I’ll not ever lie to you about what God has delivered me from. Some things I won’t tell out of respect for others in my life, but it is not because I’m ashamed or condemned anymore. I’ma tell it because when I do, I figure somebody somewhere might get delivered–not just from the sin or weight but also from the agonizing guilt of it all. Cuz the word says we overcome by the blood of the Lamb (which is Jesus–get into it) and the word of our testimony.
I had been smoking avidly on and off (more on than off) for about 23 years. Cigarettes and cigars. I think I got up to 1.5 packs a day at my most prolific. Or 2-3 cigars a day. I intended on smoking at a pretty young age, actually; I liked the way it looked and how certain products smelled to be honest. Also, many members of my extended family used some form of tobacco, so I guess some biological proclivity played into it. Anyway, I stopped smoking while I was pregnant both times and managed to make it 3 months after Haleigh was born and managed to abstain after Ashleigh was born up until we moved back to Saint Louis (a whole other unhappy story for later)–so around 3 years?
Then, when Spencer had his heart attack and decided to officially abstain from everything, I stopped smoking for a few months out of solidarity for his health. I picked up the habit again after some really terrible arguments, going back to work at a high pressure school, and generally finding my life to suck and be unbalanced. Smoking helped me remain calm in the face of wanting to cuss everybody out, get a divorce, and quit working altogether, leaving everybody and everything behind to fall off the grid.
But for all that enjoying smoking (because I enjoyed it–why lie?), I still planned to live forever–100 years to be exact. Based on my family tree, I have a good shot at making it. So around November 2017, I tried to quit again by enlisting a couple of friends and my kids as my accountability partners. It was a fail. I smoked less, but I could not stop. I had a habit, ya dig, and it would require more than me trying to go cold turkey. I started researching Chantix; looked at asking for some Wellbutrin; thought about going to get that acupuncture thing in my ear; talked to some folks about the Vape thingamabob; searched the interwebs for home remedies to stop smoking…
But then, you know what? I realized that I actually had not ever asked God for help. Not one time. Smoking/not smoking had always been about my own power.
So I prayed. Not one of y’all fancy tongue speaking, whooping, cooling waters prayers. Nah, fam. I just said, “God. I want to live. I need you to help me stop smoking. I don’t want to die like that. Take the taste out of my mouth. Please.” Every day, I prayed this prayer–mind you, while I was still smoking. Until one day–specifically New Year’s Eve at church service, someone was praying, and then someone else touched me. And I got up the next morning planning on smoking before starting my day and couldn’t do it. The taste of it was so gross that I barfed a little in my mouth. And I have not smoked since.
Cool right? Cuz Jesus is the homie.
But here’s where the nature of the flesh gets real messy.
I’m telling you that the very smell (of what used to arouse keen desire in me) makes me slightly sick. And yet. There have been a few incredibly intense days where all I could think about was going to buy a pack of cigarettes. I mean to tell you that my mind very nearly overwhelmed me to the point where I was frightened. And I had to stop right where I was and pray the very thoughts away. Because I didn’t want these cigarettes; and no, I don’t think it was the devil or demons-I believe that God’s word is true: that our own minds, the nature of our flesh will always try to trick us into doing things that maybe aren’t wrong (I don’t believe there is a “law” that says, ” No smoking or God will kill you”) but are detrimental to our lives.
I now understand what Jesus meant in Luke 9 when He said, “If you’re gonna follow me, I’ma need you to deny yo’self, pick up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Kisha’s Hood Translation). Paul reminded us all in Galatians 5:24 (after enumerating the positive attributes of living a Spirit-filled life) that those who really belong to Jesus constantly and intentionally crucify their flesh, “with its passions and desires”. Every day I wake up, I have to willingly make a choice to put away from me those sins and weights that can easily (and at times amusingly and enjoyably) distract/disrupt/beset me, and follow God’s plan for the day. While people are mistreating me. While family is taking me for granted. While my job sucks. While I am broke. While I don’t feel like being bothered. While I really want some actual physical/psychological relief that I can hold in my hand. Daily. Daily. Daily.
Some days, it is harder than anything I have ever done.
You know, Paul really kinda hit it for me when he talked about the “thorn in his flesh”. Maybe his was more titillating than me and my pack-and-a-half-a-day smoking habit, but the principle is the same: We all have a thing that we struggle with, that hits us in a weak spot that we would succumb to without the power of the Holy Ghost. And I am telling you, AS A PERSON WHO COULD GO OUT RIGHT NOW AND BUY SOME SALEM LIGHTS AND ENJOY THE ACT OF SMOKING EVEN AS IT MAKES ME SLIGHTLY SICK, that you can in fact overcome whatever habits you have that are keeping you in bondage, those things you cannot stop or it overwhelms you or you literally consistently choose it over your best life.
God’s grace is sufficient. And what that means is very simple: God is extending himself toward you specifically to help you through the rough patches, my dudes. That is what grace means in that verse–God inclines himself with kindness towards you in your time of struggle. Right now, I am able to type this because of God’s grace extended to me when I’d like to go hide in my car and light up a black-n-mild. When my mind is saying, “Do it!” God is right there waiting for me to holler “HELP!”; and God’s word is accurate: He rewards those who diligently seek Him. He is near to those who are broken and binds up the wounds. Greater is the Christ in me, than the me in me. All that works.
You can live this life. Cuz if my super carnal self can do it through Jesus Christ, I know for true you can, too. Ask God to help you, and we can die daily together. I am praying with you and for you, that you know the depth and breadth and height of God’s love for you, and His desire that you be whole.