He left the 99 to rescue me.
Close to 30 years ago, I had an experience which led me to accept Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior. Even been a cradle Catholic, it was a life changing encounter with my Savior. My 12 years of Catholic schooling did very little to develop my relationship with Jesus. I thought I knew Him, but I was wrong. I had learned the textbook Jesus but not Him as a personal intimate Lord and Savior in my own life. Someone who would rescue, deliver, protect me from any harm. Someone who would risk it all for me. Someone who loved me more than I loved myself. There is a huge difference in these two types of “Jesus’”!
I had a Christian friend who modeled for me a personal relationship with the Almighty. I worked night shift with her in Intensive Coronary Care for several years prior. She was in love with her Savior and it radiated to everyone. She trusted Him with everything. She did not preach Jesus but wore Him in all she did. It was most attractive. I desperately needed and wanted that. Watching and listening to her, a desire was born by God in me to pursue that type of relationship with Him.
1992, years later.
The location: my home in Boston.
The day: Good Friday.
My age: approximately 45 years old.
I had developed a 2 pack/day cigarette addiction and had been convicted to quit. The conviction came from God’s Word, a Christian friend’s statement to me and my kindergarten son’s question to me about smoking. Also, I had failed repeatedly during that year’s Lent to quit on my own. The key word here is “I”. When “me, myself and I” are in charge it is usually a dead-end road. It took me years to learn that. Pride blinds!
I had started smoking at age 16.
The temptation came from wanting to fit in and look cool for my boyfriend who of course, smoked. That led quickly to an overnight addiction and progressed to a 2 pack habit a day over a period of 30 years.
Two probing and haunting questions along with a scripture brought me to a climax, convicted me and converted my heart on that Good Friday.
God and I had a knock down battle before He won the war. He was only waiting for my surrender flag. He was waiting for me to ask for help.
His love and mercy run deep.
Let me share my testimony with you.
We had moved from Denver to Boston for my husband’s job. It was like moving to Mars having lived my whole life in the West. Most difficult, most stressful!
We had 3 adopted kids and they were all under the age of 10 at that time. Each one was a huge gift from heaven. One of my kids had a severe learning disability and hated any change. He laid every morning at my front door and cried in the fetal position because he had to go to a new school. It broke my heart and stressed me out even more daily.
We were in Boston for less than a year which made it very difficult to make any new friends. I felt ultra-alone. I believe now this was part of God’s plan.
Sometimes, God allows us to be stripped of all comfort and props so He can move in front and center. I learned quickly to rely and talk to Him much more. I was in trouble daily with coping with all the changes and stresses of a huge move. Joyce Meyer coined the phrase “Go to the Throne instead of the phone”. That is exactly what God was trying to teach me. He wanted me to experience a personal, intimate relationship with Him. Authentic treasured relationships in any of our lives involve listening and trusting. The listening part was pretty much nonexistent on my part. Also, trust, at times can involve a surrendering, asking for help and accepting it. That was the ultra-hard part for me. I was born, raised, and practiced my whole life being self-reliant.
Description of me
I was raised in the 1960’s.
The revolutionary counterculture oozed into my already prideful nature. Examples included being rebellious, resistant, stubborn, etc. I targeted much of negative energy at the Catholic Church. Rules and regulations, the Mass, sacraments, rosary were at the top of the list to rebel against. It mostly was a silent war. I complained to God about His church and how many things were wrong with it. It is absolutely amazing how God listened and put up with me.
To add to this, I was born in the Midwest with a strong conservative German heritage. So, it followed that I was taught and groomed to be self-sufficient. “I can do it all attitude” and “I don’t need any help” lifestyle. This attitude fed my already prideful thinking that I had the answers to most problems and situations. These were all sins of pride I would find out later.
Background family history.
The following are examples on how pride blinded the truth from me in my life.
I failed to see and accept the danger of cigarettes. My addiction to them progressively blinded me to going to them instead of to God. Cigarettes became my drug of choice for any need or problem. To put a spotlight on my blindness, the following all took place in our first 10 years of marriage.
My mom died at age 56 from cancer.
My sister died at age 30 from cancer.
I had cancer at age 30.
My husbands’ mom and dad died both of cancer.
Also, my last real job before becoming a stay-at-home mom was being a head nurse over an Intensive Coronary Care Unit. I sincerely never contemplated or connected my own smoking and its potential to hurt me. That is “Blindness” with a capital B!
One of the “wake up” questions to me about my addiction came from my kindergarten son. He came home from school one day and said, “My teacher says if you smoke, you die.” Then to my heart he spoke, “Then why are you smoking mommy? Do you want to die?”
His words convicted and crushed my heart. I was finally confronted and knew I need to quit. The truth finally went into my heart.
Along with my son’s question, there was a second question that haunted me.
