A Moment in Time – June 10th, 2019
Last week, I shared with you a letter I received from my biological father when I was 12 years old. I shared some of the inconsistencies related to the spelling of my name: Ty-Ron, and the intersections between my name and my father “Ronald’s” name.
Notice I use the term “father.” Let’s return to the letter:
“Hello TyRon, my son how are you doing? This is Ronald, your Daddy. So glad to hear from you. I’m glad you finally wrote me. Say, I’m sorry that you didn’t win the Spelling Bee contest but I’m very proud of you that you came in third. Tyron, listen, I want you to know that as soon as I can get you here for a summer vacation, I will send for you. Oh yes, I told the family that you wrote me and they were glad to hear from you. I pray to God that you will study hard and keep your eyes on your dreams. Jesus Christ says, “so as a man thinketh, so is He” This means whatever you put your heart and mind [to], you will become. But you must work hard at that goal. Well, I’m going now, but keep in touch.
My father uses the term “daddy” –specifically “your daddy” to refer to himself in the letter. I remember feeling some dissonance at 12 years old with this and I still do.
Here’s why: Daddy is a term of endearment. Daddy is a term that emerges in childhood …usually the follow up to a baby’s cries of ‘dadda’ in infancy. But what happens to an infant when there is no masculine voice on the end of ‘dadda’.
I am not sure if I ever used the term daddy and if I did, I used it to refer to my dad, Stanley Douglas, who raised me and officially adopted me as his own when I was 7 years old. I look forward to sharing more about the influence and love of ‘my dad,’ Stanley, in future broadcasts. But for today I want to dig in just a little around the language and implications of ‘daddy.’
For me, you can’t be distant and be my daddy. The term “father” feels more appropriate for a distant paternal relationship; I attribute it to a person who contributes 23 chromosomes genetically—someone who helped create me.
Notably, when I return to the brown envelope I mentioned last week and look at the picture of my biological father, I can see that Ronald Burruss is my father: his face, the way he holds his mouth, his ears, and according to his siblings and nieces and nephews, I even act a little like him too. I am just grateful that my hairline is still hanging in there. My father had the George Jefferson thing going on in his 30s so I’m doing pretty good to still have an intact, though thinning, hairline. In the words of psalmist Duawne Starling in reference to his father whom he lost: “he’s a part of me, like the salt is to an ocean.”
Still, I don’t feel or see ‘daddy’ when I look at my Father’s picture. There’s a distance. No bitterness. Just not much to ground emotion and attachment. I didn’t know him. I know and have a relationship with his family, but I never knew my father or had him as ‘daddy’—not in the way my 11 year old says and relates to me as ‘daddy.’
So how does all of this relate to my Heavenly Father? I’m glad you asked. I’ve had to learn to let God be ‘my daddy.’ When you’ve felt abandoned or rejected as a child—particularly in core relationships, there’s an inertia that emerges in being vulnerable to others. How do you trust a Heavenly Father you can’t see when you never really saw or developed a trusting relationship with your earthly Father? When I think Father, I think provider. God has been my provider. But when I think Daddy, I think safety, innocence, vulnerability, being immersed and affirmed in his arms as a boy that “I’m good” and “I’m okay”. Men and women still need this. We still need our Daddys. And for those who have had complexity or disconnects with Daddys, we must take account of how this impacts our horizontal and vertical relationships.
In our journeys from childhood to adulthood, I think we need to experience the breadth of the roles of our Fathers—the cries of dadda from the baby crib, to daddy, to dad, Daddio, pops, or whatever becomes of the names and relationships that develop over time as sons and daughters mature, one thing is clear: we need Daddy.
This week, as we approach Father’s Day, some of you have a knot in your throat because your earthly daddy isn’t around, whether by choice or circumstance. You miss daddy. I feel you. God sees you. Know that our heavenly father is big enough yet personal enough to be our Daddy.
Let’s pray to him now:
Daddy, we need you. Interpret the whines and whimpers of our words and cries from the crib of this broken world. Feed us from the bottle of your Word. Clean up the diapers of our dysfunction. Hold us close so that we can hear and become acquainted anew with the beating of your heart for us and our brothers and sisters in this world. Don’t leave. Please don’t leave. And don’t let us leave you as you teach us to crawl, walk, and run to you. Amen.
This is Dr. Ty Douglas, author of Border Crossing Brothas, and I want to invite you to experience SALT—So Amazing Life Today; it’s available to each of us, in Christ.
You can reach Dr. Ty at www.DrTyDouglas.org and follow him at @DrTyDouglas.
Link to purchase Border Crossing Brothas: https://www.amazon.com/Border-Crossing-«Brothas»-Navigating-Critical/dp/1433135388