, protected and supported by someone (or something) larger and more powerful than we see ourselves as being.
The great teacher Jesus was fully aware of this inherent desire, thus proving it was not just a phenomenon of the 1950s. He knew it was human nature to desire and seek love, guidance, and protection, which is why he referred to God as “Father.” Jesus was intentionally creating a bridge to God through an idiom with which the people could relate. He wanted to assist others in experiencing an intimate relationship with a God of unconditional love, who, prior to his time on earth was thought of as an angry, withholding, judgmental, and punishing God.
In today’s world, we know that not everyone has been blessed with the best relationship with his or her father. That is why it’s important to remember we can choose to spiritualize the entire concept of “father” as Jesus did by getting in touch with the presence of God within ourselves as a Universal Principle… not a personality, but an Intelligence that knows only how to love and support Its progeny in doing and being whatever we choose to do and be. In order to make this bridge accessible, Jesus knew he had to make God approachable. That is why it’s important to understand what he meant when he referred to God as “Abba.” The word Abba is a familial Aramaic term of endearment; it literally means Daddy.
We know that when a child refers to his father as “daddy” there is a great deal of intimacy, love, trust, and caring present—essentially, an authentic bond between father and child. In his day in time, Jesus knew that the father of the household was a deeply respected, devoted, fierce protector and provider for his “children.” Simply put, Jesus thought of God in the same manner and explained it in his own “version” of FATHER KNOWS BEST: the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). In this parable, Jesus depicts the father as the wise, generous, non-judgmental, and totally unconditionally loving father you and I would be pleased and grateful to have. We could as easily call the story of the Prodigal Son, ABBA KNOWS BEST.
Clearly, Jesus meant for us to see that the loving and nonjudgmental father in the story was a metaphor for the nature of God, and each of us, the sons —both the one who wandered off the farm (meaning, he forgot who he really was and what he had, and then remembered and “came back home”) and the stay at home son who never had a clue of what he always had by just being the son of his father.
So, this Father’s Day, if it is appropriate, honor your earthly father well. Then honor the Father within; take time to “make room for Abba” in your daily life. Get up close and personal with the Divine. If you are not as close to God as you used to be, who moved? Return home and see your Father through new eyes. Pray, meditate and continue to grow… it will amaze you at how much God has changed.
Peace, Dr. Dennis Merritt Jones