“James on the phone.”
“Yes, Daddy is on the phone.”
This is the back-and-forth conversation my two-year-old son and I have been having.
Over the summer, he mysteriously figured out his dad’s first name and started using it. We’re not exactly sure how this happened. He just started saying, “James” out of the blue. We didn’t teach it to him.
So, for about two weeks it became:
“James on the phone.”
“James at work.”
It was “James” this and “James” that.
I kept correcting him and it took him time to understand that “Daddy” and “James” are just two names for the same person. But while lots of people might call him “James” only a few people get to call him “Daddy.”
And, two-year-old children don’t get to call their dads by their first names.
Besides that, “Daddy” is the personal name, the relational name. It’s not just about what is technically on the birth certificate or what anyone can call him whether they are stranger or friend.
“Daddy” shows the privilege of intimacy, position and belonging.
And this matters, not just when we’re talking about family, but when we’re talking to God.
Why would my son choose “James” when he has the privilege of position, the right to call him “Dad?”
Why would we choose distance when God offers us His very presence?
Sometimes, that’s what we do, though.
It can creep up on us so stealthily. One morning we realize we’ve been calling God by formal names and keeping the conversations “all business” instead of making it personal.
Perhaps we’re like Israel out in the wilderness, heading out of Egypt after the grand and glorious displays of God’s might.
Usually, we say that God brought them out of Egypt so He could take them to the Promised Land.
But that wasn’t God’s first intention for His people. Instead, He took them to Mount Sinai to meet with them.
As John Bevere writes in Drawing Near:
Remember God’s words to Pharaoh, through Moses, “”let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert” Ex. 7:16 NIV). It was not “Let my people go, so they can inherit a land” (p. 4).
But at the foot of that holy mountain, they knew their sin stood in the way. They could never survive the presence of the Holy God, so they told Moses,
Go near and hear all that the Lord our God will say, and speak to us all that the Lord our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ (Deut. 5:27 ESV).
Instead of drawing near themselves, they sent in a go-between, an intermediary. Moses could hear from God and tell them about it later.
If only they’d been prepared for His presence. If only their hearts were pure and made ready.
Instead, God said,
“Return to your tents” (Deut. 5:30 ESV).
John Bevere says:
How God’s heart must have broke, and how heavy was Moses’ heart as he returned….God brought them out of Egypt for one reason—to bring them to Himself—and they missed it” (p. 75)
I don’t want to miss it! When God brings us to Himself, may we be ready to go up, not sent back down to tents far from His presence.
Or maybe we’re like Martha in the New Testament, who allowed busyness, stress, and too many distractions from too many worries keep her from the feet of Christ?
Maybe it’s that we fear what God will ask of us. Like the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10, we think we want to be with Jesus, but then He asks us to give up position or power or possessions or habits or relationships or plans and dreams. And the choice is harder; we want God, but do we want Him more than everything else?
Or perhaps it’s the slow drift, drift, drift of our hearts, worn down by the daily grind, where time with Him is duty and not delight.
Or maybe our hearts are tender and bruised with disappointment because even though we know God is good, and even though we know He’ll never leave us, we’re hurt. Prayers weren’t answered the way we hoped. Expectations weren’t met. Dreams didn’t work out. Healing didn’t come.
So, we cradle our hearts with a wall of self-protection, not just from others—from God Himself.
But here’s what Scripture promises:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are (1 John 3:1 ESV).
We are His children. His beloved.
That means relationship. It means repenting. It means talking it out when we’re hurt. It means choosing to trust. It means drawing near and knocking down walls.
And He allows us, invites us even, to draw near, to call Him “Father,” to call Him “Dad.”