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 had beaten her, but it would be his last. She had just returned home with the news of her pregnancy. At eighteen years of age, she was to become a mother for the first time. As a runaway far from home, she had clung to him in desperation. Upon seeing this abuse, her father kicked him out, and he was never seen or heard from again. He was not willing to bear the responsibility of becoming a father. He would rather let the baby die by miscarriage by this act of violence. 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.
I learned of this story when I was fourteen years old. The revelation came when I providentially found my birth certificate. On the back, my parents were listed, but 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. I immediately brought my discovery to my mother’s attention. Since my Dad was at work, my mother asked me to be patient until he returned.
When my Dad came home, my mother told him what I had discovered. He began to tell me the real story. It was the story I
had feared when I first saw the birth certificate. The man I had always known to be my Dad was not my biological father. I cried as I heard the news. For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that I looked much different than him. My Dad is Cuban. He has a darker complexion and also has dark curly hair. I was born with blonde hair and blue eyes. I was also sad for my mom, because of the abuse she had endured at the hands of the man who had made her pregnant.
I loved my Mom and Dad more after hearing the truth, and had begun to grow bitter toward my biological father – a man I had never met. I had so many emotions I could not process them all. Through the power of the gospel, however, I have been able to release my bitterness and forgive my biological father. I still know nothing about him, and I’m fine with that, because he is not my real Dad. My real Dad is the man who raised me and chose me to be his son.
By God’s grace, my mom and I were fine. God had chosen that I would live in spite of my biological father’s abuse. Now, it is important that you understand that my Dad and Mom were old friends, actually sweethearts. They had met when my Dad, at age 15, came with his family from Cuba. It was my Mom’s father that had arranged for my Dad’s father to have his first job in the United States. It was through this family connection that the two of them had met and had become close friends. When my Dad learned that my Mom had returned home, he came to her rescue. Their love bloomed once again and they decided to get married. My mother needed a knight in shining armor, and my Dad fulfilled that calling quite well.
My Dad knew going in that my mother was pregnant with me and that I was not his child, but he told my mother that they would raise me together. He would consider me as his own son. He was just turning twenty and she would turn nineteen six days after my birth. There has never been a day when he made me feel like I didn’t belong. He kept his word and adopted me. My Dad didn’t want me to be just his son; he wanted me to also have his name. My name was changed from Daniel Brown to Daniel Agustin Sardinas. The name change not only indicated what people called me, but it also declared to whom I belonged. I now belonged to Agustin Sardinas.
My Dad gave me a plaque in honor of my new name. I would not realize the significance of this plaque until many years later. 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.1
Knowing this truth made me love my Dad even more. Knowing what he did for my mother and me confounds me still to this day. It will be a truth that will forever grip me, because I see, through my Dad, a picture of God’s grace. God worked in the life of a runaway girl, who met a man who had made her pregnant. God protected me when my biological father wanted to kill me. 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.
The Apostle Paul told us in Ephesians, “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)
God sovereignly and graciously chose us before we were even born. The language that Paul used here is that “He predestined us for adoption as sons.” Every born-again believer in Jesus Christ has been adopted. We were born apart from God because of our sin. We were born with a nature that was in opposition to Him. The gospel is the good news that God did something about that problem. The gospel is the initiative that God took to save His people. The gospel is the good news of God’s sovereign grace in my life completed in and through the finished work of Jesus. God chose, predestined, loved and adopted us and gave us the full blessings of being in His family. He doesn’t consider us just as “adopted sons” but as full members of the family 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. We are a part of a gigantic family of brothers and sisters, who have also been saved by His grace. 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.
What happened to me is an example of how God saves us by His grace. My Dad chose to be my Dad before I was born. 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 family. My brother and sister, Alex and Cindy, mean the world to me. The similarities between my physical adoption and my spiritual adoption are not coincidental. It is all a beautiful picture of sovereign grace on display.
God knew what He was doing when He put Agustin Sardinas in my life to adopt me as his son. It was through him that I found love, truth, acceptance, provision and a future. He taught me how to be a man and to trust in God. He taught me that the difficult things in life are worth working for. He showed me 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 demonstrated what God’s love looks like through the care and provision of an earthly father. Even though I speak highly of my Dad and what He’s done for me, it’s really because of the Father’s plan.
It was because of my mother’s influence that I grew and was discipled as a Christian. My mother has become a strong woman by understanding the grace of God in her life. It was her constant encouragement that always kept pointing me towards Christ. My parents are a blessing and a gift from God.
My parents and I don’t mention this story often. In fact, I can probably count on one hand the times we have spoken about it together since the day I found out. It’s not because it’s an “elephant” in the room. I think it’s just that we forget. I actually have to remind myself, at times, of the story. I can attribute this assurance 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 has never been a day when I have felt differently. This is grace upon grace.
1 Guest, Edgar A, “Your Name” – as found on: