Monday, July 25, 2011

What's in a name?

Our church is in the midst of our summer series.  This year’s theme is the many names of God. Each pastor chooses a name and speaks on how that name rings true for us using biblical examples.  During yesterday’s message I was pulled into thinking of one of my favorite names for God, Abba Father. 

Every pastor has discussed their own names or their offspring’s name.  My name is Bridget Shea, I was supposed to be Bradford Stuart III.  Being the fourth and final girl proved that the Harris line wasn’t going to continue so my parents wanted to keep the BS going if nothing else.  For a while my family called me Bridget until my mom overheard me being called “Bridget the Midget” and a neighbor named their child Bridget.  By two I was known as Shea to all but my grandmother who couldn’t quite get me as Shea.  My mom didn’t consider the name calling that would come from that as I was soon called “Shea, the horse’s hay.”  And later on have been called Shea Stadium, Shea Butter and my favorite, Sheabee.  My name is significant to me because it was well thought out in a family with names like Trilbie, Tysh, Gail Cannon, and Virginia Caroline.  I wonder what I would have become if my parents didn’t want me to be BS.

My childrens’ names are of equal import.  Our first, Harris Michael, was to carry on my maiden name and my husband’s father’s name.  It was a beautiful name that I envisioned on important documents and can’t tell you how many times I wrote it out in those months of knowing who he would be!  Our second, Nathaniel James, is our “gift from God” as his name means and James continues the legacy of my husband while being a favorite Bible book.  Bradford Ellis, our final gift, is keeping on the Bradford-a name I treasure and have high hopes for.  Ellis was not only my sister’s middle name, but my grandmother’s maiden name.  Obviously a lot of thought went into these names and I feel that each child wears their name as designed.

During a mission trip in high school I heard God referred to as Abba Father for the first time.  This name struck me and has always had an impact on me, every time I hear it.  At the time my “Diddy” hung the moon.  My parents were divorced and I lived at home with my dad, taking care of household duties.  Everything from laundry to cooking meals and cleaning.  My dad and I had a great relationship and because of his love for me, my sisters and even still my mom, I thought he defined love.  After hearing about my Abba Father I had to reconsider it.  In fact, during an interview for Teaching Fellows, I was asked to define love.  I shared about my dad’s devotion and amazing love for all of us.  The interviewer asked me about God’s love and how he was surprised I didn’t use His love as my definition.  I was taken aback.  Being seventeen and taking baby faith steps had not taken me this far.  I shared how my earthly father showed me the love of my Heavenly Father.  At that moment I realized just how blessed I was.  I had the love of my Abba Father living with me every day. 

The phrase "Abba, Father" appears three times in Scripture.  In Mark 14:36, Jesus said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me, nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." In Romans 8:15, "You did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father'." And again, in Galatians 4:6, "Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father'."

I call my dad “Diddy.” I don’t know when it started, but I knew he had embraced it when he signed a birthday card, “Love, Diddy.”  Some people call their dad Pops, Papa, Daddeo or even just Da as one of the first sounds to come out of a babe’s mouth.  There’s an intimacy that comes from calling someone something other than their name.  If you met my dad, you would call him Stuart, if you’re his grandchild, you would call him Papa Stu (or Papa Dew at first) and if you have the pleasure of being his youngest daughter, you would call him Diddy.    If you’re a really close friend of mine, you would call me Sheabee.  A nickname my sister gave me, normally prefaced with Baby-Baby Sheabee was not how I wanted her college friends to know me.  Yet, they do.  If you call me Sheabee then chances are you know too much about me and must remain my friend!  
The word Abba simply means father.  Each time it is used in the Bible, it is followed by the Greek word, pater, which means father.  Calling God, Abba, brings His great love for us right into our hearts.  I imagine it as a child’s first word.  When simple sounds are what we long to hear.  The simple, yet, intimate name of Abba is what our Father longs to hear.  Saying Abba Father allows us to have a child-like love of our Father, much like Diddy while Father allows us to have an understanding of who He is and our relationship to Him.  Connecting Abba with Father allows us to have an emotional and intellectual understanding of our relationship.  

When Jesus cries out to his Abba Father asking for His will in His life, we are humbly brought to our knees by the relationship they have.  You wouldn’t call my dad Diddy, you would call him Stuart or Mr. Harris.  You don’t have the relationship with him I do.  But you can have the relationship with God Jesus does.  You are His child, you are called to be intimate with Him and constantly aware of Him. He wants you to reach out to Him and call Him your Abba Father.

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