Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect [i.e., uncompleted]; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! How great is the sum of them!  (Psalm 139:16-17)


Personal Origins  Matter:   Reason  # 119

James J. S. Johnson, JD, ThD, CPEE

At the personal level we care about where we came from – our origins matter! This is true even for those who, in this fallen world, grew up without the benefit of knowing which “Daddy” biologically begat them, such as Jim O’Connell.

My mother’s name is Kathy, and my father’s name is Reproductive Sample No. 119. I am the son of a loving single mother and an anonymous sperm donor. I always knew the truth about my [genealogical] situation, so I never experienced anger or feelings of neglect – more simply, confusion. Throughout my childhood, I would daydream. Is he a football star? An astronaut? Perhaps a senator? Eventually, the daydreams gave way to a new conclusion: my father’s identity would forever remain a mystery.(1)

Would Jim O’Connell ever learn the identity of his biological father? Would he ever meet him, face to face? Did he really “not care at all” who his biological father was?

In the middle of high school, my mom’s computer pinged. A database built for connecting anonymous [sperm] donors and offspring reported a match. Overnight, a donor number turned into a name — a name with a picture and a profession and a willingness to meet me. That is, if I [was] interested. I was not interested. At 16, my interests boiled down to friends, school and sports; no room on the list for some guy who sorta-kinda-maybe might mean something to me. So I shut the door. With little or no reflection, I told my mom I never wanted to meet him. And that was that.(1)

But “that” was not that. After graduating from Wake Forest University in AD2013, and returning home to Tampa, Jim O’Connell had changed his mind.

Within a week, at the urging of a handful of very special Wake Forest friends, I wrote my dad an email. Paraphrasing only a tad, it basically said: “Want to get coffee?” We did. We talked about school, sports, his kids (my half-siblings) and his passion for medicine. It turns out he isn’t a football star, astronaut or senator. He’s a surgeon. Donating [sperm], he told me, helped him defray the cost of college and medical school. After a little while, we said our good-byes and wished each other well. … I [had] feared meeting my [father/sperm] donor. For so many years, I let fear and doubt dictate my actions. … What if he doesn’t live up to my childhood dreams?(1)

Jim O’Connell faced his fear and made contact with his biological father. Why?

Because origins matter. And our personal origins matter personally.

Yet there is nothing more personal than God creating each of us, to be exactly the unique person whom each one of us is. God is personal. And God personally made each of us. God chose to use unique genealogical histories–a multi-generational recipe blending people, places, and times—to make us exactly who we are.(2),(3)

If we really understand how personal God is, as the One who designed and made us who we are, we can appreciate and thank God for making us “fearfully and wonderfully”,(3) with the precise family history we belong to—despite how much that family history may demonstrate ancestral fallenness and failures.

Why? Because we would never have any life, much less the exact lives we call our own, without God’s multi-generational providences, in many intertwined lives, in orchestrating the critical procreations leading to the exact conceptions needed for our safe arrivals on planet Earth.(2)


(1) Jim O’Connell, “Facing my Fear and Finding my Father”, Wake Forest University Magazine, 64(1):100 (fall 2016).

(2) James J. S. Johnson, “People Yet to Be Created”, Acts & Facts, 43 (11):20 (November 2014), posted at . See also James J. S. Johnson, “Of Grackles and Gratitude”, Acts & Facts, 41 (7):8-10 (July 2014), posted at .

(3) Compare Psalms 102:18 with Psalm 139:13-17. These Biblical realities have been repeatedly illustrated in the lives I have interacted with, professionally, due to being a post-doc paternity establishment officer (a “CPEE”, certified by the Texas Attorney General’s Office) and a family history specialist (a “CNHG”, certified by the Norwegian Society of Texas).

PHOTO CREDIT (of newborn baby boy):  Houston Press


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