Fourteen years ago, on 13th September 2001, I smoked my last cigarette. It is an interesting story that I have shared with individuals and some small groups over the years. In light of the anniversary I thought I would share it here too.
My mother caught me smoking my first cigarette when I was 7 years old. I had stolen it from her pack of Guards. My Mum, loving me and caring about my future , decided she would spoil any pleasure for good. She sat me down and made smoke a pack of 20 right then and there. Unfortunately, the plan back-fired as I became addicted. From that time on I began to take another here and there, and by the time I was 10 I was stealing money to buy cigarettes to support a growing daily habit. I recall slipping out of school too often to make the trip to the railway station in Woodbridge where the clerk would break open a pack Players Weights and sell them individually to young smokers for two or three pennies. Looking back now, I am surprised at the risks I was prepared to take to satisfy this appetite.
When I left the army, at the end of 1984, we bought a house in Haverhill, Suffolk. I stopped smoking in the house for the benefit of my family, especially the children who were 9, 7 and 2, but the habit continued as I became an outdoor smoker.
A few years after we moved to Canada we became involved with the Anglican church and in November 1994 I committed my life to following Jesus but continued smoking. Some folks are healed of addictions instantly, I wasn’t one of them, at least as far as smoking was concerned. Over the Family Day weekend in February 2000 we went to a conference called Christianity 5.0 with James Ryle at our church in Okotoks. During the conference he taught a simple but powerful prayer that I have never forgotten and still use on occasion. It went like this “Lord Jesus, do in me everything you need to do so that through me you can do everything you want to do, Amen.” Be careful, if you pray that prayer and mean it you will find it to be transformational.
James taught Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday. Monday was the Family Day holiday and as I headed outside to the deck, with my morning coffee in one hand, ready to light my first cigarette of the day I prayed that prayer again, “Lord Jesus, do in me everything you need to do so that through me you can do everything you want to do, Amen.” Now it may seem weird to you but I heard a voice that said, “I can’t do everything I want to do through you until you quit smoking.” Just like that, I was convicted. I believe this to be the work of Holy Spirit. I didn’t light the first cigarette that day or the next, I just quit smoking. Over the next few weeks I got closer to God than I had ever been. He was all-consuming, in fact, He became over-consuming. I found myself having trouble concentrating on the task at hand, at work, wherever and whenever, I kept thinking of God. After about 6 weeks, I had a strong urge to get my life back to normal and I stopped, bought cigarettes and smoked again. At some level I was disappointed with myself but at another I had some control back in my life which was good.
In November 2000 I was asked to lead a Men’s Cursillo weekend in Calgary the following year, I was quick to say yes as I had been waiting for the opportunity to serve in this role for some time. But shortly after, I began to get nudges in my spirit, “How can you lead men on a weekend when you are walking in disobedience?” This shocked me quite a bit, the Bible does not say “Thou shalt not smoke!” I would justify myself. But now the voice was right, I was walking in disobedience and I had been since April, when I had started smoking again. I knew I had to resolve this before leading the weekend and told God I would. Not wanting to miss the teaching opportunity (again justifying myself) I decided to put off the inevitable until the first team meeting which was scheduled for 15th September 2001. The plan was to share with the team, crush my last pack of smokes and get the guys to hold me accountable. Perfect!
On 11th September 2011 the world changed. Hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center towers in New York. Two days later on the evening of 13th September as I sat waiting for our Thursday Night Men to show up at the coffee shop I whiled away the time looking at the photographs all over the front page of a newspaper and heard that voice questioning me again: “When is an airplane coming through your window?” Holy Spirit convicted, or what!
That was the last day I smoked,13th September 2001, 2 days after 9/11. Lesson learned, never delay walking in obedience as you do not know when you will be called to give an account of all that you have done, good and bad. Delayed obedience is disobedience.
Be blessed and be a blessing, A