I want to tell you a story. I think some of you may be appalled to know I was a very heavy smoker for a very long time...not all of you would be horrified...just some of you...like those of you who have known me for YEARS...who attended church where my father preached and watched a few years of my growing up and can not believe that I...Sara...This Girl...would be the Smoker Girl. But I was. And I want to tell you this story, but if it's going to cause you angst or grief then I suggest you get into a calm state. Go watch Kung Foo Panda and rest in the words of Oogway as he guides Jack Black into the challenge ahead...then come back :0)
Okay...so several years ago (can I say several when it's only been 4?) I was spending plenty of time working through the church women's ministry doing women's ministry things. I was very active, very involved and always looking for the betterment of the women at our church. As a leadership team we decided it would be great to take our 'girls' to see Beth Moore in Kansas City, MO. We started the arduous work of planning a trip...you know...who was going to go in who's car, etc. Being the awesome leadership team that we were, my bff and I thought how cool this trip was going to be for all these ladies. THEY were so in need of a word and we just knew if anyone could deliver a good word, it was Beth. So off we went. We arrived at the conference where we were in back of some 15k women in line to get in to the arena...yes 15,000 and eagerly waited in line with 7 other women...3 of who were very preggo. We sat in the nose bleed section, had a great worship time and eagerly awaited Beth to take center stage. What happened next was a story in and of itself...but let me tell you this: God took center stage, I was (and my bff was) cowering in my seat at the top of the arena attempting to survive and not get killed right then and there. We drove home Sunday afternoon and I wept begging God not to make me go home. He was starting to break me. He was sending me big vibes that He was serious and it was time for me to start listening. I knew He was getting ready to do a mighty work, and this smoker girl was not sure what that looked like, but I knew it wasn't going to be a fun ride at Six Flags.
In our piousness...the bff and I decided it was time to have a fast. We knew she was being called to something bigger in ministry and I was being called to something...AND our husbands were really struggling...and since we were being called to something and they were struggling...we had to help them along....so...we began the plan to fast. The weekend had whipped us and we were going to be ready...and so were our husbands...when He called us to 'Crossing Our River of Fear' (this was the message for the weekend). So we scheduled time, made sure it was going to be productive, got our scriptures ready and equipped ourselves for a very successful 24 hour fast. The women's ministry girl that I was took center stage and quietly and humbly, I must say, told the bff that the Smoker Girl would not get a cigarette during that 24 hours. Understanding the rules about the fast and knowing how much I was grieving God I was sure that I could abstain from smoking for 24 hours. YES...it would be a hard road...but I could do it.
Let me once again interject here because I know some of you are thinking you know where I'm going with this...and no this is not a message about how you can't smoke and be in ministry...I promise...but if you are getting apprehensive and exasperated please refer to the first paragraph again (scadoosh)
Okay...back to the story. So my awesome mom and I were hangin out and I asked her one day about 2 weeks before the BIG fast if she thought a 24 hour fast was worth it. I had been feeling pressed to do a longer fast, but wasn't sure. So she answered that unless I was going to be completely alone and have time to focus, that a 24 fast would not be AS affective. Now keep in mind here...I was fasting for my husband...and I knew God could do something big if I would give it the time...BUT I had to consult my bff first. Later that evening I got a call from her and without knowing the whole conversation I had had with my mom she announced she really felt led to a longer fast. I told her about my conversation with mom and we laughed...how cool...God was really working...speaking to us...this was really really going to help our husbands. So SEVEN DAYS it was...count um! SEVEN DAYS TO FAST.
November 1st 2005 rolled around. Today was the first day of the fast. I was on fire, reading my scriptures, drinking only water, surrounding myself with worship music...I was doing well.
November 2nd 2005 rolled into view. That morning in the shower I was washing my hair when it dawned on me...the quiet humble promise I had made...and the ministry girl was gone and smoker girl was CENTER stage. I couldn't believe it. I had been TRICKED! Here I was, humble, doing everything I was supposed to be doing in this fast and it was all for the advancement of the Kingdom, the enrichment of the ministry, and most importantly the growth of my husband...this was NOT about ME! I was appalled, angry, bewildered...I stood in my kitchen hours later still struggling with the task at hand and raised my hands to heaven and yelled 'THIS IS NOT FUNNY....YOU DIDN'T EVEN LET ME HAVE MY LAST CIGARETTE'...for those of you who smoked at one point in time...you know how important the LAST cigarette is...don't pretend like you don't....I just knew He was laughing. It was a joke...He outwitted me once again!
The seriousness of this? For years I had been fighting. I didn't want to smoke. Smoker Girl liked it...don't get me wrong...Smoker Girl like it a LOT...but me...Sara...hated it. I woke up every morning and fought the urge to get out the door to the patio where that demon smoke awaited me. I would hit snooze on my alarm...just to push myself to where I had only just enough time to get out the door...I would sit with my cup of coffee and beg God to take away the addiction...and I would list all the ways I didn't want Him to take it away. Things like: please don't let me have cancer, please don't let me blow up my car while I'm smoking and driving and kill me while you kill the addiction, please don't take it away like 'this' and please don't take it away like 'that'. I was desperate to be done...but I had no strength to do it on my own. It got in the way of just about everything and I hated it. I began to work through the week with one verse in had that I said over and over...because now it wasn't about fasting for my husband, now it wasn't about figuring out my future...where God wanted me...now it was all about making it through the next urge to pick up a pack because I had made a promise I would not smoke while I was fasting...never in my wildest dreams thinking I would commit to not smoking for more than 24 hours...but here I was. 1 Corinthians 6:12 became the verse I would say over and over and over: Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything.
It has been almost 4 years. I'm terrified to touch another cigarette...I think about it...Smoker Girl comes around here and there and she makes life hard (she has other issues that have nothing to do with smoking) but God did a big work in me. He took something away I asked Him to take away. I will not go back. That is a river of fear that should be feared...and not crossed.
I tell you all this so that you will know and see the power of His healing hand. It hurts sometimes to be healed of addiction. He breaks us, bends us, molds us...heals us. There are much worse addictions out there. Our world is seeped in sinful enslavement of the quick fix. Whether it's alcohol, viccodin, heroin, smoking, pornography...it's so readily available. So easy to come by...and it's the demon that waits for us every day....but we are under the Mighty Hand of a God who cares about our addictions. He wants us to be freed up from the slavery and bondage that this world holds over us. We are set apart.
If you are struggling...know that God is bigger...know that He is able...and the next time someone tells you that God doesn't give you anything you can't handle...think about this: If He didn't give you things you couldn't handle...when would you ever turn back to Him for help?
Be specific in your prayer. Give Him your best request, define it, make it specific...and then don't be surprised when you feel like you need to fast....