Ever since childhood, I’ve addressed God as “Lord” in my prayers. It’s a common term and an appropriate one. Over time, though, I’ve covered it with rust and dust. “Lord” is the powerful, all-knowing, benevolent being who I keep disappointing. All he wants is the best for me - if only I would obey him perfectly, think more rightly, doubt less and listen more closely. “Lord” watches me struggle, shaking his head in silent frustration. I fall short every day and he’s tired of my explanations. I’m wearing his patience thin. But he would never leave me, so instead I retreat from him. How can I go to him for help when all my troubles are of my own making?

Shame has tainted my image of “Lord” so this year I searched for a new name to reframe my relationship with God. I’ve never felt comfortable with “Father” - that feels too stilted. And calling him “Daddy” feels somehow disrespectful to my wonderful earthly father. So I settled on “Abba” - the Aramaic term for father that Paul invited the Romans to adopt now that they were adopted by God. A call from slavery into sonship.

My relationship with Abba felt awkward at first, but as the word grew familiar in my mouth and on the page, I began to sink into his presence. With Abba, I am weak. I crumble. I know nothing and I fear my next steps. So I look to him, my Abba, for comfort and direction. He wraps me in his arms and I’m allowed to fall apart. He’s familiar with all my tears. In overwhelming moments, “Abba” escapes from my chest as an unconscious prayer synonymous with “Help!” I don’t know what else to do, but he does.

The greatest lesson I am learning: Abba wants nothing from me. All he wants is me.