He beat her in a violent rage. In his anger, he decided to take fate in his own hands. This was not the first time that he beat her, but it would be his last. At eighteen years of age, she was to become a mother for the first time. She had met him in utter desperation while she was a runaway. Far from home, she had nowhere to turn, and he was like a sinking ship to her. He was to become a father and that responsibility was not a load he was willing to bear. He would rather let the baby die by miscarriage, than face the responsibility that was due to him. Thankfully, this last act of violence was with her parents nearby. She had just returned home with the news of her pregnancy. Upon seeing this abuse, her father kicked him out, and he was never seen or heard from again. Every moment of our lives is left with an undeniable imprint of the grace of God. I know this, for, I survived my biological father’s murderous rage.
This was not a story I knew about until I was fourteen years old. The revelation came when I found my birth certificate providentially. On the back, my parents were listed, and something stood out like a sore thumb. My biological father’s name was blacked out with a permanent marker. In place of his name was handwritten the name of the man I had always known to be my dad. My gut instantly felt like it was the home of a million butterflies. I took the certificate and brought it quickly to my mother’s attention. I startled her by my discovery. My dad was at work at the time, so my mother asked me to be patient until he returned. I don’t remember how long I waited, but it seemed like an eternity.
When my dad came home my mother reported to him what I had discovered. He began to tell me the real story. It was the story that I had feared was true when I first saw the birth certificate. He was not my biological father. I cried as I heard this news. I was saddened to hear that I did not have his blood flowing through me. For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that I looked much different than him. My dad has a darker complexion, dark curly hair and was born in Havana, Cuba. I was born with blonde hair and blue eyes and totally look like a gringo. My Spanish was horrible and it still is to this day. I was saddened for my mom, because I did not know of the abuse she had endured at the hands of the man who made her pregnant. I loved my parents more after hearing the truth and grew a bitterness for my biological father. A man I had never met. I had many emotions flowing through me and it was not possible to process them all. Through the truth of the gospel, I was able to release my bitterness and forgive my biological father. He is an individual I still know nothing about, and I’m fine with that, because he is not my true father.
By God’s grace my mom and I were fine. God had decided that I would live in spite of what someone else had planned. The news quickly reached my dad that my mom was back. My dad and mom knew each other quite well. In fact, they were old sweethearts. They had met when my dad and his family came from Cuba when he was 15 years old. It was my mom’s father that arranged for my dad’s father to have his first job in the United States. Through that family connection…the two love birds met. They spent a lot of time together and grew fond of one another. However, my dad’s family moved out of town and she lost contact with him. My dad came to her rescue, and they reconnected their love for each other and soon decided to get married.
My dad knew, going in, that my mother was pregnant with me and that it was not his baby. He told my mother that they would raise the baby together and that he would consider the baby like it was his very own. They were very young. He was just turning twenty and she would turn nineteen six days after my birth. My mother needed a knight in shining armor, and my dad fulfilled that role quite well. I was born, and they were soon married. There has never been a day where he ever made me feel like I didn’t belong. He kept his word.
The state of New Jersey knew me by my birth name, Daniel Brown. My dad and mom knew me by another, even before it was official. I have a very vague memory of the legal adoption. Of course, I was oblivious at the time, but I do remember being before a judge, in order to make it official. My dad didn’t just want me to be his son, but he wanted me to have his own name. That day the judge made it official. My name was changed from Daniel Brown to Daniel Agustin Sardinas. The name change not only signaled what people called me, but it also symbolized who I belonged to. I now belonged to Agustin Sardinas.
My dad gave me a plaque shortly after the legal adoption. I had no idea really what it meant at the time, or why he gave it. Now, however, every time I read it, it really gets to me. every time. It reads:
Sardinas – You got it from your father, it was all he had to give. So it’s yours to use and cherish, for as long as you may live. If you lose the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced. But a black mark on your name, Son, can never be erased. It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear. When he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there. So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done. You’ll be glad the name is spotless, when you give it to your son.
Knowing this truth made me love my dad even more. Knowing what he did for my mother and I still confounds me today. It will be a truth that will forever grip me. It grips me because I see a picture of God’s grace through my dad. God worked in the life of a runaway girl, who met a man who made her pregnant. God protected me while my biological father wanted my mother to miscarry. God used Agustin Sardinas to be my dad. It was this man that prepared me to be the person I am today. My dad is my hero.
What happened to me happens to all those who have been sovereignly saved by the grace of God. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 the following.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6 ESV)
Before time began, God sovereignly and graciously chose us, Paul says. Before we were born and before we could even choose right from wrong. Before we could even return any kind of love to the Father; He decided that we would be His children. The language that Paul uses here is that “He predestined us for adoption as sons”. Every born again believer in Christ is adopted. We are born apart from him because of our sin. I am born with a nature in opposition to Him. So God did something about it. He took the initiative. This is what the gospel is all about. The gospel is the good news of God’s sovereign grace in my life completed in the finished work of Jesus. God chose, predestined, loved and adopted me. He doesn’t consider us as “adopted sons” but as sons. As a believer I have been graciously given all spiritual blessings because I’m in the family. God calls us by His name and we inherit all that He possesses. I am not considered a step child. I’m not considered an outsider. I have been given the full rights and privileges of sonship because of Jesus. All of this was “according to the purpose of his will” to the “praise of his glorious grace”. This is all God’s doing. I am a part of a giant family of many brothers and sisters, who He has been calling from every tribe, tongue, nation and age, according to His will and for His Glory. It is a wonderful thing to be adopted. It is a beautiful, glorious and gracious event that radically changes one’s life. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for God’s grace orchestrating every detail of my life. You are no different.
It is through this gospel example that I see what happened in my adoption to become a Sardinas. My dad chose to be my dad before I was born. He is 100% Spanish and I’m 50% Spanish and 50% white boy. I don’t look like him or even share his genes. In spite of all that, He loved me before I was born and took the responsibility to nurture and provide for my mother and me. He legally adopted me and gave me his own name. Because of my adoption I have been given a brother and a sister. My brother Alex and Cindy mean the world to me. I am forever their big brother and life would not be the same without them in my life. The similarities between my physical adoption and my spiritual adoption are not coincidental. It is all a beautiful picture of grace on display through the gospel.
God knew what He was doing when He put Agustin Sardinas in my life to adopt me as his son. It was because of him I found love, truth, acceptance, provision and a future. He taught me how to be a man and trust in God. He taught me that the difficult things in life are worth working for. He showed how a man is to handle responsibility. He showed me how to lead. He showed me how to treat a woman. He taught me how to love my children. He showed me what it means to chase my dreams. He showed me how to stick it out when the going gets tough. He displayed what God’s love looks like through the care and provision of an earthly father. Even though I speak highly of my father and what He’s done for me, it’s really because of the Father’s plan. It’s not just my dad that I celebrate in this article. It’s also my mother. It was because of her influence that I became a Christian. It was through her that God drew my heart towards Himself that I might call out in faith and repentance in Christ. It was her constant encouragement that kept me pointing me towards Christ. My parents are a blessing and a gift from God.
My parents and I don’t really speak of this story too often. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the times we have spoken about it together since that day I found out. It’s not because it’s a white elephant or an inconvenient truth. I think because mostly we forget. I actually have to remind myself, at times, of the facts. I can attribute this confidence to my father. It was his acceptance and unconditional love that has given me peace.
He is my father and I am his son. He said that I would be his from before birth and there never has been a day when I have ever felt differently. As I reflect on the incredible man I have for a dad, and his sacrificial love for me, may it always point me to Christ!
Thank you, Mom & Dad. I love you