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Are you tired of being a cell leader?

by | 7 June 2018, 6:37 PM

Are you leading someone difficult?

At any level of leadership, you are going to come across sheep who are difficult to herd. You push them in one direction, in search of better pastures — but they insist on staying where they are even as the wolves approach.

Exhausted, you finally find a sheep who’s been missing for weeks, but it runs away the moment it sees you — and it’s sprinting headlong for a cliff. Or you care for one who’s hurting, and it turns around and bites your hand as you try and soothe him.

Being a shepherd isn’t easy. It’s downright hard.

It can be very tempting to rage-quit when it gets difficult, especially in dry and busy seasons. But that’s exactly what the wolves want. They’re lying prone by the mouth of a far-off cave, watching you with the slumped shoulders — just about ready to throw in your rod and towel.

Licking their lips, they’re ravenously waiting for a massacre when the sheep scatter.

So unless God has clearly called you to step down, I’m not sure we get to call it quits by ourselves. As you think about service, let me offer some of my thoughts.


1. We are not exempted from shepherding

Sit on this one for a moment: Whatever you’re doing for your members isn’t any different from what God is doing in your life.

As shepherds, it can be very easy to believe we’re past “sheep” issues, that we don’t need shepherding ourselves anymore. But the simple truth is we are no better. Past the metaphor, we are all still sinners before God. So He is the only one who really gets it.

After all, since the beginning, He’s been discipling and disciplining His children — but always with love. Can we say the same about our service?

“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” (Hebrews 12:5-6)

So we need to get off the pedestal. I know how tempting it is to criticise a member who’s insubordinate or even rebellious. But don’t let your heart deceive you (Jeremiah 17:9) — you are of the same ilk as him. As God has given you grace, give your sheep grace.

2. Be honest, we’re just humans

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

Do your sheep know your voice? The honest truth is that there have been seasons where I’ve been so swamped, I’ve entirely dropped the ball with some of the guys I’m supposed to lead. That’s on me. How can I be frustrated when they don’t listen, when I’m not even making the effort to keep up the conversation beyond cell group time?

So while it takes two people to play ball, I admit there are times I’ve been the tired kid who’s brought the ball home … And left it there.

3. There is space to look up

I was talking to my own cell leader earlier this week about leading. He shared something useful about charting the ups and downs of members’ lives. His point was that if you only focus on the downs, you will burn out in no time.

And it’s not like any member’s “chart” is entirely downhill. I believe there are always victories, big or small. So we’ve got to remember the ups too.

And I can confirm it works — I already apply this to my relationship. Whenever I’m with my girlfriend, and we share an awesome experience together — I take a mental snapshot of the entire moment and I decide in my soul, “This is worth it.”

And when the tough times come — and they will come — I flip through my mental scrapbook of “worth it” moments and remember why I’d do it all over for her again.

Give it a shot.

4. We must believe the best in others

“Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].” (1 Corinthians 13:7, AMP)

Whenever I’m talking to a member on a downward trend, I have a tendency to get tired of it. I think to myself, “Great, this issue again.” I get frustrated with the lack of a breakthrough, and I begin to believe they might not actually want it.

But that’s not love. Love believes and looks for the best in people. God give me eyes like You do, to see people the way You see them. Let me see them for who they could be in You.

There is no room for cynicism in a shepherd’s heart.

5. We are catalysts for change

Think back to the graph I was talking about earlier. I’m sure you can think of a few members whose graph is heading downwards.

That’s fine. Don’t be surprised especially when the lost looks lost. This is the reason you’re a shepherd! Because a lot of the times, when you meet up with them, it’s a little jump-start for them — a little spike in their graphs.

It’s a lot less burdensome when you realise it’s not your job to fix them. You are just a catalyst for God in their lives. At every point in the chart, your job is to see how to make it spike again if it’s falling, and if it’s already rising — how to make it skyrocket.

But know that God’s growth is not always our idea of growth. Sometimes it’s exponential, other times it’s slow.

6. God must be our ultimate leader

It boils down to abiding in the vine (John 15). Every problem in the world stems from distance from God, and every answer is found in Him.

