Child custody battle is next to separation, if a relationship between a man and a woman, not necessarily marriage, had been fruitful. In some cases, there may be a mutual understanding between the parents, where both parents agree on a joint custody of the child. There are cases where joint custody is a court injunction and in the others, sole custody may be granted one parent while the other parent is advised to totally abstain or may be given the privilege of a supervised or unsupervised visit. In a situation where the court considers none of both parents fit to take custody of the child, a third party custody may be granted to a grandparent or an aunty or uncle. There are situations where child custody is not even debated; an example is when one parent is in prison and the other has nothing to disqualify him/her from having custody of the child.
In granting custody to a parent, a few things are considered, namely: the best interest of the child, the wish of the child (if the child is old enough to express his/her desires, usually 12 years and above), which parent has been the primary caretaker of the child, history of domestic violence, mental and physical health of the parent, ability to provide for the child’s needs and so on.
In countries where the law is firm, child custody battles are legal, but in some others like mine—Nigeria—where some are not even aware of such laws, many things happen. The Father could let the mother keep them while he sends upkeep money or sends nothing to them. A woman who has a means of livelihood may not bother about whatever choice the man makes; a woman who doesn’t, on the other hand, goes through hard times which those who haven’t seen it firsthand cannot imagine, if the man decides not to be responsible for his children. And in many cases too, women abandon their children with their father.
Beyond being a legal or physical battle, it is also an emotional battle. A parent who is denied custody or access to his child or children feels emotional hurt. Because they feel that they are being deprived of possessing what belongs to them. It hurts more when the child is in the custody of one whom the other is sure will hurt the child, this hurts most when it’s the child choice and one cannot do anything about it.
When one is not in possession of his/her possession, whether such a possession is animate or inanimate, one wants to be sure if whoever is in possession of it will care for it well enough. And in all cases, it’s never the same. The possessor either cares for it better than you can or does it harm which would never have befallen it, were it in your possession. And what do you do when the latter is the case?
The message of the Bible is that of a God losing His posession—humanity—to the enemy of souls and seeking to possess back His possession. But the question still lingers, what do you do when you cannot take your possession by force, especially an animate possession which has refused to understand that it is in the custody of an enemy? That is the situation of a God, who though is the creator of mankind, all powerful, yet does not always have His way with man. God doesn’t always have His way with man whom He created in His image, because “God is Love”. (1 John 4:8). This means that God has given mankind the power to choose whether to love Him or hate Him, and thus He cannot force them to be in His possession. God sometimes has to go through the agony of convincing mankind that he loves them while they just don’t get it. “I have loved you”, says the Lord. “Yet you say, in what way have You loved us?” (Mal. 1:2). Many men and women do not understand that God truly loves them; hence, they cannot love Him back. So, even though God is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9), many will perish who have chosen to be in the enemy’s possession: “the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8). Because, God does not always have His way with mankind.
Jesus, God who became flesh (John 1:1-3, 14), summarized His mission on earth in one statement: “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10). In essence, He came to possess His possession. A possession which He lost to disobedience. (see Gen. 3). Disobedience is evil and God does not dwell with evil. (see Ps. 5:4), thus there had to be a separation between God and humanity which had fallen into evil. But God would not leave mankind without a chance at reconciliation. God knows that anyone not in His possession is in the possession of the enemy and is destined for the same fate as the enemy—destruction. Said Jesus, “Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41), hence, God seeks to save those who would heed the call from impending doom. Humankind is God’s lost possession which He seeks to possess, therefore, He made a way of bridging the gap by Himself, “when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:10). He paid the ransom, with His own life, in order to redeem lost humanity. What a God! But all these benevolence would be of no effect on anyone if such a person does not fall at the feet of Jesus and say to Him, “possess Your possession”.
The agony which God passes through in seeing humanity straying and refusing to be in His custody was illustrated in a story told by Jesus in the book of Luke chapter fifteen. As a prelude to that story, Jesus painted two scenarios of a lost and found situation. The first was a lost sheep whom the shepherd would go all the way in order to find (Luke 15:4-6). God would have an easier job if mankind was like a sheep, animate, but totally submissive, who would simply say to the shepherd, “posses Your possession”, I’ve been waiting for you to come and find me. Or the easiest of all would have been for mankind to be an inanimate object like a coin which was lost by a woman, all she needs to do is to sweep the house thoroughly and she’ll find the coin and put it back where it belongs (Luke 15:8-9). But God has a tougher job of seeking to save mankind, who is not only animate, but has a mind of its own and is capable of loving or hating its owner. This was illustrated with the story of a certain man who had two sons, one of whom decided to get his inheritance while his father was still alive and forthwith leave his father’s custody. Away from home, he exhausted all his substance in riotous living, had to feed pigs and feed on pig’s food in order to survive and then he came to himself and realized he wouldn’t suffer anything if he was in his wealthy father’s custody, even if he was just a servant. He decides to go back to his father in order to say to Him, dad, please “possess your possession”, even if I cannot retain my status as a son, just let me be in your possession and be a servant. Just “posses your possession” anyhow. Like God, who is ever willing to accept anyone who accepts his offer of fellowship, the father welcomed his son back home.
