For decades I lived a secret double life. No, I wasn’t a stripper by night or committing crimes or having an affair. I was living in my own kind of closet. By day I was a woman who worked hard at making her outside sparkle, hoping others would think she had it completely together. I had the right job, wore the right clothes, and associated with the right people.
As the sun began to set each evening, I’d retreat into a dark, depressing dungeon where I fought battles with my demons. I held a secret no one could know about. I had lost control over my life. I was a bulimic, an alcoholic, promiscuous, and a thief. There was no joy, only fear and shame.
I had become skilled at walking in a counterfeit light, donning a fresh new cover girl mask each day. I couldn’t take living in the dark any longer. I was one of the walking dead. Then something happened on my way to hell…I got saved. I said yes to Jesus Christ and stopped fighting God. Jesus saved me from destruction—both present and future. To “save” in the Greek (sozo) means deliverance from danger and suffering; to heal, to deliver, and to make whole. God knew everything,horrible things, about me; yet, he still sought, loved, and accepted me as his very own. How could I not say, “Yes, Lord, yes!”
My faith in Christ changed my status dramatically. God adopted me and gave me hisname. The Bible declares, “You are no longer a slave but God’s own child…his heir” (Galatians 4:7, NLT). Adoption, by its very nature, is an act of free kindness to the adoptee. If you adopt a child you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. Similarly, God adopts us because he chooses to. Our adoption is a picture of the greatness of God’s grace. You could say I was moving to Grace Land! His desire was that I’d respond to him with loving faithfulness. When I grasped I’d been adopted, specifically chosen, am unconditionally loved, I felt special. My Father is the king which meant I became a royal princess—permanently (see Ephesians 2:6).
Held hostage by lies for decades, I said yes to God and yes to Christianity, but I hadn’t been set free from myself.A “saved” person, I was no longer destined to the hell the Bible speaks of. But I continued, by choice, to live in my own self-made hell. The same negative emotions that came out of a consumption-fixated culture and the party girl lifestyle still held my soul hostage. My ego sat firmly on the throne of my life. Like the prodigal son that the apostle Luke wrote about, I took my inheritance and squandered it (see Luke 15:11-31).
My addiction to food had miraculously disappeared, but I still desired my wine and continued to indulge in unnecessary and overpriced clothes and shoes, cosmetics, and diet supplements. My thinking and behaviors pretty much remained the same. Underneath my mask I continued to ooze with jealousy and judgment and pride. My favorites words were “me,” “my” and “mine.” And office gossip? Count me in! I had not been set free from myself.
Something surely went wrong when God got a hold of me, because the Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17). My old was alive and well, and I certainly did not feel brand new. Did God take a closer look at me and decide I was a lost cause, leaving me to struggle in my own self-made kingdom? What’s wrong with me? I’m so dysfunctional! The truth is, believers can be in bondage.
Then a national tragedy happened: 9/11. I had questions. A righteous, perfect God plus the existence of evil in the world does raise questions. In the story of the prodigal son, a severe famine brought him to his knees and eventually back home. Scripture says he came to his senses (Luke 15:17). Often tragedy wakes us up and drives us back into God’s almighty and safe arms. That’s where I ran. Scripture says,
And he got up and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him, and felt compassion for him, and ran and embraced him, and kissed him. And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. ' But the father said to his slaves, 'Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and be merry; for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.' And they began to be merry.
(Luke 15:20-24, NASB)
“They began to be merry.” Merry means celebration and joy. When his son was lost there was no merriment, only heartache. I remained lost and dead spiritually. There were no angels rejoicing. Once I found my way back home I began a new journey and a fresh beginning lay ahead.
God adopts us as his own children because he chooses to, a picture of the greatness of God’s grace. Adoption, by its very nature, is an act of free kindness to the adoptee. If you adopt a child you do so because you choose to, not because you are bound to. One pastor said,“God loves you so much he can’t keep his eyes off you. If he had a wallet he’d carry your picture in it.” When I grasp I’ve been adopted, specifically chosen, am unconditionally loved, I feel special. I desire to run home.
Adoption is a family idea. God takes us into his family. He establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, generosity, and love are the very heart of the relationship. This is no fairy tale. It is a hard, solid fact founded upon God’s grace. God has taken us from the gutters and brought us into his own home as his own children. He goes out of his way to make his children feel his love for them. As members of his family, he wants us to recognize our privilege and security.
A good father, God knows what we need before we ask. He gives us bread each day. He forgives us and delivers us from the evil one. He assures us that we’re not only loved and are valuable, but destined for a special purpose. We also receive correction because we are under royal training!
There comes a point when we come to the end of ourselves. God loves you and is waiting for you to say the words, “Papa, I need your love and gracious fatherly care. I want to claim my royal inheritance and status as your daughter. Enable me to live as your beloved child—one who knows without a shadow of a doubt that I belong to you.”
W. E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996), 547.