Our True Father

Puerto Ricans speak a “sancochified” Spanish that reflects the rich cultural and ethnic mixture that makes up their identity (“sancocho” is a thick soup with a lot of yummy things mixed in). Photo: http://www.indicepr.com

It’s been a fun challenge adjusting to Puerto Rican Spanish. One thing that has taken some getting used to is being called “daddy” by a complete stranger. In many Spanish speaking countries, it’s not unusual to hear a wife calling her husband papi (“daddy”), or a husband calling his wife mami (“mommy”). But here in Puerto Rico, these terms of affection are not limited to your significant other. 

The guy that works at the counter of my favorite gas station is probably double my age, has no idea what my name is, or where I come from. Even still, every time I go to pay, he says the same thing to me, “go ahead and swipe your card, daddy.” It doesn’t bother me. I understand that it’s something completely normal here. People do it out of habit, and with the best of intentions. 

Even still, it catches me off guard every time. Because where I come from, the term “daddy” is reserved for a particular person. You know, the guy who – together with your “mommy” –  God used to give you life, protect you, and provide for you. It’s a term that suggests an intimacy and connection that you don’t find anywhere else. 

Whenever a stranger calls me “daddy” I can’t help but want to respond, “yes, my son!” But that would be kind of weird. And, obviously, I understand that when a stranger calls me “daddy,” he is not suggesting that I am really, truly, actually his father or that he is really, truly, actually my son. 

Praying the Lord’s Prayer at our congregation in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. Photo: Natalie Howard.

When we begin the Lord’s Prayer by saying, “Our Father,” however, we are, in fact, making precisely that claim!  We are saying that the God of the Universe is really, truly, actually our Father. It’s not something we do just out of habit. It’s not just a cultural thing that we do without even giving it much thought. 

We do it because God wants us to. With the words, “Our Father, who art in heaven,” God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask him as dear children ask their dear father. – Luther’s Small Catechism, Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer 

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