Robert & Roberta Adair

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Father God.  Abba Father.  Touchan or Papachan (sweet Pops – my translation).  I’ve sure been thinking about God as Father a lot over the last 3 days.

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I’ll back up a little.  When my dad passed, I was 12 years old.  The way I saw Father God was very tied into how I saw my earthly dad.  My dad listened to me (I have good memories of him lying on my bed, bunching my pillow behind his head, and listening to me babble).  He, at the risk of using an overly mushy term, “delighted” in me (as a little kid, I’d invert my shirt up around my head, pretend that I had long, beautiful hair, and twirl around.  I remember dad laughing and calling me Princess Roberta).  And he was a good teacher, corrector, counselor, provider, protector, and all those other things one associates with a good dad.  Yep, the way I remember him, he was kind of the best.

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When he passed, my faith was shaken up for a time.  I stopped viewing God as “Dad” and saw him more as a Big Meanie who really wasn’t as strong as all of the songs we sang made him out to be.  I was still afraid enough of him, though, that I didn’t leave my faith altogether.

Then in college, somewhere between my sophomore and junior year, I was somehow reintroduced to God as my Father.  …A Father who was good, who provided for me and protected me, who listened to me babble and process, and who patiently taught me.  I was able to, for the first time in years, pray to God as Father.  Privately, I don’t think I ever used a name like “Abba,” “Papa,” or “Dad,” but I felt and pursued a closeness – an intimacy – that my relationship with my dad kind of modeled for me.

Then I went to Kosovo for 3 years.  I don’t know what it is about Albanian worship, but I was able to sing to my Father God in language and melodies that were so personal.  Albanian language and culture is quite emotive (and yep, I loved that part of it).  Worship, in longing, minor keys, had lyrics such as “Oh my Father (Ati – Dad), How could I have lived without knowing you or your will.  But now I’m your child – I’m in your family…wow, I can’t stop praising you!” and “It’s amazing – now I’m your daughter, I’m your son.  God, you’re my Father (Ati – Dad).”  So intimate, so full of wonder and love.  Sometimes, with our little crew at our church plant, we would get so wrapped up in this wonder and excitement that we would joyfully dance in a circle and praise the Father.

Then I came to Japan.  The name for God I learned early on and usually use in Japanese is Ten no Otosama.  This sort of translates as Father in Heaven, but I think the feeling is more like “Sir/Reverend Father” or “King Father” – not “Abba Father.”  There is so much in Japanese culture and language that I as an American Christian need to learn.  Treating God with respect and as the Holy King is important (and I’m not so good at this).  Yet it seems incomplete.  Japanese language seems to be good at language of honor but not good at language of friendship and intimacy.  (This is my take after being here for 1 ½ years and not being too bright in Japanese.  Maybe my understanding is flawed.)

Yet thinking about this over the last couple of days has made me quite sad.  I think it’s affecting how I interact with and view God as I pray and as I live.  I was challenged by a friend on Saturday to talk to God as Father – something I would normally say I do pretty decently.  But as we were talking, I realized I have changed.  As I later talked with a couple of Japanese friends about it, I sensed a sort of sadness in them.  When talking with one friend who is bicultural/bilingual, she said that this is one reason why she prefers to pray in English.  English allows for praying to King as well as to Abba whereas Japanese doesn’t seem to allow for the intimacy she longs for in prayer.

At church on Sunday, there was a kids blessing time when kids from the church went up front and got prayed for by the senior Pastor (and they got donuts!).  I still haven’t been able to have many meaningful conversations with this pastor as language kind of prevents it.  Yet, from what I’ve heard about him and seen in him, he’s a good guy – a humble, wise man who cares about his family and those entrusted to him.  He loves God and the church in some really attractive ways.  He cracks jokes, works the land, and has a hearty laugh.  And as he put his hand on these kids’ heads and prayed for them, I ached for my dad – I missed him so much.  And I longed to reconnect with God as Abba Father again – one who isn’t way up there but is right here with me.  One who isn’t far but who is near.

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I want to focus on my relationship with my Abba Father again.  I also want to learn what this looks like or can look like in Japanese and for Japanese Christians.  Any feedback or resources are appreciated :)

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