A Journey into the Father’s Heart

By Sloan Milliken


Each of us who are in Christ have our own adoption story, the testimony of how we came to Christ and learned to live in the family of God. As I have thought about writing on the Spirit of adoption, I realized that I wanted to share my own story of coming to know the Father’s heart. Rather than tell it line upon line, I have chosen an episode from four very different seasons in my life and woven them together. Together they give a pretty accurate picture of my experiences before and after I started to walk with God.


Most of my life I have believed in Jesus, but for most of it I also have struggled with feeling loved by the Father. I have heard many talks and read several books on the subject, and I have been exhorted by the scriptures and by mentors on the matter. Still, I have usually had a hard time experiencing it myself. I think this has happed in part because I have been slow to realize that the scriptures and the testimonies of others are like springboards I can jump from into the ocean of the Father’s heart. With this article, I’m encouraging you to dive in.

Ultimately, love is not an idea to be read about. It is something to be shared in relationship. Toward that end, at the close of each story, I have a small, devotional-type section where you can engage with our Father. I’m believing that as you draw near to him, he will meet you and cause his word and his love to come alive in your soul like never before. For knowing about his love is good, but believing it and knowing it experientially is much, much better.

My childhood was a time of happy oblivion to spiritual things, even though my mother tried to remedy that one summer. My boyhood summers were usually filled with toy dinosaurs, Legos, books, family trips, playing sports with my younger brothers, and mostly staying out of trouble. Church was not part of the picture.

So, when I was around ten and my mom told my brothers and me that she had signed us up for a week of Vacation Bible School, I thought her announcement rather odd. At that age, I probably would have considered myself Christian, even though my religious curiosity would only peak around Christmas and Easter when I wondered how bunnies laid eggs and how a really fat guy could fit down countless chimneys in one night, especially since he managed to eat every treat that had been left for him. Jesus didn’t really have a place in my life, and I did not really care to go to a church and find out what I had been missing.

As much as we may have objected upon hearing the news, all in all it did not turn out to be a bad week. The arts and crafts were pretty fun, the playground time was tolerable, and the people were nice enough. I just did not understand the point of the whole thing. I particularly remember the last day, when our teachers took us into the gym and made us watch a production that I thought was slightly cheesy. They shared Jesus as best they could, but in my ten-year-old mind, I thought everybody was a little crazy for being so excited about this Christianity thing.

I’m in favor of Vacation Bible Schools now, and that summer I don’t think I minded going to the church for a few days and learning about Jesus. I just would have chosen my playing with my basketball or plastic Tyrannosaurus Rex any day of the week.

Sometimes we find ourselves at places in our journey when we see things with our eyes and hear them with our ears, but we simply do not understand. In those moments, we can decide to get haughty and just move on, or we can stop, tell God about what we don’t comprehend, and ask him to give us revelation in our hearts. Wherever you are now in your spiritual journey, take a few moments and see if there are things that you ignored when you witnessed them. Ask him for understanding. Share your heart with him. Let him share his with you.



I like to say I got saved because I lied about having a personal relationship with Jesus to try to get into Christian school. Seriously. As part of the application process for rising seventh graders, my mother and I had to interview one spring morning with the middle school headmaster, a pudgy, balding, and rather awkward middle-aged man. Since my only decent exposure to the gospel had been the VBS a few summers before, when the headmaster sent my mom out of his office so he could talk to me about what Jesus meant to me, I wanted to die. I remember staring at the ceiling tiles and making something up like my life depended on it—or at least my admittance. A couple weeks after the interview, we found out I had been waitlisted, so I figured I did okay but was not overly impressive.

Before the summer ended, however, a place had opened up for me, and I enrolled. For much of my first year there, I thought it was a good school that told a bunch of nice religious stories that did not have much bearing on my life, kind of like Greek mythology. That changed one day in chapel, however, when I realized Christianity is true while watching the music video for the DC Talk song “Jesus Freak.” I went home under conviction, resolved to pray the sinner’s prayer before bed, which I did. I look back and now know God started his work in my heart that night, but when I woke up the next morning, I was one confused teenage boy.

That night while praying in bed, I remember being very enamored with the idea of becoming a new creation in Christ. I was excited about waking up completely different—suddenly popular, better looking, and totally cleansed of all the pain and awkwardness that swirled in my thirteen-year-old heart. Needless to say I had some misunderstandings of what it meant to be made new in Christ. Still, the next morning, I immediately realized that my expectations for becoming a Christian did not meet reality. I had done everything I had known to do. I wanted to believe in God, but it seemed like he hadn’t lived up to his end of the bargain.

Unmet expectations can be difficult things. Often when that happens with God, we withdraw and don’t wrestle through our disappointment. When we do that, we can unwittingly try to reconcile the matter by judging God and by judging ourselves incorrectly. I ended up thinking God didn’t like me, that perhaps he had not chosen me to know his love. Hogwash. He loved me. I wish I had known, though, to open up about how I was feeling. That would have made all the difference in the world. So, in this moment, let the Spirit search you. God is a loving Father, and you are a beloved child. Ask him to bring anything to mind that’s blocking you from knowing his love. Share it with him, ask him for his perspective, and let him help you remove any false judgments you may have made. Enjoy the freedom he will bring.