Away from home, without being in God’s possession, whatever possession we have will be exhausted in riotous living and we will never be satisfied. As expressed by that hymn writer, without being in God’s possession, like the woman at the well, we’ll seek for things that cannot satisfy. But when you’re in God’s possession, He’ll give you what to desire and you’ll be satisfied. Says the Psalmist: “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalms 37:4).
Such was God’s plan for the Israelites, where He promised that the Israelites will posses their possession. The text says “But on Mount Zion there shall be deliverance, And there shall be holiness; The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” (Obadiah 1:17). God says, there shall be holiness (a setting apart), God must possess them before they posses their possession; because that’s the only way they can rightly possess their possession and rightly make use of their possession. And Obadiah ends by saying “And the kingdom shall be the LORD’s.” (Obadiah 1:21). Which means after Israel has possessed his possession, both Israel and his possession shall be God’s possession, because God does not wish to leave His possession out of His custody.
When I have pleaded with God to possess me, His possession, I’ll begin to understand Paul’s sentiment when under divine inspiration, He says things like “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Or when God says “I have robbed Him” how? In tithes and offerings (Mal. 3:8-10). I’ll begin to see money not as my money, but as money which God has provided for me and thus I can freely give it for the cause of the gospel and not use it for self gratification. I’ll see my body not as my own and as such do what I like with it or eat and drink what I like since it’s my body, instead, I’ll see my body as God’s possession and therefore heed God’s instructions on how to use it. I’ll understand that my ambitions are never more important than God’s commandments, since He owns me and all my achievements, He doesn’t want me to go outside His prescriptions—His commandments—for any reason. He says to the Israelites “But I have said to you, “You shall inherit their land, and I will give it to you to possess, a land flowing with milk and honey.” I am the LORD your God, who has separated you from the peoples. You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. And you shall be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine.” (Leviticus 20:24-26). God wants nothing less than a total surrender, He never agrees to a joint custody, because He wants to be responsible for whatever happens to me, His possession. Though God has made a way and is ever willing to possess His possession, He can only possess anyone who will say to Him: God, please possess me, Your possession.
Jesus prays for His disciples saying: “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.” (John 17:9-10). Jesus is glad to have His disciples in His possession, and He prays on their behalf, that they may keep abiding. And Jesus also knows that there are many more who would say “God, please possess me, Your possession”, only if they knew God’s desire to possess them and what He has done through Jesus Christ just so that they may be reconciled to Him. Many more would say that prayer if they come to realize how much God loves them. So Jesus also prayed for them, he goes on to say “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:20-21).
In praying and asking God to possess His possession, it doesn’t stop at God possessing you and making you a disciple, it also means asking God to possess His other possessions through you. Because the message of the gospel is that of a God who desires to possess His possession. This thought is expressed in a quotation which I was exposed to by a friend on facebook, it reads: “Enemy-occupied-territory that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed; you might say in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. God is calling us to take part in His mission of possessing His possession—those sheep who would hear His voice and follow Him. This noble work, God did not commit unto angels but unto mortals, so that we can have the mind of Christ and agonize in prayer, asking God to possess His possession which we are laboring to snatch from the custody of the enemy. This is the joy of a true Christian, when a soul is rescued from the enemy’s territory and brought into God’s custody and abides therein; as expressed by John: “I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” (3 John 1:3-4). This was the joy of the Apostles and their life’s work as they were mandated by their master, when He ordered them saying: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Jesus says, go and seek out my possessions, and I’ll be with you to strengthen you and to possess them as you bring them in.
The message of the gospel is that of a God seeking to take custody of His possession. And this will culminate in an event simply known as the second coming of Christ. When Christ will come in His glory to take home those who have surrendered and said to Him, possess Your possessions—both themselves and other God’s possessions. He said “I go to prepare a place for you. And…I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:2-3). He’s coming to receive His possession to Himself. He’s coming to receive the saints of God, who the bible described as “those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” (Revelation 14:12). The faith of Jesus is the kind of faith which surrenders totally to the father in a fashion which says “I am Your possession, please, possess Your possession”, the faith of Jesus also has as its first and greatest assignment the mission of seeking to save the lost which means partnering with God in seeking to possess His possession. Jesus is coming for His saints. “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming quickly.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). Come Lord Jesus and possess Your possession.