So if you’re tired of a certain member, before thinking of ways to get out of that situation — and we are very good at doing this — go back to God. If you’re jaded by higher leadership — go back to God. If you’re burnt out — go back to God.

Whatever it is that is eating away at your joy cannot be solved by more vacations or carving up more free time. Sheep or shepherd, we need God like we need oxygen. You cannot lead without being led by the Spirit. You cannot feed others if you are starving and refuse to admit it.

Be honest with yourself. You deserve it — your sheep do too. Then take the time to rest with your own Shepherd.

He’s been looking for you.


Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.


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What is intimacy?

by Mark Lee | 20 August 2018, 4:18 PM

I was listening to the radio earlier today, and there was a segment in which three professional family counsellors were sharing their perspectives on what intimacy is.

I was very frustrated by their responses. One of the first things they said and kept returning to was how they didn’t want to “box in” intimacy by being prescriptive or normative by giving definitions. A professional “insight” like that was hardly compelling.

Then one of the counsellors said that intimacy between two people was about creating a shared space in which both partners could share without presumption or judgment. At last, we were getting close to something that could be evaluated and actually realised in a practical way.

Then the counsellors bounced off each other’s ideas along that trend, talking about non-judgment and non-prescriptive exchange, and how “it’s really up to the couple to define it for themselves”. Since it really wasn’t going anywhere particularly helpful, I decided to turn off what was apparently professional advice and mull over my frustration.

So here’s my unprofessional opinion: Intimacy can be defined, not exhaustively, but at least with some identifiable characteristics.

One key characteristic and marker of intimacy is when the dichotomy between self and other cease to exist. Simply put: Intimacy is when two beings cease to be separate and begin to be one.

Now, for many of us, one of the first representations of such intimacy that comes to mind would be sex. Understandably so, just from the biology and physicality involved in sexual intercourse. But we can’t allow ourselves to think that that’s all there is to intimacy, that sex is the only representation of intimacy or even the pinnacle of intimacy – that’s a lie that an intimacy-starved world is being fed.

If we consider that intimacy is when two beings cease to be separate and begin to be one, there are a number of cases where it is not about sex.

This scenario has everything to do with our souls being made for more than our self-desires and self-wants. It has everything to do with the beauty of a soul recognising that it was made for greater things – that it has the capacity to unite with another to reflect something that it would never be able to on its own.

But we can’t allow ourselves to think that that’s all there is to intimacy, that sex is the only representation of intimacy or even the pinnacle of intimacy

I think of when the disciples asked Jesus to show them the Father (Father God) – that that would be enough for them to believe and to trust (John 14:8).

Jesus’ reply is astounding. In verse 9, He says that anyone who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father. In verse 10, He goes one level up, saying, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

So Jesus, a man who never had sex, is a role model of true intimacy: They are so close to one another in the relationship that Jesus says that Father God and Himself are inseparable – one and the same.

No longer is A (Jesus) doing A’s things, and then B (Father God) doing B’s things – A is with B doing AB things.

Of course, there’s something to be said about Jesus “deferring” to God’s authority and debating whether God’s work is Jesus’ work, but the point still stands: There really is no longer a dichotomy between self and other – there’s only one. Jesus no longer physically walks on this earth, but the relationship between the Church (all who call themselves Christian) and Jesus is likewise supposed to emulate this oneness.

We should not feed ourselves a watered-down or fluffy version of intimacy. We need to courageously consider this new paradigm of intimacy and apply it where possible in our lives.

We need to move past a version of intimacy where “you and I” are still glaringly present. It’s not about about one person getting some good stuff, and another getting some good stuff … Because why is there still both? Why is there still we?

I know it sounds extreme, but those are terms which mean two entities are present. So people can talk all they want about wanting to make each other comfortable and serving others – but we can’t allow ourselves to believe that true intimacy ends there.

No longer is A (Jesus) doing A’s things, and then B (Father God) doing B’s things – A is with B doing AB things.

