Up until now in this 30-day journey into the Father’s heart, we’ve been focusing on who he really is as our Divine Daddy. Now we’re going to shift to who we are to him. What does it mean to be God’s children by adoption?
Discovering this can help you make the transition to seeing Father God as a Divine Daddy who chose to adopt you because you are so very, very important to him (instead of seeing him through the lens of your experiences with humans). You are more precious to Father God than you know. He is more actively reaching out to you than you realize.
I wish I could sit down with you face to face and lead you through an inner healing. However, it’s impossible to do it through a book that’s written for all kinds of different people with all kinds of different father-wounds. This book, when read in its entirety, is designed to be a process of inner healing that slowly unfolds within you like a blossoming flower. If you’ve not been doing the prescribed spiritual exercises, you’re cheating yourself of this opportunity; go back and start over to receive all that the Father longs to give to you.
In this day of the journey into the Father’s heart, we’re going to build your confidence in how good he is to you by helping you see yourself through his eyes.
“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs — heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans 8:14-17 NIV)
St. Teresa of Avila wrote, in 1563:
Up until now, I thought I needed others, and I had more trust in help from the world. Now, I understand clearly that all this help is like little sticks of dry rosemary and that in being attached to it there is no security; for when some weight of contradiction or criticism comes along, these little sticks break. So I have experienced that the true remedy against a fall is to be attached to the Cross and trust in him who placed himself upon it. I discover that he is the true friend, and through this friendship I find in myself a dominion by which it seems to me I could resist, providing God doesn’t fail me, anyone who might be against me.
Though now I understand this truth so clearly, I used to be very fond of being liked. No longer does being liked matter to me; rather, it seems in part to weary me [emphasis mine], except in the case of those with whom I discuss my soul or whom I am thinking of helping. For I desire that the former like me so they might bear with me and that the latter do so that they might be more inclined to believe what I tell them about the vanity of everything.
I highlight the italicized part of St. Teresa’s quote above because, I confess, I’m too easily sent into an emotional tailspin whenever someone misunderstands me or makes wrong assumptions about me. Their rejection of who I truly am feels like I’ve been smacked by a monster octopus that has captured me in its tentacles and is squeezing the life out of me. The monster won’t release me until I agree with what it says about me. But even that doesn’t free me. If I comply with its demands, I’m crushed by its powerful grip into a smaller version of who I really am.
The truth is: It’s only God’s opinion of us that really matters. This truth rescues me every time.
However, knowing this truth does not protect me from getting sucked into an emotional tailspin. That’s because the spinning began as far back as I can remember. I grew up feeling misunderstood by my father.
My beliefs and my opinions didn’t matter to him. He only wanted compliance from me. His own insecurities were demanding that he have the first and last word on everything. (Undoubtedly this did not happen all the time, but it’s what influenced my memories of him and therefore my image of Father God.) Anything else from me was “sassing back”, he said, regardless of my tone of voice (and in fact, I did become sassy in an immature attempt to be heard).
Today there are a number of other people who keep me locked in the grip of their wrong assumptions. It’s a normal part of living on this side of Heaven’s gate.
The good news is: Although the door between them and me might be locked tight, Father God has given me other doors, and they are wide open. The Light of Christ is beaming brightly through these “Daddy Doors”. Some lead to Godly friendships and some are very special because they lead to God alone.
He is doing the same for you.
Everyone has been misunderstood by their parents as well as their friends, their boss, coworkers, spouse, children, and all other significant relationships. A sign that we still need healing from it is the tendency to include in our prayer requests a lot of explanation, reasoning, logic, and more talk than listening. A good way to overcome this is to pause and add:
But You, oh Lord, know me better than I know myself. You understand the situation better than I ever will. You know what is good in me and see it more clearly than I do. Help me to see myself the way You do through Your eyes of unconditional love.
Pray with Psalm 139:1-6 (NIV):
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
The monster octopus squeezed me to crush me. In contrast, Father God hems us in with his loving care like a hug that empowers us to heal and to gain new freedom to be who we really are as his beloved children, created good, made in his image.
