This post originally appeared in Daily Grace: The Mockingbird Devotional, Vol. 2. Get your copy today!
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear. Instead, you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit himself testifies together with our spirit that we are God’s children. (Rom. 8:15–16)
Perhaps better than any other image of God’s love is the portrait of a mother’s love. Whether it’s a skinned knee, muddy clothes, or midnight cries, there’s nothing quite like a mother’s embrace. Such is what makes the comfort of St. Paul’s words in Romans 8:15 the comfiest of respites when feelings of anxiety or exhaustion arise.
Some suggest that a similar word for “Abba” might be our colloquial term of endearment, “Daddy.” We are invited, then, with the Spirit’s assistance, to cry out to our Heavenly parent and lean on him for support and sustenance and salvation. This image crystallized for me one night when my daughter was crying almost inconsolably. She was an infant at the time, and her usual uninterrupted slumber was filled with feverish whimpers. Mommy and I entered her room to try and soothe her. As Mommy readied some medicine, I grabbed my daughter and held her close to my chest. She proceeded to tuck her arms underneath her and completely fall onto me. I rocked back and forth and rubbed her back as she nestled her body closer to mine. Mommy administered the medicine to relieve her fever, and Daddy held her close.
This image always comes to mind when reading Paul’s invitation to cry out to “Abba, Father!” Whereas some insist that “Abba” isn’t, necessarily, a linguistic equivalent to “Daddy,” in the end, it really doesn’t matter. Because the good news announces that God has come and holds us even closer. “Jesus invites us to become like a little child,” writes the late Brennan Manning, “to crawl into Abba’s Arms and let him love on us.”1
No amount uncleanness is enough for God to turn his nose up at you. No amount of sickness can make him stay away. His Word promises us that he will sit with us in the ashes of the ruin of our own making. It tells us that he will embrace us, failures and all. Regardless of how dark the night is, he is always ready to administer his gracious, glorious remedy. The scandal of grace is that it tells us of a tender, loving Dad who is not afraid of getting his hands dirty in embracing us children.
Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000), 234.