Growing up as a rather well-behaved child in a morally astute household, it never occurred to me that something such as smoking could be anything but sinful. It wasn’t until college that I reconsidered the morals of smoking and other such taboo activities, in light of my broadening conversations into the whys of what people do, why things are right or wrong, and what purposeful living looks like.
It had never been a point of addictive temptation for me, and I don’t recall having a desire to smoke cigarettes. But something about cigars seemed so much more appealing, especially when a few circles of friends invited me to bonfires during which they casually enjoyed flavored cigars or tobacco pipes. The tobacco smelled sweet, and the guys looked pretty cool, too.
Let’s be honest; smoking frequently is foolish stewardship for one’s body, especially if smoke is inhaled. There’s no argument around the health damages of smoking frequently. Addiction is a prison from which God frees His people, so smoking and other such activities should be done with discernment or avoided if need be. Personal freedoms and conscience issues versus black-and-white sin issues are a huge discussion. Galatians 5 and other areas of Scripture address how those who follow Jesus should orient their lives in light of “taboo” activities.
After I altered my understanding of personal conscience issues like smoking, I didn’t sense any restriction to keep me from trying it, so I did.
My First Time
The first time I smoked a cigar, one of my best friends, Nate Ray, invited me to take a walk with him on a cool autumn night. Minnesota’s trees had forsaken their leaves, which rustled aimlessly in the calm, suburban streets. I asked Nate to teach me how to smoke. He handed me a peach-flavored Swisher Sweets cigar and a lighter.
It was a lot like sucking soda through a straw, only with the sound and glow of crackling embers. I had to borrow the lighter a couple times to re-light my cigar between coughs. As we walked around the quiet neighborhood, we talked about growing up, how college was going, and what God was like.
Smoking is Connecting
In my experience, there are few things that fit so well with deep, personal conversations as cigars. Maybe it’s because of the camaraderie. Maybe it’s because of the relaxing nature of sitting around a campfire for hours. Or the rich friendship of people with whom one smokes.
My friend Jeremiah Mitchell wrote a series about Unlikely Teachers of Spirituality, including smoking as a way to connect with God in prayer, as well as connect with other smokers in conversation about Jesus. I like that he recognizes a holistic, meaningful life in submission to God can include good tobacco.
I can remember dozens of late nights, smoking cigars and asking grandiose questions of spiritual and existential nature. Friendships were forged and galvanized. We yearned for the realization of our futures and career paths and families. And some of those nights, Jesus spoke joy and humour and hope and blessing to my soul. My best friends, honest thoughts, God and my cigar.
What are your favorite memories including a cigar and meaningful relationships?