During my childhood, God gave me others who listened well enough to understand me most of the time — my grandparents modeled Abba-Father’s listening ear, as did my friends. They were the Daddy Doors that God gave me.
My dad didn’t try to figure me out. When our points of view differed, he rarely asked me questions about why I thought what I thought. He was the father, he knew better than I did, end of discussion.
Then I met Ralph (we were high school seniors). Not only did my new boyfriend understand me, he enjoyed hearing everything I told him! It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with him.
One evening at the end of a date, we missed the curfew. We were parked in the driveway, talking about a million different things. Technically, I was home before the curfew. But my father was livid. He didn’t want to hear any excuses. I couldn’t reassure him that Ralph and I had done nothing wrong except lose track of time. He forbade me to continue dating Ralph for a while — I no longer remember how long this punishment was to last; it might have been a week, but it seemed like forever.
The next day, Ralph knocked on the door to speak to my father privately. This surprised and amazed me. They talked behind the closed door of my dad’s office for several long minutes. When they emerged, Ralph was smiling and my father announced that we could resume dating. Later, I asked Ralph what he had said to my father; he wouldn’t tell me.
Ralph had worked a miracle. He was my knight in shining armor. He had come to my rescue and somehow accomplished with my dad what I could not.
This is what love does, what our Divine Daddy does. He comes to the defense of his adopted children. He lifts up the downtrodden and stands up for the misunderstood. He heals the brokenhearted. He sets us free from the fears and frustrations that imprison us. He serves as an open door when other doors have been slammed closed.
As you can guess, Ralph’s shiny armor eventually rusted. He, too, has misunderstood me. No human can be all that we need, nor even come close to it, all of the time. Every spouse needs more than what their sweetheart can provide. Every marriage suffers from misunderstandings. Life’s hardships pile up like too much baggage. Sufferings wear us down. We lose the strength that had made the relationship strong in the beginning. What then?
Most marriages that fail, I’ve noticed, fall apart because at least one of the spouses has failed to discover that only God can be all that we need for all that we need. Without God as our most significant and greatest source of love, we demand too much from our spouses, and eventually they break or run or hide.
Abba, whose Fatherly love surpasses all understanding, has put into place a plan that rescues us from the many deficiencies of human relationships. Think again about his plan: He comes to our defense. He lifts us up when we feel downtrodden. He gives us compassionate understanding. He heals our broken hearts. He sets us free from the fears and frustrations that imprison us.
This love is the spirit of adoption. It is our Divine Daddy being a protective father despite our shortcomings.
To more deeply experience Abba-Father’s love, we need to realize what it means to be adopted by him. St. Teresa experienced it this way (continuing with the next paragraph of her quote above):
In the very severe trials and persecutions and opposition I experienced these past months, God has given me great courage; and the greater these trials were the greater was the courage, without my growing tired of suffering. Toward persons who spoke evil of me, not only did I feel I bore no harsh feelings but it seemed to me I gained new love for them. I don’t know how this came about; it was a blessing given by the hand of the Lord.
Courage is a gift from Abba-Father. The world’s definition of courage is very insufficient. It’s much, much more than bravery. Courage from Abba-Father is the confidence that comes from knowing that we are loved and accepted and cherished by the One whose opinion is the only viewpoint that really matters.
When we feel wrongly judged or criticized by a parental voice in an old memory or by a coworker or boss today, we don’t need to be afraid of what others think. We can safely listen to criticism with a willingness to learn from it, as long as we simultaneously listen for Abba’s voice reaching us through the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit. The Father always softens the blow. The truth that’s been packaged in criticism is unwrapped and given to us as a blessing when Abba-Father hands it to us.
Knowing that we’re protected by Abba, we are free to safely recognize that sometimes our critics teach us something valuable, even when they are wrongly projecting their own faults onto us. By remaining aware that we are loved, accepted, and valued by God, we can discern the difference between human judgmentalism and the Father’s invitation to improve ourselves. Then we become free to love the people who oppose us without demanding that they believe us. This is divine courage!