Intimacy is about a willingness to surrender the self to something or someone, with the hope of becoming something more with them – something that does not dismiss or deny the existence of the self or other, but allows for both the self and other to be powerfully re-expressed, re-created as one.

There are weighty implications to this: If we hold each other at arm’s length, which of us would truly be willing to be the first to surrender?

Yet Jesus did it. Somehow. Even with people who mocked, betrayed and killed Him. He decided not to save himself, but surrendered.

But the story doesn’t end there. Jesus’ surrender and death became something that exceeded far more than that surrendered self. Jesus realised God’s plan, life itself – a possibility of reconciliation for all humanity to true goodness and life with a Father God that desires true intimacy with us.

There are just two simple questions left to ask yourself now.

  • To what or who am I willing to surrender to?
  • What confidence do I have that my surrender will yield something greater?

This article was first published on Mark’s blog, and is republished with permission.


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Loving Jesus didn’t make me straight, but He made me whole

by Noelle Yip | 16 August 2018, 4:49 PM

Coming from an all-girls school for 10 years, it was normal to admire other girls, especially our seniors. I had several relationships with boys in my secondary school days, but I realised around the same time that I was attracted to girls as well.

Back then, it felt like a lighthearted trend – raving about how cute another girl is wasn’t considered a declaration of one’s sexual orientation. In my school, many of us – including myself – had “girl crushes”, but rarely did people openly identify as lesbian or bisexual.

I knew I wanted to have a husband and my own family when I grew up, but I still found myself attracted to girls throughout my teenage years. All this while, I’d started attending a new church and for the first time, was discovering what Christian community was like.

Despite the newfound accountability to my friends and leaders, I never confided in anyone from church about these emotions and I brushed them off as a phase that I was going through.

When I was 18, in my second year of poly, I met a girl while studying in school and quickly became friends. Things escalated really quickly, we started going out, and she soon confessed that she liked me. Two weeks later, she asked me to be her girlfriend.

I was conflicted and felt like I had no one to talk to about this. At this point, I was attending cell regularly but I was afraid of being judged and did not want to become an outcast.

Eventually, I said yes to her. So much of it felt wrong, but I told myself and God that this was just an experiment – my faith and my love life were two separate things to me. Plus, she knew none of this was serious for me; we’d agreed to “try this out” even though I’d told her it wouldn’t last long.

For a whole of two months, we were just like any loving couple, though I was struck by how this relationship was different from the ones I had with guys. Since we were both girls, it was easier to understand each other.

But things started going south when I found myself frequently upset and frustrated in the relationship. We were very dependent on each other, but as the “stronger one”, I often had to support her emotional needs.

She told me that whenever I went to church on Sundays, she was scared that I would decide to break up with her. The irony was, I was always afraid to attend church because I felt like a hypocrite leading a double life. What if someone from church should see me together with her when we were out?

Very few people knew or suspected, and if they asked, I would simply deny the relationship and claim that we were really good friends. Only my non-Christian friends were supportive of us and said that Jesus would still love me, that my happiness was the most important and I needn’t feel bad.

However, I wasn’t happy at all; I felt guilty, unworthy of God and dirty. It was tiring to lie and lead a life of deceit too.

One weekend, our youth pastor preached about same-sex attraction. I don’t remember the content of his sermon, but I still remember the emotions clearly. It was horrible because the conviction was gripping my soul and I couldn’t bring myself to look anywhere but down.

I really wanted to cry, but a part of me still didn’t want to listen. I knew something wasn’t right about how I was living; the experiment was slowly falling apart. I felt so far away from God … But would returning to Him mean leaving what I cared about behind?

Things took a turn when I told God that I would end the relationship if He called me to leadership. In hindsight, it sounds stupid and immature; I was spiritually still very young. And yet, He took me seriously and a leadership call soon came.

I took up the leadership position – but I didn’t end my relationship.

One day, my pastor texted me out of the blue to schedule a meet-up. I didn’t know him personally and there was no reason why he would have contacted me. I panicked, assuming God had spoken to him about my relationship.

In the silly hopes of lightening my “punishment”, I replied him saying that I needed to share something important with him as well.

