by César De León Ph.D LMFT, Ministerial Director for the North Pacific Union Conference
The drama surrounding the first years of my life could inspire a melodramatic novel. I was very young when my father started courting the daughter of an army General. Of course, no one in his alternate community suspected he was married and already had three children with my mother. As his relationship with the General’s daughter deepened, his visits to this family’s home became very frequent. One day, the General’s wife and my father became romantically involved. Thus, during the day, my father was dating the General’s daughter; shielded by darkness, he was the General’s wife’s secret lover. When the General discovered my father’s bent behavior, he deployed a death squad to kill him. When the General’s wife overheard her husband’s orders, she immediately sent a message to my father and told him to get out of the country right away. My father did. And he never returned. That day I lost my father for good.
There is a Bible text that has always moved me deeply, perhaps because it addresses several factors that are very important to me. Paul wrote: “But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus, we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.” (Galatians 4:4-7, MSG).
This text addresses a reality that is vital to our being. The ultimate Father enters into the lives of His children to actively participate in their perilous journeys. He does this by way of His Son, who has one mission in mind, to redeem those who “had been kidnapped by the law.” The Father, instead of leaving his wayward children behind, sends His Son down to seek and save.
My father left us because he had broken moral and civil laws. The heavenly Father comes down to us, because we had broken the moral law. My father was persecuted by the law enforcers; but we were sought by the Law Giver. Emotionally speaking, I lost everything when my father left; man lost everything when he sinned, however God, through the coming of His Son, not only rescued us from dying an eternal death but came to offer us the right to be called God’s children.
There is something else in this text I find spectacular, that is the fact that God the Father has a time set for His own divine and loving purposes. The text reads “When the time arrived that was set by God the Father. . .” The New International Version renders it: “But when the set time had fully come. . .”. I remember that as a child I would stand at the gate of the fence surrounding my corner house, waiting for my father to return. Sundays were especially difficult. The neighborhood fathers and sons parading by my home on their way to the park across the street to enjoy father-son sports. My father never showed up. He was too busy hiding in another country, afraid of facing the consequences he had sown in his country. Not so with the “ultimate Father,” who when the time arrived, came to seek out His children condemned by their sin-bent actions. In taking their human form, He shared their fate; taking upon Himself their punishment and condemnation so that they could be restored into their original relationship as beloved and cherished children.
May we approach 2019 with the assurance that God remains in control of our time, lives and events. May the indwelling presence of the Spirit encourage and empower us to believe that the Father is still invested saving, healing and restoring His wayward children. May we determine to enjoy all the holistic (spiritual, emotional, physical & relational) benefits that Abba’s fathering experience offers us broken and unconditional love and acceptance starved children. May we keep our hearts wide open to the continual GIFTS of the Spirit, who will help us to cry out. . . Papa. . . Daddy. . .Pápi!