Ephesians 5:15-20 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
My parents were heavy smokers. Mom quit but only after she was diagnosed with cancer. I got caught one day when I was seven or eight years old playing like I was smoking one of my grandfather’s cigars and when asked if I wanted to try it, to my own detriment, I said yes. Making me smoke that cigar should have cured me from ever wanting to smoke again, and it did for a while.
After my freshman year in high school I got a summer job working with the city park department. It was pretty menial work, cleaning up the parks, empting trash as such. Most of the guys, me included, brought sack lunches and we generally stopped wherever we were and ate, usually in a park. After every meal pretty much all of the guys would light up a cigarette and even though I hadn’t smoke since my experience with my grandfather’s cigar, by the end of the summer I was lighting up after lunch as well.
By the time I graduated college I was a pack a day smoker. I quit once temporarily after driving through a snow storm to get a pack of cigarettes at a local convenience store only to discover I was about 15 cents short of the price. The store clerk wasn’t taking any rainchecks on that 15 cents and I found myself frantically searching between the seats of my car, the glove box, and the floor for loose change, in subfreezing weather, in a blinding snow storm. When I came to my senses, I quit. But only temporarily.
On the last day I ever smoked a cigarette I came home from work as usual and immediately knew something was wrong. My wife, as does every wife, had “the look”. Before I could even think about settling in she insisted I follow her and, even though she did not grab me by the earlobe and drag me along, it felt like it. She directed me to our bedroom closet where, in the back corner, I could see a carton of my cigarettes. The carton had been torn into and a pack had been opened. Several cigarettes lay crumpled on the carpet next to a book of matches. Now she spoke. “This, she said, is where I found your son this afternoon, trying to light a cigarette.” My son was three years old at the time. My wife did not care for my smoking so out of respect for her I limited it when I was at home to the outdoors or the garage. I also didn’t like to smoke around the kids and was careful to safely and securely put away my cigarettes and matches. Apparently I had not hidden them well enough from my son.
As I cleaned up the mess it struck me that my son was only trying to do what he had seen me do, even though I did my best to conceal it. I had a vision of seeing him as an adult in a hospital hooked up on oxygen fighting for every breath as I had seen my mother. The thought that what I was doing, the way I was living could have such a profound impact on my son’s life terrified me. At that moment I knew that if my son decided to become a smoker it would not be because he saw me smoking.
Be very careful then how you live…
Heavenly FATHER how blessed we are that YOU have provided guidance and direction to us on how to live life in shameless audacity! Remind us when we feel like we are denying ourselves something or giving something up that what we are actually only giving up is the consequences of reckless behavior and foolishness. We pray this is JESUS name.