The day of our meet-up arrived, and as tempted as I was to bail on him, I knew I needed to confess and seek help in ending the relationship. When we eventually sat down, I was stunned when my pastor opened the conversation by asking if I could help him write an article.

After I spluttered out a confused “yes”, he then asked kindly, “So what would you like to tell me?”

The tears started flowing from my eyes as I told him everything. He listened patiently, and when I was done, his first words to me were neither angry or condemning. He simply advised me to speak to a female leader, who later became my mentor.

With the truth now out and someone journeying alongside, it was still very hard to face my struggles and be held accountable. But my mentor hardly mentioned my relationship, instead, she spent time correcting my perspective of the Christian faith and encouraged me as I sought to make God the center of my life.

Things slowly fell into place as I let God in to do His work in my life. I still had my moments of weakness, as I didn’t have the courage to make a clean cut with my girlfriend, but I could tell I was growing steadily in my relationship with Him.

It took me quite some time before I finally ended our relationship, a painful process that involved a lot of wrestling and putting my heart back into God’s hands. A verse I clung onto during that period of time was Psalm 73:26: “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

The days that followed were also a struggle: I kept wondering if I should find a boyfriend to affirm my heterosexuality. It was such a real consideration although it was clearly not the right way to handle things. I would’ve just been digging another hole for myself.

Inherently, this revealed a reliance on romantic relationships, instead of God, to determine my worth and identity – something my head knew, but my heart struggled to truly accept.

My flesh was undoubtedly weak, but God was faithful in His redemptive work. As I chose to trust Him and place my security in Him instead of human relationships with boys or girls, it got easier to walk away from my desires and into the fullness and peace He promises His children.

Today, my boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years and are hoping to get married.

You may be asking: Does every journey of same-sex attraction end with the person “becoming” heterosexual? I would say no. I think many will still experience such attraction – as with any temptation of sin – and that is not wrong.

What is wrong, in any situation, for anyone who professes to follow Jesus, is an attitude of “It’s my right to have what I want” and wilfully acting on our desires with no consideration for what God has to say. He desires our holiness and wholeness – lives that are oriented to Him in every way.

If you know someone who’s struggling with same-sex attraction, please don’t be insensitive. I remember how scared I was of being judged when people who weren’t close to me came to know about my situation.

God desires our holiness and wholeness – lives that are oriented to Him in every way.

If someone speaks to you about their struggle, treasure their trust and support them in prayer. You may not be able to fully understand, but respect him or her: It isn’t easy to come out to anyone. Encourage them, be a safe place for them and please don’t try to change them or treat them differently.

Nobody is defined by their struggle. What I really appreciated was how my leaders didn’t talk about my same-sex attraction all the time after I came out to them. They saw me the same way – for who I was as a person and friend, and showered me with godly love throughout the journey.

For those who are struggling, it may be difficult to confide in someone about these thoughts and feelings, but church community is meant to be family that loves and protects. I encourage you to find someone whom you can trust, preferably a leader.

When I look back, confessing to my pastor still seems crazy, but I wouldn’t be where I am today if God hadn’t found me where I was all those years ago.

*The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality.


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My wasted years as an orphan

by | 15 August 2018, 9:42 PM

My relationship with my dad was a good one as I was growing up.

He loved me very much, always told me I was his favourite son (I’m the only son) and always affirmed me. He worked hard for the family but also made sure to spend time with us. We were very close as a result.

But when I was 17, he was diagnosed with cancer. He was strong and upbeat for the most part. And we prayed day and night through many months of his suffering.

I’ll never forget that one night I carried my dad around the house – he was all skin and bones by then — when I realised his time might actually be up. Beyond desperate, I even asked God to let me trade places with him.

Let me be the one to suffer.

But there was no healing, and my dad eventually passed away in the hospital. I remember looking out of the hospital windows into the night sky when it happened, as if I was looking for God: Show Yourself!

Dad had held onto his faith as he stepped into paradise, while I threw mine away as I fell into hatred. I hated God for allowing his death to happen. I really hated Him. I was mired in furious disbelief at how a good God could stand idly by as a good man – a great father – succumbed to illness.

