Sonship Rediscovered

michael carlton Aug 04, 2022


By Michael Carlton

From as far back as I can remember, it was communicated to me that my father was not present for the first three years of my life. Not only was he not in my life, but he refused to believe that I was his son. He felt my mother must have gotten pregnant by someone else, while she insisted he was my father.

Not only was it a regular topic of conversation, the running joke was that both my siblings and I were accidents. More specifically, I was described as a “pill baby” who just so happened to spring onto the scene unintentionally. My mother never spoke about this in a derogatory tone, but instead it was always a flippant joke, a statement casually tossed around like a fun fact at a dinner party.

I did not realize how much this had affected me throughout my entire life. In the last few years, I began having a deep desire to get a paternity test. In the same breath I was also extremely scared to take one. I kept replaying all the scenarios in my head: Is he my birth father? If not, that would explain a lot. Do I really want to find out the truth? Am I just overthinking it? I went back and forth with these thoughts in my mind. However, the real question at the root of it all was, “Why did you not want me?”

Every child desperately wants to know that he or she is worth fighting for. Every son wants to know that his dad would protect him at all costs. Yet I had this sinking feeling that nudged my mind with the thought that maybe my father did not have that desire.

It was a Saturday morning—January 29, 2022, to be exact. There in my inbox was an email with the subject line “Your DNA results are in.” For Christmas, I had received the AncestryDNA test kit and had been waiting weeks to get the results. As I opened my results, I saw the list of matched relatives. I saw my mother listed and many of her family members. I saw names that I did not recognize that showed DNA matches, which made me curious. Then I noticed my father was nowhere to be found.

I knew he was in the system as he had taken the DNA test himself, so I scoured the results. Not one trace of any of his side of the family was matched to me. The knot in my stomach hit me so hard that I thought I was about to puke. I had sneaking suspicions all my life, and many of his family members said I was not his. Dad always joked that I was not his and that my mom had boyfriends, but my dad’s way of showing affirmation was through his cutting remarks, so I never fully believed it. Now I sat here at 38 years old, and everything I had ever believed was not true. Who am I?

I cried out to God. I felt broken, I felt hurt, lied to, betrayed, unwanted and numb. All I could do was throw myself at the feet of Jesus. Over the next few days, I just kept exhaling these sighs. It was like I couldn’t hold my pain in, and my body was releasing it in groans. I went through waves of emotion in which I was fine one minute and was brought to tears the next. I was grieving in a way that I had never grieved.

On top of all my grief, there were a series of questions running through my mind. Who is my biological father? I am matched with a series of relatives I have never heard of that were born 45 minutes from where I was born. What do you do with that information, and where do you start? How would I talk to my mom, who had issues with speaking the truth because of her mental illness? How would I tell my father, who avoided confrontation like the plague, that he was not my biological father, and he was right all those years ago? How would I manage all this pain I was feeling?

I had all these thoughts running through my mind: No wonder he never fought for me my whole life. No wonder he was never proud of me. No wonder he could write me off so easily. Yet, in the midst of all those thoughts, I knew that they couldn’t be true because I have adopted my children, and I would never write them off. I will always fight for them, and I am filled with pride that they are my babies! Yet, with all that truth, I knew I couldn’t escape the pain. Who am I?

Through the encouragement of leaders who have gone through similar experiences, I was reminded of these beautiful words by the prophet Isaiah, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (Isaiah 49:1).

Yes, the pain of not knowing is real, the shock is real, the hurt I have received from earthly parents is real. But you know what else is real? The way I was conceived by my earthly parents does not mean that God did not intentionally create me. The world may look at my conception as an accident, but God looks at my creation and knows He sculpted me with a purpose. My God is my father.

As I write this, I still have a million unanswered questions regarding my biological family. I have an insatiable curiosity to know the truth. My sister and I went into investigation mode. We reached out to DNA specialists to help us understand the possible relationship I could have with people I was matched with based on our shared DNA.

Through our research, we discovered that one person I had a strong match with would have been a first cousin of my biological father, and based on the time and place I was conceived, we were able to discover who we believed would be my biological father. The sad truth is that he passed away in 2005, but I was able to uncover a few high school pictures of him online. I stared at those pictures speechless as I felt like I was looking at myself. My whole life I felt like I never resembled my father or my siblings, and all this time there was someone out there that I looked just like.

I don’t know much, but I know a few things about my biological father. I know his last name was Jackson. Also, from what I can tell, he was a rancher in Texas. There are many more things that are still unknown, and I do not know if I will ever find the answers. I do not know if he knew I existed, if my mom told him that she was pregnant with me and—like my dad—he refused to believe it was true, or if he never knew. I do not know the sound of his voice, what his personality was like or what his sense of humor was. Sadly, I do not know if I will ever discover those answers, which makes my heart extremely sad.

However, with all these unanswered questions, I do know a few things for certain. My therapist made a statement to me during all of this that I cannot get out of my mind: “Mike, you are never more known than you are right now.” For many years of my life, I have questioned who my father was, and I have more answers now than I ever had before.

My wife has also encouraged me with the understanding that I will be able to relate with our adopted children in a special way. They were adopted and not raised by their biological father, and tragically their biological father passed away without them ever having the opportunity of meeting him.

I also know that life does not happen to you but for you. Everything we experience in this fallen world has the ability to make us better and stronger if we cast our cares upon God. It does not mean you will not face disappointments and challenges, but it does mean that, despite those circumstances, God will work them for good, if we place them in His hands.

My pain is my testimony, and it is a testimony of healing and restoration and the shaping of a heavenly identity. It is a testimony that can inspire others toward God’s healing and spur them on to run after who God created them to be. Most importantly, I know that no matter what I have experienced, my God has never left me or forsaken me, and as David proclaims in Psalms 139, I can never escape God’s Spirit. I rest in the fact that He is my comfort and peace, and my lineage comes from Him!



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