Most of you don’t buy your veggies from a man on a motorbike who drives through your neighborhood every morning. The language you speak with your neighbors is probably different than the one I fumble through with mine. Your kids probably aren’t accustomed to bowing their forehead to the hand of the older person they greet in order to show honor. But, though our circumstances may look vastly different, knowing God as Father can anchor our souls through every season and trial in motherhood.
When my husband and I first arrived in this humid land filled with mosques and mosquitoes, with our twin 6-month-olds in tow, I was desperate to find some sort of relief for the unbearably difficult days spent learning a new language, while also nursing two infants and figuring out how to simply survive in this new place—like where to buy groceries and how to cook vegetables I had never seen before. I thought I could look to the moms around me and find consolation. I tried to understand what brought them relief in the long, hot days of mothering in this country. I desperately tried to tell myself that all mothers are the same everywhere. I asked, “How different could moms here really be from me?” And despite my hopes, I realized the answer was very different. From the way we treated illnesses in our kids to the relationships we had with our husbands, the impact of culture was profound.
In time (and with heaps of God’s grace), I realized that moms here want what’s best for their kids, too—even if what we define as “best” is different. We have the same heart to love and bless our kids. Those differences that felt insurmountable in the beginning have become less significant as I’ve watched my kids grow. They know the songs their friends sing, appreciate drinking coconut water straight from its source, and request rice with every meal. The once “big” and now “small” differences revealed the greater chasm between us: these women don’t have a Heavenly Father.
God as “Father”
We live in a country whose primary religion has 99 different names for God. Many of them are names we would use to describe our God as well—Merciful, Just, All-Knowing, etc. But, there is one name that just didn’t make the cut—Father—and that changes everything.
“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Gal. 4:4-7).
Have you ever noticed that Paul switches to Aramaic when he says we call out “Abba!”?
Timothy Keller beautifully points out the implications of what Paul is saying:
“Why would Paul use an Aramaic idiomatic phrase in a letter to Greek-speaking Galatians, who probably didn’t know Aramaic, the common language of Palestine? Because Jesus Christ used it in talking to his Father. It was a daringly familiar term to use to address the Lord Almighty. So when Paul says that we should use it, he is vividly asserting that we have legally inherited the rights of Jesus himself. We can approach God as if we were as beautiful, heroic, and faithful as Jesus himself. All that is his is ours.”
I wanted to know what exactly was the context of Jesus calling out “Abba!” to his father. And what I found brought me to grateful, humble tears:
“And he [Jesus] took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.’ And going a little further, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
These were the moments of Jesus’ greatest sorrow, fear, and struggle, and he cries out for Abba—his daddy. He’s needy, and dependent, and overwhelmed, and running into the arms of his Father in surrender and desperation. And we’ve been invited to do the same.
We Need a Father, Too
You and I may be overwhelmed by different things. It may be trying to finish the remodeling of your house and feeling the weight of financial strain; maybe it’s wanting more kids only to find another cycle has come and gone and you’re still not pregnant. It may be that you live in a culture that’s wildly different than the one you grew up in and you feel like you’re just barely keeping your head above water. I don’t know your struggle, but I do know that our hope in the good and hard days of mothering must always be this: we have a Father who has made us his own, his heirs, his possession for all eternity, and he looks at us the same way he looks at his own beloved Son. He’s inviting us to cry out to him in faith in the middle of the pain, and struggle, and sorrow, and to trust him—even if he doesn’t take away from us the “cup” we so desperately want to be gone. Because his Son did drink the fullness of that cup—the one filled with the wrath and punishment our sin deserved—we get to feast in the fullness of fellowship with him—not just in eternity to come—but right here in the midst of our most desperate mothering moments.
What a privilege it is to know him as Father—one that other religions in the world today still can’t fathom. It anchors our souls on the hardest of days, more than any empty promise for relief this world could ever offer. And not only is he our Father, but he invites us to come—weary and troubled as we might be—and know we’re just as loved as his own beloved Son, with whom he is “well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
Timothy Keller, Galatians for You, p. 89.
Emily lives with her husband and twin toddlers in Southeast Asia. Currently, they run an eco-tourism business, whose focus is helping meet practical needs as a bridge into underdeveloped communities that have no access to the gospel. But, most days she spends her time chasing her kids around the house, hosting neighbors and new friends for meals, and trying new recipes for making foods they miss in America--which almost always ends up being Mexican. You can follow her overseas mothering journey on instagram @steadfastyetstumbling.