My prayer as I was sitting in church that day was, “God, help me get there!” “There” was making it through the service without a cigarette. I had a three-pack-a-day smoking habit. Because of circumstances that morning, I’d been taken to church without being able to have even one cigarette, never mind the ten or more I would usually have had by then.
This addiction had been started by my thinking I’d be able to choose if and when I would smoke. However, before long it became obvious that I couldn’t choose. I was addicted, craving a constant supply of nicotine, even though smoking wasn’t something I wanted to hang on to. I wanted to be free.
Willing myself to stop didn’t work. I would quickly give in and then despise myself for being weak.
Then I started to study Christian Science, and as I began to understand life more spiritually, I felt that somehow God had to have an answer for me. Turns out He did.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, writes, “Desire is prayer; ...” (p. 1). I found that was a good place to start. This statement offers the hope of freedom to all, including the addicted. When our desires are pure, our heart is open to the presence of the Divine.
However, it’s not just about cultivating a sincere desire for freedom. It’s also the desire to learn about God’s nature and what we truly are. This can lift us above the destructive cycle of craving, momentary satisfaction, and then the descent into more craving.
As we get to know what God is, we begin to find out what we are as the man and woman of His creation. Christian Science, based on the Bible, explains that God is infinite Spirit, and that we are made in God’s image. Therefore, our real identity is entirely spiritual. That fact stands in sharp contrast to the view of ourselves and each other as mortal, but it is this spiritual reality that provides us with a basis for finding freedom from sensual, addictive desires. It’s an identity thing—because our identity truly is a vital reality of God’s creation, not physical and mortal.
I felt that somehow God had to have an answer for me.
When we genuinely yearn to understand our spiritual being, crippling habits fall away. It’s not that we become someone else, but that we recognize what we truly are. The dignity inherent in knowing we are children of God rises to the surface of our daily lives, and we are transformed. Not only do addictions drop away, but all kinds of character reformation take place.
During that service at a Church of Christ, Scientist, many years ago, a fuller recognition of my real identity suddenly filled me with inspiration, and when I walked out, I knew I was done with smoking for good. The craving was gone.
And while full freedom came in that sudden burst of spiritual illumination, that didn’t occur in isolation. I had actually been praying for this healing for months. I’d been gradually exchanging my concept of identity as a mortal for the recognition of my true spiritual identity, and that had led up to this sudden turnaround.
Letting in the light of this truth of our being as God’s dear children, we can trade addictive behaviors that wreak havoc with our health and relationships for freedom to express more and more fully the pure and free spiritual individual we really are. We can be free!
Originally published in The Christian Science Monitor’s Christian Science Perspective column, March 9, 2018.
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