|New Year’s Eve 2009
I still remember my first cigarette. My then bi-sexual ex-convict boyfriend had broken up with me because I was a virgin and did not want to sleep with him. I was heartbroken and devastated. We had no heart connection then, but I only understand that now. ( More on that next time).
I was in a club, with my schoolmates who all smoked and I said, can I have a cigarette please? I was crying, and it made me feel instantly better. I felt calmer as I took a deep breathe of what would have been 9 years of addiction.
Addiction is real. I had a stick when I woke up, on my way to work (while driving, hand on the car door window, expertly allowing the wind to blow the ash out of the car). Every other hour I HAD TO have a cigarette or I got the edge.
Years down, I was anything but the “good” christian Pastor’s daughter that I was “supposed” to be. I had walked away from church from shame. I had premarital sex, I smoked, I clubbed, I drank ( a lot), I used the “F” word plenty, I hated and gossiped, I was everything a good Christian should not have been.
Somehow in the midst of all this madness, God’s grace gave me Mark as a husband. BUT STILL. It was TOO HARD to be a Christian. I would never be rid of all my addictions before I went to church and I could not face God with all my shame.
You see, even though I grew up in a church and my dad was a pastor, I DID NOT KNOW GOD. You can go to church every week, read the bible everyday, grow up in a christian family, and not have a relationship with God.
I DID NOT KNOW GRACE. I discovered the true Gospel when I visited New Creation Church, and I received fellowship and no condemnation and knew that God was real at Tuesday Group Fellowship ( Now renamed Sonship).
One of my first few times visiting Tuesday Group, ( A small gathering of real and raw people that love and want to know God), I remember seeing someone go out to have a cigarette after worship.
I was stunned… how was she not embarrassed and trying to hide her sin? Did anyone know she was smoking blatantly out here on the steps?
It was then that I realized that it was okay to not have everything together while seeking God. “God still loves you”, she said.
I remember laughing so hard too when Joseph Prince joked about it too. “Pastor, do smokers go to heaven?” . “CANNNN, just faster! “ He replied.
It was then that I was set free from shame. I knew that smoking was not good for me, but knowing that God did not condemn me and loved and accepted me anyways, freed me to enter into his presence.
I think it was about maybe almost a year into my journey of learning about God’s grace and love for me, and just hungering for the things of God and knowing him, that I had decided I really wanted to quit.
I knew myself. I had zero will power. I would throw my cigarettes away the night before because I wanted to quit, only to drive out the first thing in the morning to buy some because I just could not start my morning without it.
I read the bible and prayed as I smoked. I reminded myself as Pastor Prince preached, that I was STILL righteous in God’s eyes, even AS I was smoking right there and then.
I told God, that I did not want to smoke anymore, and that I could not do it on my own.
Me and a group friends from Tuesday Group were headed to a Planet Shakers ( church in Australia) Conference and I decided that would be the deadline. I would stop smoking THEN.
I told everyone in my church group I would quit by then, and I told God, that would be the day and he would have to help me because I really could not do it on my own.
I still remember that very day before my flight when I was nervously smoking my last few cigarettes. I was SO AFRAID, What if, I could not quit? What if, the urge is so strong like it always is, that I cave in and buy some there in Australia?
I thew my pack away before we got onto the plane and God was faithful.
GOD IS FAITHFUL.
When I stepped out of the plane, something had lifted. I had no longer the urge or EDGE when I did not smoke. The addiction had left me. I was totally fine not smoking and I KNEW that I knew that I knew, it was a miracle and that God had delivered me.
Weeks and months after, when I came back from the trip, I went drinking a lot one night ( still not free from all my other addictions but God slowly delivered me from them one by one), and got offered a cigarette. In my “Highness”, I took half a stick.
I remember the sorrow and remorse and the condemnation and guilt that I battled the next day till I went to my small church and they reminded me how much I was already set free and that there was NO CONDEMNATION.
And from then on till this day, I AM FREE.
My friend, if you have any addictions in your life and know God, I want you to know that he doesn’t see your sin. He sees your sin on the cross, It didn’t surprise him AT ALL and still doesn’t. It was for YOU that he died – to free you from that shame and condemnation that chains you to all your addictions.
He loves you and he wants to set you free.
He came that you may have life, and life ABUNDANTLY, he came that you may know the TRUTH, and that, that TRUTH would SET YOU FREE.
If you are reading this right now and have been through any of the struggles I have, I would like to pray for you.
I pray that right now wherever you are, God would touch you and encounter you, and fill you with his loving kindness. I pray that you would have a hunger to know Him, the one that loves you and created you, and died for you. I pray that this week, you would get dreams and visions from God, and that he would send little messages along your way that would surprise you, and let you know in the way that you would appreciate, just HOW MUCH he loves you.
I pray that you would know his super abounding grace, that SUPER ABOUNDS in your sin. The greater your sin, the greater you will experience his grace. The more you have been forgiven, the easier it is for you to forgive others. AND the MORE receive from him his love, the more you can love yourself and others. And I pray this MORE for you, that you encounter and experience this MORE OF GOD in your life, and that you will never be the same again, in Jesus’s Name.
I love you because he first loved me.
We love because he first loved us.