The Story of Thaddeus Bruce
The feeling of not measuring up started me on the long, hard road I have traveled.
As a pastor’s kid, I grew up in awe of my father. He was well respected in the community and had achieved remarkable things in ministry, but his approval eluded me. In fact, he had no interest in me at all and chose to be absent most of the time.
That rejection caused deep feelings of insecurity and insignificance. I didn’t fit anywhere, not even in my home. Thinking my dad would love me and want a relationship with me if I could achieve a certain status, I worked hard in school and exceled in many things.
I especially pushed myself in sports. I became a star basketball player and received many accolades, but my father never noticed. Our relationship never grew. And each rejection deepened the wound in my young heart.
I began looking for acceptance elsewhere. I started drinking and drugging with friends, never considering how harmful the choices were that I was making. They would eventually prove to be my undoing.
My basketball career took off despite my partying. I played college ball at Florida A & M University and had my sights set on the NBA. I didn’t make the cut, but I did play professionally for Mexico for three seasons.
Life was good. I had a beautiful wife and a lovely family. Everyone around me loved and accepted me, and I felt secure. But then an injury sidelined me, and my professional basketball career came crashing to an end.
Desperate to find a new identity and a place to belong, I joined the US Army. Being a part of something bigger than me felt good, and I rediscovered what I thought was security and worth. In 1985, I led the All Army basketball team to the Post Championship. I was a star again.
But behind the scenes, I was drinking heavily and smoking crack. I fooled myself into thinking I could function as an addict, but I wasn’t deceiving my family or the army officers. I was on a train running downhill at full speed with no brakes.
After many failed drug tests, the army slapped me with Article 15s for misconduct and eventually dismissed me. I was 29 and humiliated but unwilling to change. I continued down the same destructive path until I lost everything—my marriage, children, home, and conscience.
I ran to the streets and pawned everything I owned. I hustled and ran game. I even stole money from family and friends so I could keep smoking crack. Days would go by before I’d even think about bathing, changing clothes, or eating. All I cared about was my next hit.
My addiction led me through 21 treatment centers and kept me in chains for 23 years. And all that time, I imagined God must be very disappointed in me. My sin and regret blinded me to the truth of God’s love, and I believed all kinds of lies from the enemy.
Satan told me daily that I was a failure, a mistake, unwanted, and no good. He convinced me I would never be free from the bondage of addiction. He told me that God could never love me.
I begged God to deliver me hundreds of times, just like blind Bartimaeus, who lay by the side of the road crying out to Jesus (Mark 10:46–52). My cries emerged from the crack houses, “Take this addiction away, God, please, or take me away.”
I had no idea He was listening, but He was. God’s eye had never left me. Unlike my earthly father and despite all I had done, He wanted a relationship with me!
Thanks to the fervent prayers of my mother and aunt and their close prayer-warrior friends, I would soon come to understand my identity as a child of God. Their powerful, relentless prayers changed my life (James 5:16).
Those women gave Satan a run for his money, especially after they recruited Pastor Kimberly Daniels from Jacksonville, Florida. As a former addict, this mighty woman of God knew how to pursue me with God’s love. I could see His power at work in her life, and I started to think, “If God set her free, He might do the same for me.”
But crack still had a tight grip on me, and it continued to pull me down. I’d go from church to the dope house and back again. But Pastor Kim always came looking for me.
She’d stand outside the crack house, yelling in a bullhorn, “Thaddeus, we know you’re in there. Come out now!” She disturbed the other crackheads so much that they told me to leave. “Dude, get outta here. That crazy lady with the bullhorn is gonna bring the police in here!” She made quite the scene.
I’ll never forget the day I was coming off a binge and those ladies were praying and making a loud fuss about me going to church. I stood my ground until Pastor Kim’s four-year-old daughter, Faith, walked into the room. She put her tiny hand in mine and said, “Mr. Thaddeus, we need you to go with us. I’m going to pray for you, and then we’re leaving for church.” My heart melted, and I broke down sobbing as that little girl prayed for me.
The next thing I knew, I was in the car and headed to church. Faith held my hand the whole way there. God used that precious little girl to help me wake up to His relentless love for me.
Still, I was arrested and sent to jail for a paraphernalia charge. I’d never been locked up before, but there I was. In custody for 30 days and with nothing but time on my hands, I began taking a hard look at my life. Regret and shame overwhelmed me as I considered how selfishly I was living. All I cared about was dope and myself.
I thought about my ex-wife and the devastation my addiction had caused her and my children. I had chosen drugs and abandoned them to face life alone. Memories of the crazy stories I had told my mother haunted me. I had repeatedly taken advantage of her to get money. I promised myself every time that that was the last time I’d do it, but there was always a next time.
Now, as I sat in my cell, face-to-face with reality, I finally came to my senses. I was ready to change. “God, if You’ll help me,” I said, “I will quit drugs and do right with my life.”
I promised my mom the same thing when I pleaded with her to make my bail. “Mama, please come get me. I’m ready to change. I’ll go back to church and get right with God. Something is different inside me.”
She had no reason to believe me, but she came. God showed me a full measure of mercy and forgiveness when He prompted her to pay the bail to get me out of jail.
True to my word, I surrendered my life to the Lord and faced my addiction with Him. I did have a relapse and got high, but it was for a short period of time. I haven’t had a drop of alcohol or used drugs since April 2004. To God be the glory.
It’s been 18 years since my surrender to the Lord. I still don’t know why God has chosen to use me for His kingdom’s work, but He did. And He does. After all the wrong I’ve done and the years I’d wasted living my life in opposition to Him, it doesn’t make sense.
But that’s the thing—God’s love truly is unconditional.
God has given me a new name and an identity that can’t be taken away. Because of Jesus, I’m no longer a lying, deceiving, hopeless drug addict. I’m not an unwanted son who doesn’t have a place in this world. I am a child of God—loved, accepted, forgiven, desired, redeemed, and able to conquer anything, even crack cocaine addiction (Philippians 4:13). The sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ has washed me clean of all my sins.
He has also given me a purpose in life. Psalm 107:2 says, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies” (NLT). Man, do I have a story to tell.
One way God allows me to share His redeeming love is through writing and music. I’ve always loved music. As a boy, I tagged along with my mom as she traveled to different churches to sing in their gospel choirs. Those are beautiful memories. Somehow, despite all my trials and tribulations, my love for music never died.
With God’s help, I began creating powerful messages through poetry and song. I began performing under the artist’s name, Minister Redeemed. And then He had to deal with me about my resistance to rap music. I didn’t care one bit for that genre, but God would not leave me alone. “How do you expect to relate and minister to young people if you aren’t willing to engage with them in their taste in music,” He asked.
There was no point in wrestling with God over the matter. He’d already rescued me from the pit, why wouldn’t I let him put a new song in my heart, too (Psalm 40:1–3)? And I relented.
“Lord,” I said, “if you want me to rap, I will. But can I at least rap the scriptures?” And just like that, the Lord changed my perspective.
Powerful words poured out of me and formed into new songs. I knew they were from Him because they were effortless. He often woke me up in the middle of the night. I kept a notebook on my nightstand to capture the words as they flowed.
Writing and performing God’s message of redemption has been my passion ever since. One of my favorite and most popular songs has been “That’s Not My Name Anymore.” Its message is simple: God loves you and desires to give you a new name and purpose.
God changed people’s names and gave them new identities all through the Bible. He did it for the trickster Jacob, who became Israel (see Genesis 32:22–32). He did it for the murderer, Saul, who became the Apostle Paul (see Acts 9:1–19, 13:9). He’ll do it for you if you let Him.
Forget the labels and names that have been spoken over you. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ, you are not those things anymore. You are a child of God, and in His eyes, you are forgiven and washed clean of all your sins by the sacrificial blood of Jesus (1 John 1:9).
That’s who you are: Loved. Accepted. Secure. And worthy.
Thaddeus Bruce combines his powerful testimony of redemption with his musical and writing talent to help others find direction, transformation, and a closer relationship with God. For more information, visit www.thaddeusbruce.com.