In my heart, I told Him: “Since You took away my father, I don’t need you as my Father God.” What was He good for anyway, if He’d failed to show up when I needed Him most?

And what compounded my bitterness and anger was knowing that throughout the time I was begging God for healing, my best friend was having her prayer requests answered just like that.

What was God good for anyway, if He’d failed to show up when I needed Him most?

Gold dust to encourage her cell group? Done. But healing for a good man who’s served God and man faithfully? Silence.

In anger, I spent years away from the faith, mixing with the wrong company and getting involved in the wrong things, until the initial excitement began to taper off and the familiar emptiness and rage returned.

The short version of this story is that my hopeless landed me back on a search for some shred of meaning. I found myself back in church one day, looking for hope — but back then I didn’t want to call it God.

That was around 5 years ago.

It took years to unpack the hurt and process it with good people. Years to forgive – for a heart of stone to become flesh again. But like the smaller waves that come after bigger ones, the great grief of my life waned over time.

But with the residual bitterness in my heart, I settled for an uneasy acceptance of God’s sovereignty. There hadn’t been proper resolution from my anger towards God; I’d still turned from Him as Father. “Father”, to me, was a ripped-out chapter in my book, and I settled for the experience that remained.

God was certainly sovereign in my life. I mean, He was still God. But it wasn’t fearful reverence I had in my heart, but a kind of indifference and disbelief that He loved me like a father loves his son.

All the things I had from my early father: Love, affirmation, guidance … I still couldn’t bring myself to receive that from God.

“Father”, to me, was a ripped-out chapter in my book, and I settled for the experience that remained.

But it was at a retreat where God revealed to me that my father’s faith wasn’t mine. A wise man I know once said, God has no grandchildren. And I’d spent my whole life as God’s grandchild. So when I lost my earthly father, I experienced true fatherlessness for the first time. Because I didn’t know God.

At the retreat there was a time for ministry during the worship session of the last day. We were worshipping when the presence of God swept through the congregation. I hadn’t expected anything from the retreat, but suddenly I found myself on my knees and in tears.

Then I felt a voice speak into my heart: “I love you, My son.”

In that moment it was like a knot inside me was untied, and I knew I was truly free from the grief I had buried deep within — free to live as a child of God.

There are days I still miss my father, but now I truly know that God is sovereign in every single decision — a rock-solid conviction wrapped in the love of the Father. Though my earthly father has left for just a little while, I’ve gained a heavenly One, and He is more than enough for me.


Gabriel isn't a hipster, but he loves his beard and coffee. In his spare time, he'd rather be on a mountain.


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When I traded God for my boyfriend

by Wendy Wong | 13 August 2018, 2:50 PM

It didn’t happen immediately. It was so gradual and subtle that we were completely oblivious to it – blinded in our love for each other.

It didn’t start out this way, of course. Even before we started dating, we intentionally sought the Lord’s will on whether we were right for each other. We prayed earnestly as we grew closer, as friends first and then later, tentatively, as partners. We encouraged one another with God’s Word, and prayed together regularly.

But over time, things changed. We became more emotionally intimate as we shared our innermost thoughts and secrets, our hopes and dreams, our fears and memories. We began meeting more often, and for longer stretches – from a weekly Sunday afternoon to the entire Sunday. The importance of the day slowly shifted away from Sabbath rest in our Saviour, to outings and meals with our significant other.

We were doing all the “right” things

And we started trying to find every possible opportunity to spend more time together, like staying out later and later on Sundays – the only time we could meet for a full day due to my irregular work hours. We couldn’t bear to be apart from each other, and when we were apart, we would long for when we could next see each other.

This led us to spend more time with each other, and less time with the Lord and other loved ones. Our once-quiet evenings spent in prayer, worship and reading God’s Word were replaced by nights talking, texting and video calling each other. Dates together even began to take precedence over meet-ups with friends and meals with family.

Slowly and almost imperceptibly, our love for each other had started to eclipse that for the Lord and those around us.