Before we left Denver to move to Boston a Christian friend of ours pointedly confronted me. He said, “Maggie, I don’t think you know Jesus as your own personal intimate Lord and Savior?” I was outraged! Being a cradle Catholic, I got defensive. How could he say such a thing to my face? I kept my composure and said politely that he was mistaken. Nevertheless, it was unsettling because it was true. Most of us when we are confronted with the truth that we don’t want to hear, it hurts initially. Then anger usually erupts. It exposes places that are closed and hidden with sins of pride. That can become explosive inside.
I was glad to say goodnight and goodbye to that Christian friend. Nevertheless, he was right.
So, back to Boston. I was lost, searching, and seeking anything to help me with everything. I signed up for a course which introduced me to the Holy Spirit at our church. I was attracted to it because it had the word “spirit” in it.
I needed spirit. I absolutely had no idea it was about the Holy Spirit.
One of the critical jobs that the Holy Spirit has is to convict our hearts of truth. Scripture is the major avenue to do this in us all. And I loved scripture.
So one night at the study the priest discussed 1 Corinthians 6:19.
It nailed me! “Do you not know that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?”
I had never thought of my body as a temple. A temple meant to me that it was holy, sacred, a place of worship.
Suddenly I could not reconcile blowing smoke in His temple. And yet, I would drive home weekly from these meetings, and chain smoke all the whole way home. I was slowly being convicted. This scripture and the two “wake up” questions from my son and Christian friend kept me up many nights.
All through Lent I failed daily to slow down on smoking much less quiet, even though I made daily resolutions to do so. Nightly I would have a “beat up” session on myself. Very unhealthy. A key element in this story was I never asked for help with quitting. Especially to God. My prayers were more directed like “I am going to quit smoking for you, God”. It was all about me, myself and I and my efforts. Never humbling myself to ask for help.
Well, Holy Week came.
An absolute disaster. I smoked more that week than ever. Good Friday arrived.
By my strong will I decided not to smoke that day, and I did not. I had finally been convicted that smoking was a sin in my life. I also knew that Jesus died on the cross that day for my sins. Not smoking that day, I quickly became the wicked witch of the East coast. My husband, kids, dog, etc. all got treated ultra-poor that day. I was exasperated by evening. I was trying to stay up till midnight so I could have a cigarette. I remember laying in my bed at 10pm and this is what I said to my most merciful God. “I am never going to try to quit again because I was so mean and unkind to my family. So, if You want me to quit, You are going to have to do it!” A very poor white flag of surrender, but it was real and heartfelt. I was like an alcoholic in the gutter finally asking for help. Thank God I then fell asleep and didn’t stay up till midnight. If the heavens could have opened up at that moment, I would have seen the biggest celebration ever for me. I gave finally God the reins and control of my habit. A miracle would follow the next morning.
Holy Saturday morning
I woke up and did not go for my usual first thing in the morning, a cigarette. Hour after hour went on and I had no desire or urge to smoke. By evening I was speechless, mouth gaping and blown away that my addiction was become history. I was experiencing a total healing and could not take it in.
Now for the best part.
I discovered a personal intimate relationship with my Lord and Savior.
Again, I emphasize that I had a textbook relationship with Jesus before this experience. I knew He died on the cross for my sins. I knew that when I prayed to Him, He many times answered my prayers. He was like someone you knew that could and would at times deliver but
there was no relationship.
What I mean is there was…
no dependence on,
no trust in as with a friend,
turning to for encouragement,
sharing honest feelings with,
going to when you needed to cry,
be generous with you for everything,
and having a real relationship with, etc.
Back to trust. It is a major component of any relationship. Why did I not have trust in Him? I never learned it because of my textbook Jesus view. I had relied on myself, handled everything myself, and worked hard at controlling everything.
In my experience, Jesus never saved or delivered me from anything on an earthly level. Why? Because I never let Him.
Pride blinded and kept me from even thinking of trusting Him to deliver or save me from anything in my daily life.
By Holy Saturday night I continued to have no desire to smoke. My smoking was history. He single handedly, overnight, delivered and saved me from a wretched addiction. I had surrendered what I couldn’t do.
Well, it was the beginning of a new romance.
I fell in love…
I believed and trusted in His power…
I was touched and blessed…
I was blown away at His love for me…
I knew my heart had been made new!
He became my Knight in shining armor sweeping me up from a dysfunctional god, smoking. I was humbled.
Jesus became my personal and intimate Lord and Savior! Since that Good Friday I realize daily how my prayers and small surrenders matter to Him.
He patiently waits…
for me to get over myself, my ideas, my thoughts, my pride, etc.
Two more important points.
This encounter with my Savior melted away my rebellion with the Catholic Church. I had made the church my “god”
and it had disappointed me. The church is made up of people and we all disappoint. But Jesus never disappoints.
Also, my devoted Catholic mom had died on a Good Friday, 25 years prior to that day. I felt that one of my mom’s many rosaries, God used that day to rescue me from myself. Our prayers go up to God’s time zone and He can use them when and how He decides. Her prayers helped me to surrender my pride, ask for help and experience a Savior to heal and rescue me. I know that in my heart.
He truly left the 99 and rescued me!