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It is an intimate, emotive word that conjures memories and reactions in all of us. Some have a beautiful, close relationship with their father. For all too many of us, however, hearing the word ‘Daddy’ evokes sadness, anger, or deep pain.
Last week, Coldplay released a song and music video with that name. ‘Daddy’ is the 5th song on the world-famous British band’s latest album, Everyday Life. It is slow and mellow, carrying a trademark Chris Martin piano riff. It tells the story of a neglectful relationship between a child and their dad from the painful and yearning perspective of the child. It contains a series of searching questions as the child reaches out by longingly asking the distant father if he is out there, if he’s ok, why he has run away, and if he will come and play. The chorus is the heart cry: ‘You’re so far away,’ followed by an unconvincing attempt by the child to reassure themselves: ‘That’s okay, it’s okay, I’m okay.’
With every listen, increasing numbers of tears flow down my cheeks. As a son, I had a wonderful, incomparable relationship with my dad, but he died suddenly when I was 21 and I miss him terribly. As a youth worker I met countless young people whose daddies have hurt them, deserted them, disappointed them, or were disappointed in them. And as a dad, I feel that instinctive, impulsive love for my sons. As I listen, I pray this song will never be theirs.
The image of father is one used often in the Bible for God. Hosea compares Israel to a child and God as one who lifts them up (Hosea 11:1-4). David declares God to be a father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5). But the antithesis and antidote to Coldplay’s lament is the portrait of God Jesus paints in Luke 15. In this story it is the child who is far away and the father who yearns, runs, embraces, and welcomes the prodigal home.
Regardless of the strength of our bond with our own fathers, Coldplay’s song taps into the subconscious longing for the relationship we really need whilst unconvincingly reassuring ourselves through comfort and escapism that ‘it’s okay’. The outrageous, scandalous, beautiful message of the gospel is that God is not far away, but that he is closer and more loving than we dare imagine.
Phil is Head of Mission to Young Adults at the Evangelical Alliance.