Jesus addressed God this way in his prayers. His father, his daddy, who loved him dearly. Who told people that he was “well pleased” with his son. Who gave him instructions, and was there to support him as he carried them out. Then stepped back, leaving him to accomplish his greatest task on his own, trusting in his obedience.
Isn’t that the essence of any father-child relationship?
Godly fathers love, protect, guide, and empower their sons and daughters to become the fullest and best men and women they can be. But even if our human fathers fail, Jesus says very clearly that his Father God is our Father God too.
Yes, we too can run to God, crying, “Abba, Father!” God the Father has taught us how to live, and he stands ready to support us. And he steps back, giving us freedom of choice when it’s time to obey. I cherish that notion of my relationship with him.
Sadly, God the Father is being evicted from hymn lyrics these days
(along with “oppressive” references to his sovereignty, like Lord, throne, reign, and kingdom). “Inclusive language” that excludes masculine images and favors genderless or feminine terms for the deity is the order of the day. Masculine pronouns for God must be replaced with its or her, or else be eliminated altogether by repeating the noun, even if the resulting lyrics sound bloated and unnatural. The use of traditional collective words like man (which is tough to replace with a unisex lyrical equivalent, by the way) has been known to provoke accusations of indifference to—even participation in—the denigration and abuse of women.
Yes, I call this neutering trend sad, because it strips away a degree of intimacy, of relatability on a familiar, personal level. To say nothing of what the Lord, who reigns over the kingdom of heaven from a celestial throne, might think about being stripped of his/her/its sovereignty!
Mind you, as a female myself, I’m well aware of gender discrimination and evils perpetrated against women. As a writer, I appreciate the power of words, for good and for ill. And as a person of sincere faith, I welcome creative works that explore and praise every aspect of relationship with the infinitely complex Divine, from every cultural point of view.
But by “every aspect of relationship,” I don’t mean “every aspect except the traditional patriarchal relationship that Jesus Christ modeled.” Seriously, are we so feebly enlightened by the Holy Spirit that we can’t be touched and blessed by imagery that doesn’t mirror our own identity? And do we really have to take (and give) personal offense over lyrics that pertain more to the next guy/gal than to ourselves? (If so, the pews will need bigger racks, to fit a different solo hymnal for every worshipper!) No, I’d like to give the Body of Christ—including the ovaries—more credit than that.
I know, love, and respect people who will passionately disagree with my opinion. Hey, we’re all entitled to one. Feel free to share dissenting opinions (preferably without the aforementioned accusations) in comments, below, for discussion.
Meanwhile, as a female writer of sincere faith, guided and empowered by my two fathers in heaven (Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Love you!), I will continue to celebrate Jesus’ offer of relationship with God the Father, in my thoughts, and in my prayers, and in my faith songs.
Come dance with me, beloved Abba,
a waltz of glorious elegance.
Upon your arm, I will glide and twirl
in a sacred Father and daughter dance.
“Come Dance with Me” verse 3
© 2014 Linda Bonney Olin
Set to ALMA by Lyman F. Brackett (Public domain)
Click on tune title to listen.
Download sheet music for personal enjoyment (PDF)
Update: For a lovely image of the Father-daughter dance, check out Marla Shaw O’Neill’s 9/21/2015 blog post.
Please honor all copyrights. The dancing girl photo with lyrics may be freely shared on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter, provided the copyright notice and web address stay with it. Contact Linda Bonney Olin to request permission to reproduce her lyrics in any other form. Thanks!