Divine courage looks like this: We don’t defend ourselves; we let the Father do that. We don’t argue with our opponents; we quietly ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten them. We don’t linger in hurt feelings nor do we feel crushed by the monster octopus; we let the peace of Christ influence our mood.
Is God your foster father or adoptive father?
Have you been fully adopted by Father God or are you just in foster care?
When my mom was four years old, she was put into the home of foster parents. Ten years later, they finally adopted her. In-between, she didn’t know to which family she truly belonged.
Do you know — really know — that Father God has adopted you into his family? If you’ve accepted what Jesus Christ did for you when he came to Earth, then you are one of Father God’s adopted children. This is his will and pleasure! He gets excited about it. His heart swells with joy thinking about you as one of his adopted kids. In fact, he’s wanted to father you since before he created the world!
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. (Ephesians 1:3-5 NIV)
He gave life to each of us, but our tendency to sin keeps us from being his true children. The Father “predestined” us for adoption (which means it has always been his desire) but we have the freedom to choose to break away from our true destiny. Jesus came to Earth to teach us how to be true children — by his words and by his example — and cleared the way for us to become Father God’s adopted children. Have you fully entered into this adoption?
A child who does not understand that he or she is truly and unconditionally loved by the adoptive family longs to go back to the family of origin, even if it had been an abusive household. We naturally prefer the familiar over the unknown. Are you still longing to go back to old, familiar, sinful patterns? Are you still rationalizing that they are not really sins? Or are you instead fully embracing your new life in the family of God?
Sinning is a sign that we don’t know what it means to be adopted by Father God. We don’t know how dearly God loves us and how good he can be to us.
If you’ve done your part to make yourself available for adoption, you can believe that he will always take care of you, even while life’s circumstances seem to indicate otherwise. God is always working within the circumstances to eventually produce many blessings for his children.
We live as a fully adopted child of God when we understand that he adopted us to rescue us from the bad conditions of our birth family, i.e., the inheritance of sin that began when Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin. God’s household has been our true family ever since our baptism. Anything we do that separates us from our new, true identity should be taken to the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that we’re quickly restored to our rightful relationships in the family of God.
What it means to be adopted by Abba-Father
To know the Father as our Holy Knight In Shining Armor — to know him as a Father who defends us and uplifts us in the face of opposition — we need to better understand how the spirit of adoption works.
But first let’s look at why we need the spirit of adoption. Since God created us, doesn’t that mean that we’re his children from the start? Yes, and not fully.
Jesus is the only real Son of the Father, because he is the only one who is truly like the Father in every way. But the Father yearns for all of us to become like him. What parent has not hoped that their offspring will follow in his footsteps? What Christian parent has not hoped that their children will grow up in the faith and remain united to them in faith and family ties? This desire comes from God himself. It’s part of his character. He longs for us to unite to him in every way, just like Jesus did.
This is why the Father sent Jesus to Earth. This is why Jesus become human like us. When we choose to follow Jesus, he leads us to the Father. When we accept the fact that we need a Savior and we allow Jesus to take our sins to his Cross, we are resurrected with him into the life of a true son or daughter of Abba-Father.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1 NIV)
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV)
Our Dear Divine Daddy has adopted us because of his tremendous love for us and because he values us and cherishes us. However, we are not perfect children. We are not like Jesus in every way — yet. That will only happen in the next life after we’ve been purged of everything that is not like Jesus.
“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2 ESV)
How amazingly wonderful and generous that Abba-Father adopts us regardless of our imperfections! He is full of compassion and mercy.
“You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased” (from Matthew 3:17).
When Jesus became one of us, he united himself to us in every way except sin. Everything he did, he did it on behalf of the Father — for us. This includes what happens in our baptisms.
On Day 11 of this 30-day journey into the Father’s Heart, we took a close look at the baptism of Jesus. Now let’s look more deeply into our own baptisms.
