My 87 year old father had just put out an email request to the family.  He recently had to change his vehicle license plate and received a new number, AOF 0073.  In my father’s always creative way, he wanted the letters “AOF” to mean something.  He had decided that the “OF” would best represent him by standing for “Old Fogey”, but he wasn’t sure about the “A”.  He requested that the family submit suggestions for the “A” for a vote.

A number of email exchanges followed suggesting such thoughts as “Active, Alert, Abominable, Aberrant, Absent-minded, Alive, Almost, Animated, Aviator (my father was a WWII pilot), or Awesome.”  A late suggestion came in, “Accellerando”.  It was admitted that it probably wasn’t a word, but sure captured the spirit of my father’s driving habits.

I watched everyone jumping into the discussion, but I had not ventured in.  After a few days and no thought on my part given to it, I felt as though my family and particularly my father deserved my investment in this discussion.  So I cracked open a dictionary to the “A’s” and began jotting down ideas.  I then put out an email mentioning a number of suggestions.  Some were obvious like American and Authentic.  Others emphasized certain aspects of my father’s personality or experience, such as, Artistic (since he still is a very active and passionate musician) and Ambulatory (since he has been and still is a very accomplished and active walker).  But the one I finally settled on as my personal submission was “Aspiring” because of its double meaning.  On one hand it captures his very active and youthful spirit by not committing him to total “Old Fogey” status yet. He’s an “aspiring” Old Fogey. On the other hand, this description emphasizes his most admirable trait – his zeal to keep aspiring to new challenges even at 87.

Later that evening, my father broadcasted throughout our family email network that he had selected my submission of “Aspiring” as the winner.  As silly as this whole process seemed, and as insignificant as the meaning of letters on a license plate are, I felt an overwhelming sense of pride over this selection.  It wasn’t the license plate or the family debate or my winning nomination that mattered. I realized that what welled up inside was the significance of my father’s approval even at 55 years old.

I realized that like most of us, we never outgrow a desire to be the apple of our father’s eye, the exhilaration of having our Dad’s approval.

It brought me back to a passage in Matthew when after Jesus’ baptism by John in the River Jordan, the clouds parted and the Spirit like a dove lighted upon Jesus and a voice from heaven spoke saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  Even Jesus needed his father’s approval.

The great news is this – even if your father is never able to express his approval, you can have a Father in heaven that is ready and willing to say of you, “This is my beloved child, with whom I am well pleased.”  This is the most significant of all approvals.  One that can well up a confidence and joy within you that will carry you into eternity.  We all need our Father’s affirmation.

Tom Reynolds