But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan — this rebirth comes from God. (John 1:12-13 NLT 1st Ed.)
When our son entered the world, he was hurt and upset, crying loudly. I said, "Zachary, this is dad, it's going to be ok." Incredibly, as I began to talk with him and hold him, he calmed down almost immediately. I had been talking to him each night for several months before he was born. In this time of distress, he recognized my voice and found it to be a soothing and comforting grace at an awful and painful moment in his young life.
As a father, I would have done anything — and I mean anything — to have prevented his injury or to have relieved him of that pain. I couldn’t. It was gut-wrenching and crushing to me. All I could do was offer the comforting sound of a familiar voice and the tender touch of a father who loved his child. Over the course of his next 18 years, I repeated this role again and again through the challenging moments of his life. Life isn’t for sissies! Growing up is very tough. I’m sure that some of the time, I was even the source of his grief and frustration.
As Zach grew, however, I began to realize that some pain was necessary to help him grow. Some pain motivates us to become dissatisfied with where we are. Other pain is a result of our own mistakes and misjudgments and helps steer us back to the right path. Further pain is there simply because the world is unfair and people sometimes act in hateful and evil ways toward us. This latter hurt drives us to find a lasting and dependable source of comfort. While I never wanted his heart to hurt, I’m sure proud of the man God has shaped out of his growing up experiences — even if some of them caused pain that I tried to prevent. My prayer is that as Zach faces challenges as a man, he can still hear the voice of his father as a source of comfort ... but even more, I pray that his ears and his heart are tuned to the voice of his more permanent, more consistent, and even more loving Father.
One of my favorite set of passages in the New Testament can be found in Paul's letters to Christ-seekers in Rome and the province of Galatia (Romans 8; Galatians 4). Paul emphasizes to both groups how we are God’s children. We were born into God’s family by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Spirit makes us God’s children. In fact, the Holy Spirit given to us intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words and also gives us the right to cry out, "Abba Father!" and know that God hears us and moves to comfort us as his beloved children. We can approach God as our Father, just as Jesus did!
The word "Abba" is a word Jesus actually spoke — it is not translated or transliterated, but the Aramaic word is actually given to us. When the Lord used it to speak of his relationship with the Father, it was quite scandalous. The term "Abba" was used by young children to address their fathers. The familiarity, tender respect, and dependency represented by this term meant that Jesus’ use was shocking, even for him, the Son of God. Familiarity, tender respect, and dependency were not the normal approaches to the Holy God the Jews knew. Yet Jesus opened up this approach to the Father as an expression of his relationship and also as an example to us. He also taught us to approach God in this intimate way. "Our Father," Jesus taught us to pray, or literally, "Our Abba!"
We should never take this privilege for granted. We must never use the term "Abba" glibly. For the King of Glory — God Almighty, God Shaddai, the One who is and was and is to come — to offer us this relationship is scandalous ... and gracious ... and glorious. So, when we find ourselves broken, hurt, bewildered, humiliated, disappointed, or a million other things that life does to us, God calls out to us and says, "Come call me Abba!" And when we hear his voice, we too can be calmed, encouraged, protected, and restored by our loving Father.
What has helped you most understand God as your Abba Father? I'd love to hear from you on my blog: