“…the Father almighty…”
My dad jingled. He would take the bus to work downtown each morning and come home predictably at the same time each afternoon to the same bus stop. The stop was three blocks away, so too far to meet him there. But my brother and I were allowed to watch on the front sidewalk and when he came into view on the other end of the block, about two hundred yards away, we could run to meet him. This probably served my mother well; she could have us out of the house, attention fixed on something not likely to cause harm to ourselves or others, and reasonably safe.
Sometimes on a good day he would let us take turns and ride on his shoulders the rest of the way home. But since it was an uphill climb and there were two of us, usually he would convince us to walk by his side and hold his hand. The top of my head came to about his waist so my ear was right next to his pocket. What I remember most about those walks was the the jingling of change and keys in his pockets. It sounded like little silver bells. Only dads jingled. Not moms, not kids, only dads. My dad.
My creed identifies God as “the Father.” God is the Father, but so is the priest, so is the rote beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, and so is my dad. What can “God, the Father…” possibly mean?
In religions other than Christianity, and even in our own Old Testament, God’s title is some variation on “Ruler of the Universe” or “Lord and Master.” The Man Upstairs, the Big Boss. Not Dad.
“Dad” implies something much different than “Ruler of the Universe,” does it not? The Ruler is almighty certainly, but he rules over the nameless masses with the threat of punishment or even complete annihilation for disobedience, and the less well-defined benefit of obedience is continued existence. This is understandable. A Being as powerful and universal as we imagine God wouldn’t, to our human way of thinking, be capable of being personal. I mean, He’s got over six billion living souls on this planet alone, not to mention the ones already in heaven and hell. And we are not even talking about managing the couple hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe and all the living creatures great, small, and microscopic. It’s a helluva job and no reason to think He would pay any attention to me (unless maybe I stepped out of line).
Dad, on the other hand, knows exactly who I am. He created me with his own DNA through his passion and his love. He knew me as a baby before I could know myself. He protected me and guided me until I could take care of myself. And every now and then he punished me for being violent or disrespectful or putting myself or others in danger.
Jesus shocked the world when He referred to God as “Abba,” an informal and familiar term in Aramaic meaning something close to “Dad.” God is personal, He is loving, and, after understanding that He really exists, this is the most important thing we need to know about Him: He’s Dad. He created you with His own DNA through His passion and His love. He knew you before before you knew yourself. He protects you and guides you.
And, yeah, sure, He’s almighty. We kinda expect that out of God; otherwise, He wouldn’t be God. But when we put father together with almighty, I think the most amazing thing about all the powers He displays is to be Dad. Not just to me, but to every human being born since the beginning of time. The father almighty. Dad.
Now I’m an old man and I’ve lived a life far less than perfect. I don’t want to label myself a sinful man, but I can’t claim to be righteous either. When I’ve drifted, I’ve felt myself struggling, unsettled, lonely and lost. On other days, my best days, I wait for Dad, looking for him in the distance, and when I see Him coming I run as fast as I can and we walk together, holding hands, a jingle like silver bells in my ear, because only He sounds like that. And together we walk toward home.