Amir was a farmer in the countryside of northern Bangladesh. He farmed the same little plot of land that his father and his grandfather and their fathers before them had farmed. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to feed and care for his family.
When Amir’s wife gave birth to their first child, it was a girl. Amir’s family gave him condolences for not having a son: “Sorry you were so unlucky as to have a girl.”
But Amir would have none of that. He loved his daughter and rebuked them: “I am lucky and blessed to have this beautiful daughter, and I will love her with all my heart.” He named her Dalia, which means “My Treasure.”
As Dalia grew up, she was the apple of her father’s eye. He doted on her with tender affection. Every day when Amir came in from the fields walking on the long dirt path carrying his farm tools over his shoulder, Dalia would be there waiting in the front yard. As soon as she saw him coming, she would shout, “Baba!” - which means Daddy. And she would take off running full-tilt toward her Baba.
When Amir heard her and saw her coming, he would drop his tools and hold out his arms and shout, “Dalia!”
And then she would jump into his arms, and he would swing her around and kiss her cheeks over and over again. And he would whisper in her ear, “Your Baba loves you. Your Baba will love you forever!”
Then, every day, they played the same game. Dalia would start opening her Baba’s pockets, looking in every fold of his clothes, peeking in his lunch bag, searching for treasure. Every day as Amir worked in the fields, he kept his eye out for an interesting little nothing for Dalia - a colorful feather, or a flower, or a funny looking stone, or the first grain of rice in the fields. Every day, he brought something as a reward for Dalia’s search.
But one day, Amir had prepared something very special for Dalia. She searched all over, in every pocket and in every bag, and finally she found the treasure hiding in her Baba’s hand between his fingers. It was a tiny gold ring for her nose. A nose ring is often a girl’s first piece of jewelry in Bangladesh, but it was an expensive treasure for a poor farmer. Amir took the gold ring in his hands, and placed it in her nose, and said, “This is so that everyone will know that you are mine and that your Baba loves you.”
Dalia wore the nose ring every day, and she seemed to hold her head a little higher and have a little more spring in her step - with this visible proof of her father’s deep love for her.
One spring day, Amir needed to go into the big city to buy seeds for his farm. Dalia was about about seven years old by now, and she begged her Baba to let her go with him on this big adventure into the city. Finally, Amir agreed, but he said, “You must always hold my hand, and you must stay with me at all times, no matter what.” Dalia said, “Of course, Baba, I will always stay with you.”
They walked a long way to reach the road with busses and cars and trucks and oxen pulling everything you can imagine. Then, they rode the a crowded bus for so long that Dalia fell asleep on her Baba’s lap.
Finally, they arrived at the big city, and Amir held tightly to Dalia’s hand as they walked through the busy marketplace. When they arrived at the store where Amir had been buying his seeds for many years, Amir greeted the wholesaler warmly. After sharing a cup of chai and catching up on each other’s lives, the business negotiations began.
The wholesaler named a price, and Amir acted shocked and offended: “What?! You are a thief! How can you charge a price like that and sleep at night?”
Amir gave a counter offer far, far lower, and the wholesaler coughed and leaned against the wall as if to keep from fainting: “You cheapskate! Do you want to turn my family into the streets? I must also pay my bills and feed my children!”
They traded offers and counter offers. They insulted each other and called each other bad names for twenty minutes. And with each round of negotiation, Amir became more and more animated, waving his hands and turning red in the face. Finally, after Amir threatened to call the police to report the store owner for fraud and the store owner threatened to burn the store to the ground rather than sell for that low of a price, they agreed on a price the same as last year’s. They shook hands and smiled with a twinkle in their eyes.
The store owner promised to deliver the seeds within a week, and Amir turned to look for Dalia. She was gone.
While Amir was waving his arms and shouting, Dalia had seen a cute little black and grey kitten crouched down to the ground stalking a chicken. Like a tiger in the jungle, the kitty was preparing to pounce on its pray. The chicken just clucked and pecked merrily at the bugs in the dirt. When the chicken and the kitten turned the corner, Dalia went just a bit around the corner of the building to see what would happen. When the kitten finally pounced onto the chicken’s back, the chicken clucked and b-cawed loudly and ran off with the kitten chasing after. Dalia laughed and followed after to see what would happen next.
Just as Amir stepped out into the street to look for Dalia, a massive earthquake struck. Busses full of people toppled over in the streets. Three of the seed store walls fell to pieces, nearly crushing Amir. The shaking lasted nearly a minute, but by the end of that minute, the entire city was in ruins. Every building had been damaged, and most had been completely destroyed.
Amir realized that he had no idea where Dalia was, and he started shouting her name, “Dalia! Dalia!” He rounded what was left of the corner of the seed store, and to his horror he found a street full of bricks and rubble. But there in the mud, between fallen bricks he found Dalia’s gold nose ring. That’s when he panicked.
Amir stumbled and climbed about looking for Dalia, calling out, “Dalia! Dalia! Come to your Baba!” He asked everyone he saw if they had seen a little girl about this high, but they were all looking for their own loved ones, and nobody had seen her. He wandered the city all day and into the night, and through the next day, always calling out “Dalia! Dalia!” - and asking every passerby if they had seen his daughter.
Finally, with his money and food gone, he returned home to his village heartbroken without his Dalia. He had to care for the rest of his family, and he still had to plant his fields.
