An “Abba Father” Moment
by Tim Fergusopn
I enjoyed the opportunity to fill the pulpit last Sunday (June 10) and open up to our congregation the beautiful truth packed into one of the names ascribed to God in Scripture: “The Lord is My Righteousness.” During the message I shared a bit of my personal journey, how my relationship with the Lord has transitioned from one rooted in shame to one rooted in joy- thanks to a deeper understanding of God’s lovingkindness which he lavishly poured into our lives through Christ Jesus.
Let me share one of those “Eureka!” moments from a few years ago, when God opened my heart to experience a fresh infilling of his love. I’ll begin with a familiar passage from Romans:
“…You have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15, 16, NLT)
Twelve years ago when I left full time pastoral ministry, I was deeply depressed, feeling hopeless about where my life was headed, so much so my wife Megan urged me to see a Christian counselor. Out of desperation, I finally made an appointment. During that first meeting, something remarkable happened. The counselor, as you might expect, asked about my family life growing up. As I started talking about my dad, who had passed away several years before, I suddenly burst into tears. I was shocked! I never saw it coming! I never suspected my internal turmoil had anything to do with my father.
That moment became a turning point; finally, my heart lay open to the Lord so he could begin his work mending the deep, deep hurts I was carrying.
I loved my dad. And my dad loved me. But we had no idea how to convey it to one another. We were complete opposites: He was a man’s man, a man of action, thick-skinned, forceful with his opinions, and fearless in confronting others. Now convert every one of those attributes to its opposite, and you have a pretty good idea who I was as a kid: Timid by nature, a thinker more than a doer, and with a tender heart that bruised easily.
As I grew older, conversations with Dad became harder. Once we discussed the weather and how the Redskins were doing this season, we ran out of things to talk about. We would sit at the same dinner table with a vast ocean between us, and neither of us knew how to cross to other side. We loved each other. We respected each other. But we could not CONNECT.
I now realize that I had carried all that baggage into my relationship with my Heavenly Father. My Heavenly Father was simply a cosmic-sized version of my dad. He was there. I knew he loved me. (He told me so in the Bible.) But he felt far away. I never CONNECTED with him.
But God is not content with a long-distance relationship. He wants to connect on the heart level. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “You received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him ‘Abba, Father…’” The Aramaic word Abba may have been a ‘nursery word’ in Jesus’ day, that is, an intimate, personal way a baby calls out to his dad. Do you hear the ring of familiarity? Momma, Dadda, Abba. It’s the longing in our hearts, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to reach our arms toward Heaven and cry out, “Abba!”
As I sit in my basement office doing my job as a writer, there are days I hear from upstairs our little Marcus, three years old, babbling one of the few words he knows: “Dadda…Dadda…Dadda…” He wants to know, “Dad, when are you coming up to see me?” His heart has a natural longing for daddy. And as God’s children, we have that longing too: “For [God’s] Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” Do you feel that ache in your heart to be close to your Heavenly Father? Do you feel his Spirit wooing you to his embrace?
Many years ago, during a visit to my parents’ house, I smuggled out some old family movies recorded on 8mm film and had them converted to VHS tapes. (They are already obsolete of course. Time to transfer them to DVD!) What a trip down memory lane to pop in the cassette and watch those old home movies. One scene in particular remains fresh in my memory: My dad- incredibly young at the time- was lying on the couch and holding me high when I was an infant. I could see the pleasure in his eyes. My dad loved me. He delighted in me.
Discovering that old movie was a happy-sad moment. I could tell, yes, my dad really loved me after all. But it saddened me to realize how much of that unguarded affection was lost over the years. I don’t blame my dad. I believe he loved me the best he knew how. But there’s more reason to rejoice than to be sad, because I now have in my mind a winsome image of my Heavenly Father’s love for me: Happy, delighted, holding me high. He says, “I love you.” And in my limited vocabulary I reply, “Abba.” Daddy.
-This guest post, by Tim Ferguson, is an excerpt from a book he is currently writing which (Lord willing!) he hopes will be published one day soon. Please pray for the Lord’s leading as he writes. Tim, who is a member at Upper St. Clair Alliance, recently quit his day job to make a go at becoming a freelance writer. He has two Christian novels (The God Portal and Hopefield) which he self-published on Amazon. You can find them here. You can reach Tim or learn more about his writing at his website: checkerspotstudio.com