If you know me personally or have followed my blog for anytime, you know that I find nuggets of treasure in song lyrics. You also know how much my Dad means to me. Recently on my playlist two songs came on back-to-back, Jim Croce’s, “I’ve Got a Name” and Dan Fogelberg’s, “Leader of the Band”. Both have meaningful lyrics (likely why they are on my playlist in the first place) and make me think of my Dad.
- Like the pine trees lining the winding road
- I got a name, I got a name
- Like the singing bird and the croaking toad
- I got a name, I got a name
- And I carry it with me like my daddy did
- But I’m living the dream that he kept hid
- My life has been a poor attempt
- To imitate the man
- I’m just a living legacy
- To the leader of the band.
- I thank you for the kindness
- And the times when you got tough
- And, poppa, I don’t think I said I love you near enough
In today’s world where we banter about the word “privilege,” its meaning and impact, I would say that I am “Robert J Mahr privileged.” My Dad never went to college and worked three jobs when he was starting out his family. He was the son of an alcoholic mailman that was an under achiever with not much flair for family. My Dad took responsibility to make himself better and not be a victim of the prior generation. He created an environment in our home that allowed me, and my brothers, to grow and develop. His confidence in me created the foundation I had to build my life on. His choices had lasting impressions. He never lost sight of making the world a better place for his family. He provided many of the benefits of which I could use to my advantage.
He showed me how to love and honor a wife. So much of who I am today is a result of their partnership. My Mom’s love and support is an important part of my being “Robert J Mahr privileged.” Today, I continue to be privileged, from the love and support of my wife.
Once after a particularly rough high school football loss, my Dad asked me if I had done my best. I answered yes that I had. His response was, “then your best needs to get better, because it isn’t good enough.” There was no coddling there, a slap of reality that recalibrated just how much room there was for improvement. There is now a sign that hangs in the Westminster High School Football weight and locker rooms based on his words:
It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old. The loss of your father can have a monumental impact in your life. It can be a loss of a role model, pillar of strength, and a source of wisdom. My Dad has been gone for over 20 years now, passing away too young at age 57, when I was 36. There have been countless times I could have directly used a word of counsel or a kernel of wisdom. Instead, it has been indirect. I continue to find solace in what he shared with me in my formative years, a lot of that insight is what fuels this blog and my book.
The Aramaic term “Abba” appears three times in the Greek New Testament of The Bible. Each time the term appears it is followed immediately by “ho pater,” which literally means “the father.” In each case it is used with reference to God. Mark records that Jesus used the term when praying in Gethsemane shortly before his death, saying: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” (Mark 14:36) The two other occurrences are in Paul’s letters, at Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. It seems evident from these texts that, in apostolic times, the Christians made use of the term Abba in their prayers to God.
Most scholars reject the Evangelical Christian teachings that translate Abba as “daddy.” It is not a childlike, intimate term for one’s father, but a term of respect. It is viewed as a word normally used by sons and daughters, throughout their lives, in the family context but also containing a sense of respect for the master of the family. The term carries with it a sense of closeness. It was Jesus’ special way of addressing God with family intimacy and reverence.
Jesus introduced us to God as our Father in a way unheard of in the Old Testament, nowhere in the entire devotional literature of ancient Judaism is ´Abba´ a way of addressing God. Through Jesus’ teaching and practice, such an expression of intimacy became the norm of the early church.
The two songs at the start of this blog have always made me think of my Dad and they always will. However, going forward when I hear these songs, I will also think of Abba Father. I carry my Dad’s name as well as Christ’s (being a Christian) with me and I strive to be more than “a poor attempt to imitate” both my earthly, as well as my heavenly Father.