The most frightening part of it all was that we weren’t even aware of it happening.

We were doing all the “right” things: We prayed together, sent each other Bible verses and prayer requests, attended church service together, and even had an older accountability couple to mentor us. Yet our hearts were not right with the Lord.

We really didn’t think we were spending all that much time together. After all, there were couples who met each other daily. Yet it wasn’t so much the amount of time we spent with each other, but the level of priority we had begun placing on each other.

While we often spoke of putting God first, our actions showed otherwise. We no longer loved the Lord with all our heart and all our soul and all our might (Deuteronomy 6:4-15). We started to stray away from Him, instead choosing to turn to one another for love, joy and comfort.

We began placing ourselves in precarious situations that presented overwhelming temptations to sin.

… it wasn’t so much the amount of time we spent with each other, but the level of priority we had begun placing on each other.

Though we had intended for God to be the centrepiece and cornerstone of our relationship, our actions pushed Him to the very corner of the picture, as we fell deeper in love with each other. 

Our hearts were so deceitful: We were barely aware of how we slowly but surely drifted away from the Lord and towards idolatry, innocently clothed in relational love.

Yet God can’t be a footnote in our love story – He must be Lord over all.

Through a series of incidents, God revealed how we had strayed away from Him.

This included one particularly painful episode, after which my boyfriend and I spent a month apart to repent and reflect before God, under the guidance and counsel of our accountability couple.

Even though it was painful to be separated, our time apart forced us to remember who we were before there was a “we”. It gave us breathing space to hear God’s voice again, and remember that our identity was not merely a girlfriend or boyfriend – but a redeemed child of our Heavenly Father, saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

As I sought the Lord, I realised I had come to love God’s gift more than the Giver Himself. I learned to ask myself:

  • Who do I yearn to spend time with?
  • Where do my thoughts wander to when I have nothing to do?
  • To whom do I turn to for love, satisfaction and pleasure?
  • If the Lord were to take my boyfriend away one day, how would I respond to Him?

In short, I was confronted with the question: If all of life is meant to worship God, who was I worshipping in my relationship: God or my partner?

Even though it was painful to be separated, our time apart forced us to remember who we were before there was a ‘we’.

God showed me that I had traded Him for him, and that I was seeking and deriving love, joy and fulfilment from my boyfriend. I quickly learned that these are gifts only our Maker can give in all His fullness – something no mortal man can give.

When my boyfriend failed to live up to my expectations, I saw how I had placed him on a pedestal above the King of kings. When he inadvertently hurt me, I realised how much hope I had placed in him, rather than in the Shepherd of my soul. And when we were apart – physically, emotionally and spiritually – I realised how much I had come to adore and even worship him instead of God.

After the month was up, my boyfriend and I came together to reconcile and pray with one another. Since then, God has been teaching us, through every victory and struggle, to turn our gaze on Him. We’re still learning how to love God first before each other, and to gently point one another back to the Lord when tempted to idolatry.

Although our story is far from over, I know that our God is with us and in control. And this gives me a peace and assurance that He is ever-present even – and especially – in the midst of our struggles and sinfulness. More importantly, God has promised us that just as He has saved us, He too will sanctify us completely in His faithfulness (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

This article was first published on, and is republished with permission.


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I broke all the rules I said I never would

by Amedee Goh | 7 August 2018, 4:58 PM

I was always a daredevil.

I loved to bend the rules to see how much I could get away with, so I often landed in trouble. I just loved trying and experiencing new things. It started with stealing when I was young, then rebelling against my teachers. And as I grew older, I tried clubbing. I tried getting drunk. I tried smoking. I also tried getting into an unequally yoked relationship.

In my rulebook, I would set lines I wouldn’t cross. When guys touched me in clubs, I was fine. What was not fine was when their hands reached beyond my back, or them kissing me on the lips. I counted myself liberal, but with boundaries drawn.

I always thought I could get myself out of anything. Until smoking … until my first relationship.

I got involved in both at the same time because my ex was a smoker.

