Imagine a humble, little first-century home existing within the New Testament era. Picture a dinner being prepared in a small, humble kitchen in first-century Palestine. A family is about to have a meal together. Out in the courtyard—outside the home—children are playing, running about and laughing. Just outside of the kitchen in the common area, there is a chair. In the chair is the head of the household, and he is sitting down after a long, hard day’s work, listening and peering out the window at his children as they play.
His little girl in the front yard hears her father’s voice. She drops her little toys and runs into the house. She quickly throws open the front door and her eyes meet with her father’s eyes. There he sits in the chair. Across the room she runs. She places her hands on his knees, and then she scrapes her little feet on his shins as she grips her dad’s beard, pulling herself up into his lap. The father grins while wrapping his big arms, like a warm blanket, around his sweet little girl. He kisses the top of her head. The little girl just sits there – resting; an unequaled sense of safety washes all over her. She gently reaches up to his itchy beard, gives it a tug, and she contentedly utters, “Abba, Abba.” In that moment, she could ask him for anything and receive it. Yet, the paradox in that moment is that she has need of nothing. She’s in the lap of her father. She calls him “Abba.” She is close, she is safe, she feels special … all is well. Dinner will be ready in a few minutes. And they will spend the evening together as a family.
Preachers teach on this word “Abba” as simply meaning “daddy.” Yes, it means daddy, but there is so much more to this unique word. “Abba” is the whole scene. “Abba” is the sense of safety and uniqueness… contentment. “Abba” is the proximity to the father. “Abba” is the attentiveness of the father. “Abba” is being in the arms of the father. “Abba” is the holy kiss on your forehead. “Abba” is not simply the word “daddy.” People have taught this for decades, and it prompts a feeling that anyone can just simply go to God and say “Daddy.” But this notion is not correct. The very use of the word “Daddy” speaks of genuine intimacy. There is nothing irreverent about it. It is an acknowledgement of the accessibility to the Father through Christ (John 14:6). He embraces, protects and provides for all who call on His Name. “Abba” is very special. It is living and breathing next to the heart of the Father. When you come home from an exhausting, stressful day, its “Abba” that helps you “regulate” back to contentment with a supernatural sedative.
Many people, rightly so, have a poor concept of what an Abba-daddy is because they didn’t have such a great dad. That is why Jesus said “our father which art in heaven” at the start of the Lord’s prayer (Matthew 5:9). Jesus knew some people would have trouble with this whole “father” thing, so he saw it necessary to differentiate our heavenly father from our earthly father. The psalmist said that God is a “Father to the fatherless, and he draws the lonely into families” (Psalm 68:5-6).
You have a heavenly Father who wants to wrap you up in His arms. Any preaching or teaching that leads to anything short of intimacy with God is short of the heart of the Father.
Every little boy needs to hear a dad say to him, “You have what it takes to be the man God has called you to be.” Every little girl needs to hear a dad say, “You are beautiful just the way you are, and you are worthy of pursuit.” Are you hearing something like that from God? If not, let’s do something about it. You only have one life to live here on this earth.
May your life be filled with playfulness, and may you want to run to the Father at the very sound of His voice. Tug on His beard tonight as you regulate emotionally, physically and spiritually for another day of making Him known.
Dr. Gary Hewins is the President of lifepoints.org, a coaching and consulting ministry to ministry leaders and preachers and the Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church in the picturesque mountains of Highlands, N.C.