Why are Christians baptized? The first thing that probably comes to your mind is the text-book answer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states in paragraph #1213:
Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: “Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.”
And #1215 states:
This sacrament is also called “the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit,” for it signifies and actually brings about the birth of water and the Spirit without which no one “can enter the kingdom of God.”
A brief history lesson
Do you know the connection between Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation? The latter is often mistakenly described as the sacrament that gives us the Holy Spirit. But in fact, we receive the fullness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism. And as described above, Baptism gives birth to our adoption into God’s family through “renewal by the Holy Spirit”.
Confirmation is also mistakenly described as the sacrament that gives us the anointing of the Holy Spirit to empower us to serve God. And yet, children who have not yet reached Confirmation age but who have been raised in a Christ-centered home often exhibit the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Haven’t you said (or heard someone say), “My baby is seeing angels!” Or, “My little boy shows amazing wisdom when he talks about matters of the faith.”
And the Charismatic Renewal includes the “Baptism of the Spirit” regardless of whether or not the person has received the Sacrament of Confirmation. This is not a substitute for Confirmation. Rather, it’s an awakening of our life in the Spirit, which began with our baptisms.
Confirmation is the sacrament that’s the most difficult to explain, and here’s why. In most places around the world in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, Confirmation takes place several years after First Holy Communion. This often makes it feel like a sort of “graduation” from religious education classes. We hamper the Church’s mission with this attitude.
From the days of the early Church through the Middle Ages, Confirmation was closely linked with baptism.
When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. (Acts 8:14-17 NIV)
Bishops have always been the ones who administer Confirmation, because the bishop confirms that the baptismal rite was valid. Baptisms can be administered by anyone, including a parent or other lay person (in emergency cases, otherwise by clergy).
Throughout most of Church history, families celebrated the Sacrament of Baptism as the first part of initiation into the Faith. Then they waited for the bishop to come to town and confirm the baptism. After that, they believed, the newly adopted member of God’s family was ready for First Holy Communion.
In Acts 8 (above), we see this happen. The “apostles in Jerusalem” were bishops. Peter was the head bishop (the Church later named this role “pope”, an affectionate Greek word for “father”). He and another Apostle, John, traveled to a community of new Christians. The Samaritan Christians had been baptized but only in the name of Jesus, not Father and Holy Spirit. So Peter and John laid hands on them to confirm and complete their baptism. Adoption into God’s family was verified by manifestations or charisms (supernatural gifts) of the Holy Spirit.
Since the earliest days, Confirmation was administered to babies before their first birthday, after Baptism and before First Holy Communion. It is still done this way in the Eastern Churches, the Orthodox Church and other Catholic Rites that are in union with the Pope. And this same order is still used for adults in the Latin Rite, also.
As populations grew and the Christian kingdom spread, bishops were no longer as readily available, so confirmations took place at older ages. After the Fourth Lateran Council (1213-1215), Communion, which continued to be given only after Confirmation, was to be administered only when the child reached the age of reason. After the 13th century, the age of Confirmation and Communion began to be delayed further, from seven, to twelve and then to fifteen.
Then in 1910 (which is only recent history) Pope St. Pius X increased devotion to the Holy Eucharist by pushing Confirmation and First Communion back to early childhood, i.e., as soon as the child was old enough to understand what these sacraments mean.
However, it often happened that Confirmation was not available when the child was ready for First Communion. So after two millennia of providing Baptism, then Confirmation, and then First Communion, in 1932 official permission was given to change the order “where necessary”.
Originally intended to be an exception, it became more and more the accepted practice. We’ve lost the 2000-year-old understanding of Confirmation’s connection to Baptism. Catechists have had the difficult task of explaining why Confirmation is a sacrament for teenagers. Thus it is often mistakenly perceived as the time when the Holy Spirit is given to Christians. And for many it’s not much more than a graduation ceremony as teenagers look forward to getting out of school and being set free from forced catechesis.