But every chance he got, he returned to the big city to look for her. He looked in every place where a lost child might turn up - in the streets with other lost children, in orphanages, in kitchens employing kids as helpers. He looked and looked and looked.
Amir’s family understood his loss. They knew Dalia held a special place in his heart, but they began to lose patience with his relentless search. They told him to give up. They told him, “She must be dead. We’re sorry Amir, but Dalia is gone. It’s time for you to move on. You need to give up on finding her and move on with your life.”
But Amir couldn’t give up. He just knew in his heart that she was out there somewhere. He knew that Dalia needed him. She was his treasure, and he couldn’t stop looking for her.
He expanded his search little by little. He even tried other nearby cities, thinking that she might have been picked up by some travelers or some kind of aid group. Eventually, he expanded his search all the way to Dhaka, the capital city. It seemed that everything and everyone made it to Dhaka eventually.
And he expanded his search beyond the streets and playgrounds and orphanages. Though it broke his heart, he started looking in the dark alleys and brothels and sweatshops. Then, beyond all logic, his search finally paid off. One evening, just as the sun was going down on Amir’s last day in Dhaka before he had to return to his farm once again, he checked one more sweatshop - a clothing factory. And to his amazement and horror, he saw his Dalia chained to a sewing machine, along side dozens of other girls. She was older now, about 13, but it was clearly his Dalia. She looked just like her mother, except that she had his nose.
Amir went to the factory boss and said, “That’s my daughter, the one over there in the corner. I’ve come to take her home with me.”
The boss’s face turned dark, “I don’t care who you are or who she is. All I care is that she’s my worker now.”
Amir saw that all this boss cared about was money, and he knew how the game was played: “How much? How much do you need for her?”
The boss saw Amir’s desperation and smelled the chance for a rich payout. He named a price that was more than Amir had ever imagined. Now, Amir’s face turned dark. He didn’t have that much money or anything close to it. He begged and pleaded and bargained, but nothing would budge the boss man. So Amir went home heartbroken without his daughter.
But on the long bus ride home, Amir thought of a new plan. It was reckless and dangerous, but it was worth anything to get his daughter back.
When Amir returned to his village, he sold his family’s farmland. This land had belonged to his family for generations. His father and grandfather and their fathers had worked its soil for rice and cabbage and potatoes and all the food their family ate.
Amir’s family tried to stop him: “This land is your life. This is your family land. What would your father think? What would your grandfather think? Without your land, who are you? Your land is your lifeblood! You can’t sell your land! We know you love Dalia, but this price is just too high. No girl is worth this much!”
But Amir wouldn’t listen. With tears in his eyes, he said, “She is my Dalia, my treasure. I have loved her since before she was born. No price is too high to bring her home.”
Amir sold his land, and he returned to Dhaka with the money in his pocket - more money than he had ever held in his life. When the boss man saw Amir coming, he smiled because he knew Amir had brought the money. Without a word, Amir handed over the money, and the boss called Dalia out of the dark factory. Amir cried out: “Dalia! I’ve found you at last.”
Dalia looked confused. She blinked in sun, her eyes still adjusting to the light. She looked at this man calling her name. “Who are you?” she said. It had been a long time. She had forgotten almost everything before the earthquake, and she had learned to forget almost everything since then, too.
Amir’s heart thumped in his chest. A tear rolled down his cheek. “Dalia! I’m your Baba, and I’ve come to take you home.”
Dalia was beginning to have memories of a father who had loved her once upon a time in a life long, long ago. But she wasn’t sure she could trust this man. She had been hurt so much by so many men over the last five years. How could she trust this one? Maybe he was her father, but why should she trust him now? Dalia just crossed her arms and stared.
Amir’s voice was scratchy with emotion now, “Dalia, it’s me, Baba. You know it’s me.”
She made no sound. She gave no clues of recognition.
Then, Amir had an idea. He took out the nose ring. He said, “Dalia, do you remember when I gave this to you. You were just a little girl, but I told you that you are my treasure. This ring is so that everyone will know that you are mine and that your Baba loves you. I’m your Baba, and I will always love you.”
That did it. Suddenly, Dalia remembered everything. She jumped forward and threw her arms around his neck, “Baba! Baba!”
And they cried and cried and hugged and hugged. He kissed her cheeks over and over again and whispered into her ear, “Your Baba loves you. Your Baba will love you forever!”
Romans 8:15-16, 35-39
So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
God is our Father, and he has loved us since before we were born. Some people might say that God is crazy to love us so much, but God loves us anyway. But life has earthquakes, and we made mistakes, and we got separated from God our Father.
But God didn’t give up on us. God doesn’t give up on us. There is nowhere we can go, nothing that we can do, nothing that can happen to us, that can separate us from God’s amazing love. God loves us just like Amir loved Dalia. He never gives up on us.
And God is willing to pay a high price to bring us home, back into the family. Jesus died to pay for our freedom. Jesus gave up his own life for us, just like Amir gave up his land - everything he owned - for Dalia. But God was happy to do it. Jesus was happy to do it. Because we are God’s children, and God loves us forever, no matter what.
When life is going bad, when you have problems, or when you make big mistakes, or when you feel lost, remember Dalia and her Baba. God always loves you, and God will never give up on you. God will do anything and give anything to bring you home because you are his Dalia. You are his treasure. God will love you forever!