Not bad ones…at least not in my hearing.
But they have each chosen, I think unconsciously, a specific word that is their go-to handle for me. Whether it’s on the phone or face-to-face, each has a pet personal name they seem to automatically use.
As I approach Father’s day, I did some thinking about what these particular names mean and what the kids are communicating to me with their chosen monikers. Each tag seems to simply and broadly characterize the unique relationship I have with them individually.
They have decoded their dad. I am a father figured.
My eldest son, Nathan, simply calls me Dad. It’s a proper term…one of respect. Mutual respect.
Our relationship bears the marks of the foundry, the furnace and the fire. He has faced massive disappointments and undeserved pain in this relationship. Flaws in my soul created fissures in his.
But with the heart of a fighter, he has battled back from dark places and deep pain. He has wrestled with failures–his as well as mine. Like a prize fighter down for the count, he got up and took control of his destiny. Unwilling to stay on the canvas, he made difficult choices and rallied his resources for the sake of his own sons. We have walked through the fiery furnace and come out on the other side.
Ours a relationship of steel. Strong because it was forged in fire. Powerful because we see each other’s scars. Unbending because we will never give up on each other.
We are in each other’s corner.
Like men who share a team’s jersey and conviction. We share hearts.
I think it’s based on the fact that we are very much alike. We understand each other at a visceral level. There is a depth of knowing that is subterranean and inexplicable. We just ‘get’ each other. We read minds, share emotions and communicate with ease. We have battled together against the stuff that would drain our soul and sap our strength.
This is a relationship of leather. Organic. Natural. Flexible. It grows easier with time, deeper with talks and richer with triumphs. We know how to give each other space and crowd close when the fight is on.
We have each other’s backs.
That’s what Lauren, my baby girl—the one I just married off—calls me. It’s a term of endearment. Mutual adoration.
It seems we are both idealists whose hearts are set on higher things. We share frustrations because the “is” hasn’t caught up with the “ought”. There is a knowing like two people awakening from the same dream. We love words. We have big vision. We are delightfully manic and intensely passionate.
There is a connection of soul and spirit and values…a commitment to never settle.
This is a relationship of velvet. Soft. Tender. Sweet. Vulnerable. It gains intensity from shared pain and intimacy from common desires.
We wipe each other’s tears.
That is my name for the privilege of being dad, pops and daddy. The greatest honor of my life is to hear one of their voices in their chosen dialect of intimacy call my “name”. I could not be more proud to watch their lives fill out and their souls fill up.
The greatest pain of my past is when I have fallen miserably short of the expressed desire of those names. Each of my children has had to forgive me for massive fatherly failures. But each also carries from me the dream of what can be and the hope that it will be.
They each know they are unconditionally loved and accepted. Doubts about their importance to me don’t exist even though at times in my history, I have not held them in their proper place. You see, these three have watched me battle back from defeat with fervent desire to earn again their respect and admiration.
Interestingly, one thing none of them has ever called me is father.
I think it is because they reserve that for the only One who can sum up all the strengths and bear none of the weaknesses of human paternity.
Their Father is my Father too.
Our Papa is the one who fills in the gaps I have left, heals the wounds I have created and repairs the disappointments I have caused in them.
He is the Perfect Father who makes it OK for me to be an imperfect Dad.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-16)
My children and I have a Father…one who never fails, never falters and never forgets. He is deeply interested in our distresses, intensely passionate about our desires and territorially protective of our destinies.
That’s why we call him Abba…our source, sufficiency and savior.
By the way, I started calling my children names when they were born.
- Nathaniel—gift of God.
- Caleb—heart of courage.
- Lauren—crown of joy.
They are each living up to those names…beautifully.
I hope I can live up to mine.