I sat next to a child on a phone in a bus shelter the other day. A beautiful child, with a gorgeous accent, who had (loudly) phoned home to talk to ‘mum’. At some point someone else was put on the phone and in the space of about 2 minutes of conversation she’d referred to the person on the other end as ‘Aunty‘ about ten times. No name with the ‘Aunty’, not Aunty Maude, or Aunty Jean, or Aunty Sue just Aunty, Aunty, Aunty.
When my youngest son was small for the longest time he didn’t call his big brother by his name he always said, ‘My brother’.
Like his life was defined by the forever relationship he shared that made them brothers.
Like his joy in the relationship was enhanced and defined by the security of being ‘his brother’.
The name of their relationship, so intimately, powerfully, important to him he repeated it over and over.
It reminds me of the way Jesus started when he taught us to pray ‘Our Dad’. Time after time Jesus talks about God in relationship to their relationship
‘in my Father’s house are many rooms’
‘didn’t you know I would be in my Father’s house’
‘I and the Father are one’
The security, and unity, and foreverness, of the relationship summed up by the name of the relationship. And Jesus invited us to do the same.
To be so intrinsically linked with the One that we can call him Dad.
We get a little screwed up sometimes because we project our own Father’s shortcomings onto God. We get scrambled about what a Father ‘ought’ to be.
But… the bit for me that is ringing joy in my heart today is this thing of what the name of the relationship adds to the dimensions of the relationship.
I cannot cease to be my Father or Mother’s daughter.
I cannot cease to be a sister.
A family relationship is not some erasable thing . We can have: used to be friends, ex-wife/partners/husband, ex-flatmate, ex-colleague.
We can have a relationship break down with a parent or sibling or child… and doesn’t that pain reverberate like a stubbed toe hitting a door again and again?… but the relationship cannot be cancelled because of it. We may not like our brother, mother, aunty but it doesn’t cease to make them that.
A Father/Mother (usually) delights in their child. They are tangled up and intrinsically, eternally linked together for all time.
It’s like today my eyes have glimpsed a whole other level of beauty in the invitation to start a prayer with ‘our dad’. This belonging and sureity and forever-togetherness that is promised by the definition of referring to the One as ‘my dad’.
The adopted-forever promise I have been given beats in my heart, like the little boy whose proudest and best way of referring to someone was not by their name by but by the relationship they share – ‘my brother’.
May it be for you today that the creases and crinkles in your own understandings of a family and a father do not cheapen or dull the beauty of being able to know you can refer to the One as ‘my dad’.
Intimate, certain, accepted, secure.
This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
(romans 8 – msg version)
**Please be assured I also include adopted and birth parents when I talk about the permanency of those ‘family relationships’. In God we are all adopted, all equal, all accepted.