It was in a gap in the rain when I was walking back from the Coop that I saw a man rather hanging out of a window, having a cigarette. He obviously wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house but perhaps it was a bit too wet for him outside so he was just having a quick lean out of the window.
I used to smoke. And I thank God every time I see someone doing something like this that I managed to quit. I knew for ages that I needed to stop but it took me years of attempts to get to where I am today, not even able to remember the date that I stopped.
I remember one year when I was working at the law firm and I had quit for a whole year. I told this to one of the interpreters who I was working with and he said something to the effect of “oh that means you can have one and you won’t be addicted”. I listened to him and not to my conscience, alas. As the Lord planted his seeds on that day they fell on rocky ground, or perhaps that crop that had grown so patiently suddenly wilted and died. It was many months before I stopped again.
As I saw the man smoking out of the window this morning I couldn’t help but smile at him, chuckling to myself that I was glad that I’m free of that vice. I was thinking to myself that he must know that it is bad and unhealthy to smoke, but still he persists. And as I turned away God spoke to me, asking me to think about what habits I keep up even though I know that they’re wrong.
And I realised again that when we feel justified, we don’t see our sin as something bad. The man leaning out of the window probably felt affronted that he wasn’t allowed to smoke in the house and he damned well wasn’t going to be prevented from at least having a fag out of the window. Why shouldn’t he have a cigarette if that’s what he likes? So what if it kills and hurts so many thousands of people every year. Every day people die from having smoked. But not him. So what is it in my life that I justify even though if were to step outside of my life and see me from another side, I would know my behaviour to be wrong?
It is hard to step outside of your life and do this, but this is one of the opportunities that God gives us when we pray. We can stop and listen for his guidance and we can remember to be open to him to show us meaning in our everyday lives.
Late last year I had a specific leading to give up sweet foods. Towards the end of November I stopped eating cake, biscuits, chocolate, desserts and sweets. I also stopped drinking sodas. I still allowed myself crisps and muesli bars.
I lasted until early April, when I went to Kenya. For some reason I had convinced myself that it wouldn’t be possible to get by without eating sweet foods and drinking sodas. So I allowed myself a couple of weeks off from my diet. And when I came home, I realized two months later that I hadn’t stopped.
I lost weight in Kenya but that wasn’t because of the sodas, cakes and biscuits. Much of the food I ate at the world conference of Friends went right through me. I came home weighing about half a stone less than when I went. People were commenting positively on my figure too.
Well, since I got back I’ve certainly piled the weight back on. Only recently, in the last couple of weeks have I realized how far away I am from where I was before I went to Kenya. Even today, with family visiting, we went out to the park after lunch. When we stopped in the cafe I ordered a double scoop of ice cream for myself. Sure, I can have the occasional treat, but it wasn’t even that great. And as I sat here thinking of the man having his cigarette out of the window I wondered if God is willing me to get back to a healthier lifestyle, enjoying his fruits that grow all over the planet.
At first it will feel hard but I remember how, when I was a smoker, I always used to see cigarettes behind the counter in certain shops I went to but now I hardly notice them. I can do the same with the sweet foods that are my downfall. And then I’ll be in better shape for the tasks that God calls me to do.
Thought for the day: What has God shown you to be a vice that you had justified to yourself? What is there in your life today that God may be asking you to cast aside?