As I desired to get to know more of his “world”, and due to my own love of ‘fun’, I experimented trying cigarettes with a friend. My ex was also a Christian. He had backslid, but when we got together, he assured me he was going to make things right. I should have known better, but I refused to.

Soon enough, I was sucked into the whirlwind of fulfilling my physical desires. As our relationship progressed, we kept crossing boundaries previously drawn by me. I didn’t let him know my boundaries, I only told him I would never give my virginity away until marriage. But I kept adjusting the rules in my rulebook until I just wasn’t sure anymore.

The more I toyed with the idea of sex, the more I began to think it was okay.

They didn’t know much about my life then, yet they respected and loved me unconditionally.

As all this was happening, I felt torn between God and my boyfriend.

I knew the latter could only satisfy my fleshly desires, but I couldn’t let go. I was also very worried about my future as a young working adult. My thoughts were everywhere. In worship services, I would feel nothing but go through the motions. My heart was growing cold. I felt really alone.

Through it all, the sole silver lining was my friends in and outside of church. I maintained close contact with my cell group. In some small ways, I was anchored. They could tell I was not telling them things, but they didn’t pry. That was something I appreciated greatly.

As the relationship fell apart, so did I.

I didn’t think it would hurt that much. But now that I’ve experienced it, heartbreak sucks. Of course it does. Again my friends embraced me. My cell group became my biggest pillar of support. They didn’t know much about my life then, yet they respected and loved me unconditionally.

I committed myself more regularly to services and cell groups. I met my mentor more regularly for advice. I knew I had to get things right, starting with my heart.

So I finally wept. I cried into my sister’s arms (she was also a Christian and in my cell group), cried after work ended when everyone else had left – cried myself to sleep. Finally the many months of numbness unleashed a torrent of tears that stemmed from the emotions I buried.

The guilt I tripped myself with over and over for getting myself into this mess – I gave to Jesus. The hurt I felt from the relationship, I placed in His hands. The anger from the words that pricked my heart, I laid them all at His feet.

Even as I cried, I wasn’t sure if Jesus would someday really me of the agony within. There were just so many things inside of me that I couldn’t deal with anymore. In desperation I believed only Jesus could help me.

So that first time I cried to Him, I felt this strange assurance that I wasn’t alone. He heard me.

With time, my heart didn’t hurt as much anymore.

All I can say is that He healed me when I dared to ask – but I was still struggling with smoking. I eventually plucked up the courage to talk about it with my mentor. I felt really embarrassed, but she embraced me and helped me along my journey to quit.

Sometime later, I decided to let my cell group know about my failed relationship and my urge to light up as well. I was really afraid of stumbling fellow believers and that they would see me differently from now on. But they didn’t. They listened, they prayed, they continued asking after me and following up on what I told them. My heart opened up all the more.

So that first time I cried to Him, I felt this strange assurance that I wasn’t alone. He heard me.

I fasted. I prayed. I forgave.

He had healed me of my hurts before, so I ventured to ask God if He would remove my urge to smoke once and for all. But it didn’t happen. There were times I relapsed and lit up. It seemed inescapable. Yet I persisted. I continued to pray and still did my best to resist temptation.

When my colleague went for smoke breaks, I chose to remain in the office. My former smoke break buddy eventually stopped offering me his sticks. Though I heaved a sigh of relief, deep down, the desire for “just one more stick” hadn’t been quenched yet.

Today it’s something like a dormant volcano. As I carefully continue to walk into freedom, I praise Him for all that He has done. Because of Jesus, I am more confident about my future – I am more than the mistakes I’ve made. I am a child of God, whose mind is on the things on Christ, with Him as my life’s pursuit (Colossians 3:1-4).

When we desire to serve Him, and act on it like Abraham moving to sacrifice Isaac on the altar, the Lord our God is pleased. He gives us the grace, new oil and anointing that keep our lamps of light aglow.

I’m waiting for full healing, and as I do so, I know that each day of victory brings me a day closer to my Jesus.

I’m more of an adventurer than a troublemaker now. But for now, let me adjust the rules in my rulebook to take me closer to Christ.

The author’s name has been changed for confidentiality. 


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