Tuesday, September 24, 2013


My father was 50 when I was born.

Though he always seemed young to me, this admittedly made for a rather unique upbringing.

There were drawbacks, of course. We didn't do too many active things together, for instance. We probably had less in common than younger parents might have with their children. And there always seemed to be a social stigma attached to having older parents somehow, especially among my peers in grade school; the question, "Is that your grandfather?" got rather old. The worst thing was (and is) the knowledge that there are certain life events that I may not be able to share with my parents.

But there are advantages as well. By the age of 50, most folks have gotten over the bulk of life's trivialities, and also a good many of its more serious distractions. Or at least, if they're going to, it's likely going to happen before this point. For me, this meant that the great majority of my father's poor decisions were behind him well before I came along, while the wisdom gleaned from those decisions remained. It also meant that he had the opportunity to meet my mother, and to become the kind of person that she would have. And perhaps most significantly, it meant that he had the time to recognize his need for Jesus, and to commit his life to him. That last, of course, changes everything.

And so I grew up, with an older father than any of my friends, but also without many of the issues that a lot of my friends had to deal with. I am convinced these two things are linked. In fact, I sometimes wonder if there shouldn't be a minimum age requirement for parenting.1

Now, it's well known that Jesus often referred to God as "Father," as did the Jewish tradition before Him (though He arguably personalized it a good deal). And the church has always taken God's paternal relationship to us very seriously. However, a lot of folks have a hard time with seeing God this way. This is understandable, because a lot of earthly fathers are truly awful. Whereas fatherhood, like all loving human relationships, was meant to reveal something to us about what God is like, for many, fatherhood has only taught pain and disappointment. Thus, their ability to understand God, and know Him as He desires to be known, is seriously impaired.

I have never had this problem. When I think of God as Father, I immediately recognize generosity, kindness, sacrifice, gentleness, a desire for justice, charity. I also see honor, discipline, wisdom, a shrewdness earned by long experience dealing with the world, a quickness to express love, and a heart that I know would do anything for me. I am able to see all these things in my heavenly Father because I first learned to recognize them in my earthly father. And unlike most, I was able to recognize them all from an early age, because my father was in the appropriate stage of life to exhibit them for me.

All that to say, I am continually immensely grateful for the father God chose to give me. I call him "Daddy." It is admittedly an intimate title, but it is also mature, somehow, and carries an element of respect (this may be a southern thing).2 I'm even grateful that God waited as long as He did to give us to one another, as I would undoubtedly be a different person if He hadn't. And I like who I am. What's more, I know my Daddy (and my Father) does, too, because he (and He) tells me so regularly.

Today, Daddy turns 76. I'm thankful for the years we've had together, and I pray for many more before the ole' mortal coil is shuffled off. But mostly I'm thankful that he has always loved me so well. Because of this, I am able to approach the One who is Love, unencumbered by any distortions or perversions of what love looks like, or what fatherhood is meant to reveal.

I wouldn't trade that for anything.

Happy birthday, Daddy.

1 At least until we learn (remember) how to submit our lives--including our parenting--to one another in Christian community. But that's a blog for another time.

2 In case you're wondering why I don't include a discussion of "Abba" here, it's because the Abba-Daddy connection seems to be a myth.