While I was visiting my aunt and her family in Orlando, I heard a story that touched my heart deeply. It’s a story of Jenny-my aunt’s daughter- meeting her dad for the first time. My aunt had been divorced roughly for a year by then. She was a struggling waitress, a single mom, and a recent immigrant. But it was the year she felt the closest to God. She went to church every Sundays and some mornings to attend the morning prayer services. Witnessing my aunt’s faithfulness despite the hardships she faced, a lady at the church was determined to find my aunt a good husband. And so, one fine day in sunny Orlando, my aunt met the man who was destined to become her future husband for the very first time. Her two-year-old daughter came along. This is the heart of the story that moved me so. Jenny, the little girl, immediately went to the man she’s never seen before. She climbed onto his lab, looked straight into his eyes, and muttered one word that shocked both my aunt and my now-uncle. “Daddy?”
With that one word, my uncle’s was captivated. Soon followed the marriage, and an adoption. My aunt didn’t have to work any longer because her new husband provided enough money for the family. Jenny had the best education you can possibly get in Florida. She always excelled in her class, in her entire school, and in her entire state. I grew up listening to brilliant Jenny’s high scores and achievement even from half way around the world from Florida. Today, Jenny is a medical school student in one of the ivy leagues. It’s quite a fairy tale, really, when you consider what could have happened to Jenny had she not met her father.
This was what went on in my heart as I encountered today’s readings. In Romans 8: 15, Paul urges us that we have received a Spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father.” And how true it is.
During my last depressive episode in Hawaii, I finally gave in and went to see a Christian counselor. Our sessions went on once a week for almost three months until I left the island. Out of many sessions I’ve had with her, the most memorable was when my counselor told me that I suffered from having an “orphan spirit”. I’ve never been told that before. Perhaps because I’ve only had secular counselors in my past. I remember going home and googling orphan spirit. What I found out made so much sense that half of the burden and anxiety I was feeling vanished. Just being able to put a name to what I suffered was uplifting.
The heavy sense of abandonment, loneliness, alienation and isolation that permeated my entire childhood and early adulthood was still affecting me in my thirties. And having been raised in a family that was daily attacked by alcoholism, it was a matter of time for me to start abusing alcohol myself as my dad has done. Ravaged by high dose of caffeine, alcohol, and anti-depressant medication, my brain was about to take a turning point of no return when Jesus suddenly showed up and revealed His presence. “That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.” As Bill Bryson said in his book “A Walk in the Woods”, I was on the verge of that very trouble of losing my mind. So before I was really gone beyond repair, God snatched me away from the power of darkness, literally overnight. I was a Christian born overnight. But even after having the deep pleasure of knowing God personally and the mystical experience of God’s super powers, I was still having trouble with comprehending what His love for me meant. I now had a heavenly father that ruled the universe but what did that mean to me personally? I wasn’t suddenly put into a prestigious school (just like Jenny was) and I didn’t suddenly become the next heiress of a million dollars (just like Jenny did). My troubles were ever before me, prolonging, even intensifying at times, confusing my mind to doubt Jesus’s promises. Even so, I didn’t overlook the one thing I had now that I didn’t have before. I now had the relief that comes from having a sense of belonging. The relief overpowered me every time I knelt and prayed to God, calling Him Abba, Father. Sometimes, no words were left for me to say but the “Father”. I would just mutter that one word like it’s the last straw I have left to grab onto in my times of drowning. But it was so much more than that. The impact of being able to call the Higher Power, the Mighty One, the creator of the universe, and the great “I AM” simply “father” relieved me of all my fears, anxieties, and depression. And so, after perhaps a gazillion fathers slipped out of my mouth, out of my fearful heart, I finally felt better and stronger. I finally felt perfectly loved and cared for and with that, all symptoms of having an orphan spirit – my sense of abandonment, loneliness, alienation and isolation – departed, setting me free to love, live, and purely believe.
Now, every time I call my dad, and spit out my quick “dad?” instead of saying “hello?”, I feel a strong sense of belonging. I am happy to be his daughter. He’s the dad that God has given me. He raised me to the best of his ability despite his illness of alcoholic addiction, despite fighting his own warfare with having an orphan spirit. This is my dad. And I love him all the more for the imperfections he had. It was for the imperfection that I desired perfection. It was for the absence of my dad that I desired the Father. Everything went as the way God has planned: He became my Father, and I, His adopted daughter who finds rest in His love alone.