Watching my children grow up in a bilingual home has been an eye-opening experience. One of the more curious results of hearing both English and Spanish since they were babies is what they now call my wife and me.
My children call my wife, who is from Mexico, “Mommy.” They call their gringo father, “Papá.” In fact, my children do what many Mexican children do. They shorten it.
They call me “Apá.”
I love it when my children call me “Apá” – even when my six year old says it over and over and over again. To hear my children call out to me in love and trust warms my heart in ways words cannot express.
This last week I was thinking about that as I posted a paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer on my blog. In my paraphrase, “Our Father who art in heaven,” became, “Dear Dad.”
A number of people commented how they didn’t like that. They felt it was disrespectful.
One of the themes throughout Jesus’ teachings is his insistence that we pray to God as our Father. Our God loves us. He promises to protect us and give us everything which is for our good. He promises to always listen and answer us for our good. We can pray to him with confidence.
That is how Martin Luther understood those opening words of the Lord’s Prayer: “By these words God would tenderly encourage us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him confidently with all assurance, as dear children ask their dear Father.”
When I speak to my physical father, though, I never call him “father.” I call him “dad.” In no way is that term ever lacking in respect. In fact, for some people, the word “father” in English can seem too formal or distant.
Now I’m not saying you should stop calling God “Father” and start calling him “Dad” or “Papá,” but you can. In fact, I have good friends from the Dominican Republic where most people call God, “Papi Dios” – literally, “Daddy God.”
You may never feel comfortable referring to God in such a way, but it is not wrong to do so. That is the heart of what Jesus is teaching us. The all-powerful King and Lord of the universe who fills all things in every way… is my dad. I can talk to him about anything, as a dear child talks to his dear father.
Some Christians, however, struggle with the image of God as our Father. You may have had a horrible father. You may be frightened of him. You may have been the victim of abuse. For you it may be a struggle to see or understand the joy and wonder of calling God our Father, our Dad, our Apá.
If your father is not what he is supposed to be – if you feel like you can’t talk him – God invites you to find in him what your father never was. He will be the dad you need. Because of Jesus he forgives all your sins. He is not a frowning father who is angry or disappointed in you. He is your loving and proud dad who wants to hold you in his arms and bless you.
To talk to God with terms of endearment does not show lack of respect. It shows loving confidence. It does not diminish his majestic sovereignty. It highlights his amazing grace. What a wonderful, astounding, sublime privilege it is to be able to call the Lord and Creator of all things, “My Dad.”
Or as my kids would say, “Apá.”