Finding My Father
It started with a phone call. “Hello Danny, this is your Aunt Sue. I thought you would want to know that your father died. His obituary was in the paper. I’ll send you a copy if you’d like.”
Does this sound like a cold way to tell someone that his father just died? It really wasn’t. Dr. Schaeffer was my third father. My mother married him when I was 11, and, though he adopted me, he wasn’t prompted by love. Rather, he wanted to avoid the perceived awkwardness of having children with a different name from his. His interaction with me had always been infrequent and superficial at best. When he and my mother divorced, he left my life completely. I hadn’t heard from him in more than 20 years.
When the promised obituary arrived in the mail, I read the usual information, including a list of his surviving family members. His most recent wife was named, as was her son and the biological children from Dr. Schaeffer’s marriage to my mom. But my sisters and I were not mentioned. That really bothered me. My father had erased the very memory of me, as if I had never existed.
Revisiting My Origins
Something unexpected came from that obituary, however. It led me to a fresh perspective of my real origins. I had always thought of my origins as my physical entrance into this world. The series of fathers who jumped into and out of my life had vaguely figured into my perception of my origins too.
But now the Lord reminded me about Psalm 139. I began to think about creation—not the creation account in Genesis, not the moment of my earthly conception or the date of my physical birth, but the moment I was created in the eternal mind of God. David referred to this mystery when he wrote, “My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”—Ps. 139:15-16, NAS
A great truth came to me in my reflections: I was not ultimately my mother’s idea or my father’s idea. I was God’s idea. Further, as God’s idea, I wasn’t haphazardly thrown together; rather, I was “skillfully wrought” (v. 15). Not only in my physical body, but also in my “inward parts”: my mind, my soul, my desires, affections, and passions (v. 13). When I think of the intelligence it takes to make a spaceship that can reach the moon or sophisticated computers that can process information in nanoseconds, I am in awe of my own creation. It took far more intelligence and power to put Dan Schaeffer together than to create an inanimate spaceship or computer. But it took something else.
It took love.
Not Needed, but Wanted God did not have to make me. He would have gotten along quite nicely without me. There is nothing I will ever add to God’s glory, nothing in Him that is empty that I can fill, no need in Him I can help meet. God is perfect. I’ve known this truth for a long time, at least doctrinally and theologically, but now the truth became intensely personal. It drove me to ask why: Why did God decide to create Dan Schaeffer?
The answer fills me with joy. God created me in order to love me and to invite me to respond to His love.
God reminded the prophet Jeremiah of this love in Jer. 31:3: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Everlasting love begins before we are born into this world, at the moment of our creation in God’s mind. It’s a love we cannot really grasp, but we can delight in it.
A Contrast in Fathering
As I reflected on the love that brought me into existence, I began to see how perfectly God’s love filled the void left in my heart and soul by my detached earthly father. For instance, I remember always trying to please Dr. Schaeffer but never measuring up. Intelligent and well-educated, he valued good grades. If I brought home a C or below, one look said it all: I was a disappointment. In time, I recognized that the bar he set would always be too high for me. I would never please him, no matter how I tried. In contrast, when my heavenly Father called me into relationship with Him, He called me to come just as I was. Do you see the irony? Here was the perfect God, the only holy being in the universe, and He loved me with all my blemishes and weaknesses. He offered me open arms, unconditional love. It didn’t matter to Him if I were a C student or a Rhodes scholar.
Another fatherly contrast: I can’t recall receiving grace or mercy from Dr. Schaeffer. He couldn’t tolerate weakness. If my mom, my sisters, or I let him down in any way, we received emotional coldness in return. We would have to earn our way back into his favor, and even that favor was fleeting. God, however, loves me because He made me in His image—even though I have marred that image. I was and am, despite my best intentions, often more of an embarrassment than an asset. Yet He always offers me grace and reminds me that His love for me was demonstrated on the cross. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21, NAS). When my sin created an eternal distance between my heavenly Father and me, He did not require me to earn my way back into His favor. Instead, He bought me back into His favor at a cost so great I still can’t comprehend it.
As if that were not enough, I—whom none of my human fathers wanted—was adopted into God’s family, according to the kind intention of His will” (Eph. 1:5, NAS). It pleases Him to call me His son! Long after my earthly name has been forgotten, I will proudly bear my Father’s name. I am a son of the Most High God. That is the true, eternal identity of Dan Schaeffer.
The Object of God’s Affection
Have you made these astounding discoveries about God’s love? Our family histories may differ, but we all have this in common: We want to be loved. We need to be loved. Yet so often, we don’t feel loved. And many of us are convinced we don’t deserve love. Yet, we are loved. I encourage you to reflect upon your amazing origins. Imagine the delight in God’s heart at the moment His omnipotent power and omniscient wisdom combined to create you. Countless people and events in life can conspire to make you question your significance, but you are special in ways that nothing can demean. Focus on this truth, especially when things on earth seem to indicate the opposite. However you may fail Him, however you may s
DAN SCHAEFFER is a pastor and author. His books include Faking Church (Barbour) and In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas Discovery House). He’s also a die-hard fan of the USC Trojans football team, even when they aren’t playing well. And one of his favorite books is The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. He estimates that he has read it at least eight times.
Article and Art are used by permission of Discipleship Journal. Copyright © July/August 2006, Issue 154, The Navigators. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. www.navpress.com