One Last Chance!
It was my 3rd week of carrying out my “sentence” for my crime at school. (See http://wp.me/p2gnLN-bG for the whole story)
I was starting to like doing the weekly devo for my class. The words of the verses were doing something to me, in me. I was starting to change from the inside out. Mr. Grimes, the Principal assigned me a scripture a week that totally nailed me in areas where I needed to change. I not only had to share it with my class, I had to live it out, because nobody likes a hypocrite!
This week’s verse was this: 1 Cor. 6:19,20 KJV
“…Didn’t you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.”
This one was going to be a challenge because on thing I had not yet tackled was my smoking. Okay, I was 14 and had been smoking a whole 2 years, but I was hooked. And besides, I liked it! Funny how smokers-especially teens, thinks they can hide it. It’s like the cloud from Charlie Brown over Linus. Kind of goes where you go! So I am pretty sure Mr. Grimes knew exactly what he was doing by giving me that verse to share with my classmates that week.
I was so committed to smoking cigarettes that I would wake up early every morning, before my mom got up, and quietly snuck around the side of the house under an arching shrub and lit up my Morning smoke.
I would then come in, brush my teeth, take a shower and get my parochial Christian School uniform on and go to school. If this is your first read-I got kicked out of Jr. High public school and was placed in a Christian School where I was on my last chance when I got busted for having weed at school. It took a while for the baggage, ie, for me to let go of bad habits before people could really tell if I had a genuine “repentance and conversion”. I had a very real encounter with Jesus.
The day after I gave this particular devo on the verses above. I got home that day, had my smoke, again. My mom came in and said that she wanted to ask me a question. Did I mention my mom is a saint? She deserves a gold medal for enduring my journey as a young teen! She said, I know you are still smoking, and I also know that your life is changed. Do you think that smoking pleases God? You do want to please him, don’t you? Well, the answer was yes. And I was humbled by it, thinking I was still hiding it from her! But I did tell her that I liked the cigarettes. I wanted to smoke.
She told me a story about a friend of the family, who wanted to quit smoking. He had smoked for over 30 years. He asked my mom to pray for him. She asked him the same thing she asked me. She said that Jim, the friend, had asked God to take the desire for smoking away. He was instantly free from the desire to smoke up to now-over 40 years later!
She said, “are you willing to ask the Lord to help you want to not want to smoke?” You might need to read that sentence a few times.
I said, well, yes, I can do that much. She said good. So go try that. I went to my room and I talked to God and said those very words, “God, I like to smoke, I don’t want to quit, but would you help me want to not want to smoke?”
The next morning I got up at my usual time and snuck out to have my morning ritual. As I lit up and took my first drag off the cigarette, and I can feel it even now as I write, as I exhaled, I saw, sitting right in front of me, a vision of Jesus. He was sitting right there! Looking at me as I exhaled smoke all over him! What happened next is what really set me free. He was looking at me, with his eyes so full of love and compassion. Just like the day, a few weeks earlier, when I met him and he came into my life. My “temple was a mess” so he had lots of work to do! It takes time to get rid of baggage. Church people need to get a grip and give people time to grow and come to understand the truths in the bible and allow that to be part of the process as we grow in our walk with God.
That vision isn’t the end of that story. I put out my cigarette, totally blown away by the overwhelming love I felt from what just happened. I went into the house and into the bathroom and I threw up like nobody’s business! I never touched another cigarette from that time on!
Change didn’t come overnight for me, heck, I am still changing, I hope! But it only takes an open heart to access God’s love. Open enough to admit that I am a sinner, and I need the forgiveness that Jesus provided on the cross so that I can have clear access to him and know that I have a home in heaven when I die.
In the weeks following, as I shared on those Wednesdays, just before lunch in class devos, I came to love the scriptures I was given to talk on, and little did I know then, or anyone else for that matter, what giving this rebellious teenager ONE LAST CHANCE would do!
Don’t ever give up on anyone. I won’t. No matter what!
I can’t end this short series of stories without thanking some of the key people who really stuck their necks out for me, and believed in me-some it took longer than others but if it weren’t for them, I would never have come to Jesus that day.
To the late Keith Grimes, an American Patriot who was a visionary Pioneer, and his wife, Jane who wasn’t too sure at the time!
To Mrs. Debbie Emmerson my teacher, who I asked to help me pray that day, and her response was, “You know what to say. You just talk to God from your own heart!”
To Tommy Grimes, a teacher who believed in me.
Theresa Coslett, teachers aid.
To my Nana, Clara Baker, 97 at the time of this writing, who took me to church my whole life and taught me to love singing.
To the School board, Rodney Hunt, Carol Bishop and others who voted “yes” to let me stay.
A book could be filled with names. But I have to say, if it weren’t for my mama, Carole Baker, I sure would never have amounted to much! Thanks Mom for your devoted, tough, unending love!
Photo by bing, stock photos