At the beginning of the second semester of my junior year in college, I found myself sitting on the arm of the couch in my dorm room, wondering what I was going to do for the Bible study I was leading. Two years before, I had given my disillusionment and my brokenness to the Lord and became a changed man. I had been running hard after Jesus, wanting to know him and make him known.

That day, as I sat there pondering how to move forward, I asked the Lord what he thought about the Bible study. I was expecting him to maybe bring a book in the bible to mind, or perhaps a Christian book or study guide. Instead, I distinctly heard his still small voice say, “Have a prayer meeting.”

I was puzzled. Not studying the Bible together but praying the whole time instead did not fit my perception of what needed to happen. I was actively involved in a discipleship-based ministry, and having Bible studies was one of the key components of our strategy on campus. I wish I had talked with the Lord some more about what he meant, for I couldn’t reconcile in my own mind how the prayer idea fit with what I had learned about helping others grow in God.

I ended up having a normal bible study with perhaps a little bit of prayer mixed in. I wish I had listened and had done the prayer meeting. The Bible study was a drag, but on the one or two nights we decided to just pray, God showed up powerfully, touching people and clearly answering prayers in the days that followed.

I made the choice I did, not out of willful rebellion, but because I fell for a subtle deception. I traded a God idea that I had never seen done before for a good idea that I had seen many people do successfully. I started in relationship, but I exchanged it for religion because the idea birthed in relationship didn’t make sense to me at first.

When we find that life and joy have ebbed from our lives, often it is because are trying to be fruitful through our own efforts and wisdom. Proverbs 3:5-6 shows us that trusting in God looks like two practical actions—not leaning on our own understanding and relating with him as we go about our days. Sometimes, however, we are trying to seek his will but not communing with him along the way. We can also find ourselves in barren places because we’ve been trying to relate with him but have been ignoring the leading of his voice. Wherever you are right now, draw near to him. Let him lead you into fellowship with him. Let him highlight places you may have been confused and gone your own way. Turn toward him, and let him show you how to reestablish the childlike trust that faith and love flows freely from.


A few hundred yards north of my house sits an old Presbyterian chapel that seems hidden and tucked away, even though it sits on the busiest corner in town. A sign recently appeared outside on one of the heavy double doors that sit above a series of long, slate steps. It says that the chapel is open 24 hours a day for prayer. The sign is new, though the policy is not, and I hope that it has already convinced many to step inside and enjoy the peaceful Presence that lingers in the place.

For the last couple of years, the Lord has led me to gather my bible and guitar and head to the chapel to worship and pray late at night every other Friday. Sometimes friends make the short pilgrimage with me, and sometimes a college student or two meet me there. Often, however, I have walked Davidson’s red brick sidewalks alone and arrived at the chapel to be greeted by the familiar, slightly musty smell and the realization that it will be just the Lord and me that night.

About a year ago, three of us gathered there one Friday and really sought after the Lord. Inspired by a sermon on Davidic worship, we sat in the front of the building and worshipped with great abandon, open to whatever the Lord had in store. As we poured our hearts out in prayer and song, we came to a point where we were overwhelmed by the darkness of the world, the brokenness in our own lives, and our total lack of solutions for both. Then the Spirit began to respond.

At first we heard him like a distant tune. We turned our ears to the happy melody, and our hearts began to fill with hope. Once we started making out the chorus line, which sweetly sang, “The Father’s love is the answer,” we started to agree with heaven and sing along. As we did, praise exploded from deep inside of us, pouring out in prophetic declaration, prayer, and worship that would have awakened the dawn had not the Spirit encouraged us to stop and get some sleep.

Something changed in me that night. It often takes a believing yes from us before we consistently experience what’s been true in God all along, and that night I said a big yes to the Father’s heart. I am recognizing his love in my life increasingly, and as a result, I’m beginning to experience what it means to be a son. I am still growing in this, for at times my heart can feel far away, held hostage by fear, plagued by religious guilt and shame, or captivated with worldly concerns. But more and more, however, I’m just enjoying being with Dad.

As he was praying to the Father the night he was betrayed, Jesus made a statement that has always been true about the Father’s heart for us. To paraphrase, he said that the Father loves His adopted children the very same way that he has loved His Only Begotten (see John 17:23). Let that sink in—Jesus has been loved as the Father’s exceedingly precious son from all of eternity, and the Father has loved you that way, too. You are his child. It’s the truest thing about you. Come close and agree with the Father’s heart now. Ask him to reveal his love for you that has been aflame before the world began. He has always had you in mind, and he takes great delight in who he’s made you to be. His love may come and fill your heart like a flood, or he may plant a seed of hope in your heart. Regardless, believe him now. And keep saying, “Yes.”




Sloan Milliken is learning to live as a son of his Father in heaven. He resides in Davidson, NC, where he owns a small house painting company and puts his English degree to use by writing killer estimates and doing some freelance editing on the side.


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