I still remember my first cigarette.
My bi-sexual ex-convict then-boyfriend had broken up with me because I was a virgin and did not want to sleep with him.
I was heartbroken and devastated. 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 my first, deep breath of what would turn out to be 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 edgey.
Years on, I was anything but the “good” Christian Pastor’s daughter that I was “supposed” to be.
I had walked away from church out of shame. I had premarital sex, I smoked, I clubbed, I drank (a lot), I used the F-word plenty, I hated people and gossiped.
I was everything a good Christian should not have been. It was too hard to be a Christian. I couldn’t go to church because I couldn’t be rid of all my addictions – and I couldn’t 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 grow up in a Christian family, go to church every week, read the Bible everyday, yet not have a relationship with God.
But eventually, somehow, I stepped back into church, where I received fellowship and no condemnation.
I also began to join the Tuesday Group, a small gathering of real and raw people that love and want to know God. On one of my first visits, I saw someone go out to have a cigarette after worship.
I was stunned: How could she not be embarrassed? Why wasn’t she trying to hide her sin? Did anyone know she was smoking out there on the steps?
It was then that I realised 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 my pastor, Joseph Prince, joked about it too. “Pastor, can a smoker still go to heaven?” He replied: “CAN – just faster!”
I was set free from my shame. I knew that smoking was not good for me, but knowing that God loved and accepted me anyway freed me to enter into His presence.
It was about maybe 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. At this time, I was even reading the Bible and praying … as I smoked.
I knew myself: I had zero will power. In my attempts to quit, I would throw my cigarettes away the night before, only to drive out the first thing in the morning to buy some because I just could not start my morning without one.
I told God that He would have to help me quit – I couldn’t do it without Him.
I told God that I did not want to smoke anymore, but that I could not do it on my own.
I was headed to a Planet Shakers Conference in Australia with a group of friends from the Tuesday Group; I decided that would be the deadline. I would stop smoking then.
I told everyone in my church group I would quit by then. I told God that He would have to help me – I couldn’t do it without Him.
I still remember the day itself, before I boarded my plane, when I nervously smoked 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 in Australia?
I threw my last packet away before we got onto the plane. And God was faithful.
When I stepped out of the plane, something had lifted. I no longer had the urge or the edge. The addiction had left me; I was totally fine not smoking.
I knew that I knew that I knew: It was a miracle. God had delivered me.
Some weeks after the trip, I was out drinking one night – I was still not free from all my other addictions, but God has slowly delivered me from them one by one – when I was offered a cigarette. In my “highness”, I went through half a stick.
I remember the sorrow, the remorse, the condemnation, and the guilt that I battled the next day. But even so, when I met with my group of Christian friends, they reminded me that there was no condemnation in the struggle.
Know that your sins and struggles don’t surprise Jesus at all – He saw them all on the Cross. And He died to set you free from them.
I knew shame was part of the plan to keep me from God.
From that day till now – I’ve been completely clean from cigarettes. I am free!
If you have any addictions in your life, and if you know Jesus, you need to know that those sins and struggles don’t surprise Him at all – He saw them all on the Cross.
He died so that you can be free from that shame and condemnation that chains you to all your addictions. This supernatural freedom – it glorifies the Father.
He loves you and He wants to set you free. He came that you may have life, and life abundantly.
So if you’re reading this and have been through any of the struggles I have, I pray that right now, wherever you are, God will touch you and encounter you, and fill you with His loving kindness. I pray that you will have a hunger to know Him, the one who loves you and created you, whose son died on the Cross for you.
I pray that you will know His abundant grace, that so much more abounds in your sin (Romans 5:20-21).