One of the highlights of our summer was time we spent at family camp. One of the families in our group brought 11 of their 12 children to camp. But that wasn’t the only exceptional thing about this family. The thing that made the biggest impression on me was the crazy nicknames this dad gave his kids.
I am always pretty aware of dads and different fathering styles, and I obviously have a thing about names. This guy was a great dad, but the nickname thing was puzzling. He used their nicknames at least three times as often as you would normally say someone’s name in the course of conversation. These kids had classy names, and he was calling them names like “Puppy” “Life-fish” and “Little Mom”. Yet he never had to raise his voice, his kids responded quickly and respectfully when he call them.
Gradually, I began to understand what was going on. I learned that each of the kids’ nicknames was based on a shared experience with their dad. By using the name so frequently, he was conditioning his kids to respond to the nickname as readily as they would to their given name, if not more so. Essentially he was teaching them, “What I think of you is more important than what anyone else thinks of you, because I know you in a way that no one else knows you. ” Every time they heard their nickname, they knew that they were not just loved, but known by a father who had taken time to experience each of them as an individual.
I’m not sure how much, if any, of this was intentional. Some people are naturally gifted parents. But that’s not the point. The point is that we all look to other people in our lives to help us understand who we are.
My favorite meaning for the Hebrew word “Abba”, usually translated “Daddy”, or “Father”, is “Source” From a Hebrew perspective, who you are flows out of who your father is. On trips to Israel, I’ve watched my biological father introduce himself in his small Galilean town as my grandfather’s son. Even though my grandfather has been dead for 20 years, he was esteemed so highly in the community that being his son still means a great deal.
So my question to you is, Who’s your Abba? We all have people that function as a “source” for us. We say to them, consciously or unconsciously, “What you think of me is more important than what anybody else thinks of me.” We allow these people to “name” us in the sense that we give them a role in shaping our identity. I know people who looked to a source and were called “stupid”, “disappointing” and “mistake”. If there is poison at the source, everything gets contaminated. If you had a source that was pure and true, how would your life be different?
You have an Abba who knows you like no one else. He wants you to see yourself as he sees you. He wants your identity flow out of who he is.
Who has functioned as a “source” in your life?
What “names” did you receive from those people, and how have you been shaped by them?
How has God been a source for you?