When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. (Acts 19:6 NIV)
Have you ever witnessed the baptismal grace of Confirmation like this? The Holy Spirit is given to us by the Father and the Son to enable us to become holy (resist sin) and be effective in the Church’s mission of changing the world by bringing the Light of Christ into the darkness. Wouldn’t it be great if children knew early on that they can have this benefit? And imagine if they were taught in all years of religious education how to use it in everyday life. Just think of how much they could learn from the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Truth) while their minds are still open and they have not yet become rebellious teenagers.
Here’s a little-known fact: Due to the true nature of the Sacrament of Confirmation, a bishop is not allowed to refuse providing it to younger children who request it, as long as they have been baptized, are old enough to understand what it means and have been suitably instructed, and are able to renew their baptismal promises.
The benefits of Baptism
We are baptized so that the Father can re-create us. We are plunged into this sacrament as children of Adam and Eve from whom we inherited their Original Sin. The best way to be baptized has always been full immersion in water because it’s easier to understand what’s happening spiritually than when a little water is poured over the head. This plunging represents death (drowning). The Father then raises us up in resurrection power to a new life as his adopted children. Now we are united fully to all of God and we receive his holy inheritance.
When Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River, he united himself to us. Since we (not Jesus) are the ones who need to repent, he stood in proxy for us as John the Baptizer dunked him. This was the first act — the first miracle — of his public ministry.
We receive the benefits of this gift when we choose to accept what he did for us. The Sacrament of Baptism, by itself, does not guarantee that we will end up in Heaven. We are free to reject the Father’s adoption of us.
Whenever parents have a baby baptized, the parents and godparents, in union with Christ and on behalf of the child, provide the benefits of baptism to the child. In so doing, they are committing themselves to the extremely important and necessary responsibility of teaching the child how accept the benefits of his or her baptism. This is why the Church says “no” to the baptisms of children who will not be raised in the Faith. It’s pointless to baptize a child who will not be taught what it means to be baptized.
Many grandparents today worry about the eternal souls of grandchildren who have not been baptized. We might as well also worry about the souls of the parents and the children who are not learning and living the faith. To think that Baptism will ensure their salvation is to treat this sacrament like it’s magic. Instead, let’s pray for their salvation every day, remembering that God hears our prayers for mercy.
Our knowledge is limited: We cannot be sure that an unbaptized child who dies will not reach Heaven any more than we can be sure that a baptized child will reach Heaven. Let’s leave their fate up to our brilliant and creative Father who wants them to reach Heaven even more than we want it.
Today’s Exercise: Name why God is a good Father to you
Let’s think about what happened after Jesus was baptized. The Holy Spirit descended on him so that he could proceed with his ministry in all the power of his Father. The same thing happens to us — and for the same purpose. In our baptisms, we received the Holy Spirit, first of all to help us become more like Jesus so we can have God’s power in our battles against temptations, and secondly to continue the mission of Christ with the power of the Father.
And then what happened? Abba-Father’s voice boomed from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This, too, is repeated for us. Abba-Father said the same thing about you when he adopted you. And if you have accepted the gift of your baptism and all that it entails, the Father is very pleased with you right now.
As our Adoptive Father, he’s not looking at our imperfections. He’s looking at who we really are, deep in our hearts, in our souls. He’s not ignorant of our imperfections, which keep leading us back into sin. That’s not his focus. Jesus his Perfect Son took our sins upon himself so that the Father could see us at our best. When the Father looks at our sins, he sees them through the filter of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross.
We all need a Daddy who focuses on what’s best in us. We become our best when what is good in us is acknowledged and appreciated.
No human father can look beyond the skin. No human parent can see the heart of gold that’s underneath our imperfections. Only Abba-Father can do that. And so he gladly adopts us and takes over the role of fatherhood. He desires to give us the very best. He wants us to experience the very best that a father can bring to the relationship.
With this in mind, finish the following sentence, writing down as many examples as you can remember. (Hint: Ask the Holy Spirit to help you think of more examples.)
I know God is a good Father to me because:
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© 2020 by Terry A. Modica
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