It is now week four in my post-cigarette world, dear readers, and LIFE is rising! Turns out, joy does exist without tobacco – who knew?! Well, here I am on the other side of one giant Cross, and I now know two things that I didn’t before. One, quite a few of my fellow Jesus freaks used to smoke. (God bless you all for your encouragement and love and prayers! It’s a powerful gift to be reminded from time to time that Jesus came for the sick – and I’m not the only leper in the colony.) And two, God really does shine most powerfully when I am at my absolute weakest – and honest about it.
“During the first ten years . . . I worried that my walk with the Lord wasn’t good enough. Because I couldn’t forget my past sins, I felt very guilty when I thought of all the grace He had shown me. During that time, I used to fall often and then get up again. It seemed that everything – even God – was against me and that only faith was on my side. Sometimes I believed I felt this way because I was trying to show, at the beginning of my walk, the same maturity it had taken other Christians years to achieve.”
I ever believe the accusation of Satan (and my own pride) that says, “You’re the only one who struggles. Nobody else likes the things they shouldn’t. If anyone ever sees how needy you really are, they’ll be repulsed and reject you outright.” Well, I’ve just lived through one of my biggest fears, and it was all smoke and mirrors. I have never been more incapable of putting on a good face than in the last month. I have been completely unable to “pull myself up by my bootstraps” and get it together. I have been weak and unlovable and totally vulnerable. And I have met the most incredible love at every turn.
I’ve experienced – as never before – the depth and power of God’s love. And I was brought so fully to the end of my rope that I KNOW, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I did nothing to deserve it. I wasn’t funny or charming or kind or loving or even sympathetic. No trickery, no lies, nothing that could possibly account for kindness, let alone love. He was there, though I couldn’t feel Him. His love shone out of many different people, ever girding and healing me.
I know better now how the prodigal coming home felt when, despite the unmitigated foulness of his person, his father grabbed him in a fierce hug and held him. It’s the unbearable warmth and tenderness of unconditional love – most powerful force in the universe.