Where Would I Be?
“For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol” (Ps.86:13).
Sometimes we forget who we are. Where we have been. Where we would be. It takes a moment to remember, a moment to grasp the reality of just how low sin had taken us, how far the reaches of fallenness go, how deeply the brokenness had shattered our souls. Sometimes we are privileged to be reminded. The other night, I had a stark reminder.
My oldest son was adopted. He came to our family quite by miracle, a phone call from a woman looking for a home for him. He was still unborn, still an unknown quantity, still without an origin story. I was there when his birth mother brought him into this world. He was born in a county hospital, and she had no means to pay the medical bills his birth would incur. Perhaps that’s why the doctor was late, arriving after the fact, after my son got stuck in the birth canal, and all I could do was pray and watch as the energy in the room suddenly became a state of emergency. When he finally made his appearance, the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. It almost strangled him, but he prevailed. I watched as he was washed by a stranger and then placed in a stranger’s arms- my arms. He had no claim to our family or name. He had nothing to give except himself. His adoption cost us a lot- emotionally, spiritually, physically. He suffered through detox as his little body was the recipient of various drugs over his 9 month internment in the womb. His birth mom was addicted, and so, he became addicted too, unable to refuse the poisonous stream of her coping mechanism. He shook constantly from withdrawal for months.
I wrapped him in a little newborn blanket and held him tightly, trying to stop the shaking, trying to soothe the tremors, trying to grasp what I knew nothing about.
Now that miracle baby is a young man. I found him sitting in the kitchen alone the other night, just thinking. He thinks a lot. He was pretty emotional when he spoke. “Mom,” he said, “I was just thinking, where would I be if you and Dad hadn’t adopted me?” I immediately stopped what I was doing. Now years ago, I may have said how grateful he should be, how blessed he was. But not today. Today, I have tasted a lot of life. I have walked a lot of difficult roads and wept a lot of tears. My heart has been ripped apart over and over again by sin’s ruthless game. I have walked with so many whose sorrowful groans have filled me with agony. So today, I know that I am not the Savior. I am not a conquering warrior who has rescued the less fortunate. No, I cannot rescue anyone from the pit, for I am there myself. I was born into sin. (Ps. 51:5). Since that first sin in the garden, we are all born into sin, and sin’s desire is to destroy us (Gen. 4:7). When Christ found me, I too was addicted, my soul the recipient of sin’s poisonous grasp.
It is my origin story. It is my son’s origin story. It is all of our origin stories. All of humanity lies helpless in a field, abhorred, and then God. And then love. And then the Christ and the cross and the resurrection (Eze.16:4-6).
My son has been uniquely gifted to have a very real perception of it. Adoption has, perhaps, granted me a view into the reality of my own adoption by God that many are not privileged to have. Where would I be were it not for the loving gaze that rested upon me? I could not pay my sin debt. I had nothing to give. Where would I be had He not paid the price to make me His own? My drug of choice was self-righteousness. I could have almost mirrored Paul’s monologue in Philippians 3, for like Paul, I was born into a religious family. I had studied and memorized God’s word from my youth. I was in church “everytime the doors were opened.” I felt that I was as obedient as I could be to God’s word. I was put in a position of religious authority (Phil. 3:4-6). Without the gospel, I would have believed I had merited that position.
God stepped into my story. He found me. He adopted me, and I am His.
But we forget this, and when we do, we find ourselves sitting smugly in a place of self-righteousness, looking down on those we deem to be more broken than we. I have seen it in the counseling room, at the prayer altar, and in the pulpit. I have seen it in myself. I sometimes kneel at the altar and thank God I am not like “this tax collector” (Luke 18:9-14).
And in those times, I have forgotten who I am. I have forgotten where I would be if God hadn’t adopted me.
Do you find yourself thinking that you have arrived at a place of usefulness because of something you have done? Then perhaps it is time to step down from the pulpit and sit in a pew; step out from behind the counseling desk and occupy the counselee’s chair; quit seeing ourselves as the Healer and instead see the gaping wound that gushes with the blood of abhorrent self-righteousness.
For like Paul, we need to remember that we have been given a righteousness that is not our own, a righteousness from God (Phil. 3:9). We were born in sin, and there was no good deed we could do to rescue ourselves from it.
If we can grasp, really, truly grasp where we would be without Jesus, then we will be ready to take the gospel to the world, for you cannot preach what you do not know yourself. Have you pondered what it cost the Savior to secure your adoption? Maybe it is easy to see others as that unwanted child of Ezekiel 16, but we do not see ourselves that way. Did our sin require any less of the blood of the precious Saviour? Did our redemption cost less stripes on the back of Christ? Were the thorns that pierced the brow of Jesus any less deep to pay for the evils we have done? His agony was just as great when He died for me and for you.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost” (1 Timothy 1:15). This is the gospel.
And by God’s grace I was reminded of it the other night as I watched my son struggle with emotion. And so on that day, I could say with conviction, “Son, all of us have been rescued from something by God, and we would all be in a much different place without that rescuing.” Maybe God did use my husband and I as instruments in the rescue of our son. Maybe He has used you in His rescue of another, but it is still God who does the rescuing. You and I are still unworthy recipients of His unrelenting love. And as I gave my adopted son a hug, a huge grin spread across his face, a smile I have come to know and love, for he is a treasure to me just as I am a treasure to God. “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me” (Ps. 18:19), and with the hymn writer I can say:
“Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wandering from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood”
(“Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing” by Robert Robinson).