Last year for Lent, I gave up smoking.
That might surprise some people who had no idea that I snuck cigarettes now and then. But I did. I have never been a “real” hardcore smoker. But on and off again, since high school, I’ve smoked a little here and there. I have gone for years at a time without tobacco tempting me and then taken up the habit again—and by habit, I mean doing it when I feel like it, which never amounted to much–as if no time had elapsed at all.
It’s quite nasty. It smells bad, tastes terrible, and poisons my lungs. But I still liked it. I still enjoyed the slight buzz I got each time I smoked, probably due to the fact that I never smoked regularly enough to stop getting the buzz. Smoking just sort of seems to go with certain things—The Waffle House (until recently when it became a non-smoking establishment), bars and concerts, front porches in the summer time. Against all reason, I still found smoking to be somewhat nostalgic and soothing. Maybe I watched too many old movies and fell in love too deeply with cigarette-in-hand Humphrey Bogart.
And yet, last fall as I began a journey to ruthlessly uproot strongholds in my life that obstructed my view of God, I noticed a nagging, lingering feeling each time I smoked—and it wasn’t just the nicotine. I have deliberately chosen the wrong path often enough to know when God’s tapping me on the shoulder and inviting me to turn the corner with Him and take a different route. It was that kind of feeling.
So, since my husband and I had recently started attending the Methodist church, I decided I might as well fling myself into the mix full-on and give up smoking for Lent. It wasn’t that much of a sacrifice since I was never a “real” smoker, but symbolically, it was a way for me to choose to yield one more thing to Christ and to set aside something non-essential in order to focus on the essentials.
Two weeks later, unexpectedly, I became pregnant with my daughter.
I’ve never been so thankful to be a Methodist!
This year, as I contemplated what to set aside for Lent, there wasn’t as much to choose from—at least, not at first glance. In the process of blowing away the chaff and keeping just the wheat in my life, I seem to have cleared away a considerable amount of spiritual clutter. Still, there are moments when I feel that nagging feeling. The “this may be permissible, but is it really beneficial?” feeling.
So this year, I’ll set aside one more thing nagging me. It may not be something glaring and screaming for repentance. But it’s in my way. And I want to see Him.