My parents smoked many cigarettes when the surgeon general wasn’t involved with warning labels.
“We were told it was only dangerous in that it would stunt a person’s growth,” my mom said.
Then the world should be full of short people.
Obviously, this was a myth that kept many citizens puffing away, all the while making their lungs turn black.
“Once we found out that it could cause more health issues, we quit.”
Well, sort of.
My dad traded the death sticks over to smoking a pipe. I remember seeing it hanging out of his mouth while he was sawing something in half, driving a nail into a board, or in the stands watching me play softball.
“I love the smell of that,” many of my friends would say.
While some were impressed by his habit, my mom was not. Usually, she summed it up in one word:
Part of the reason for her dislike of this was that he would leave pipes all over the house. The basement, outside, or anywhere he felt he was going to need to smoke, he would leave one for later. His dresser was always a mess with a few of them there.
I would often hear him say to her,
“Have you seen my pipe?”
“Which one? You have a million of them.”
He would start looking, unhappily wasting his time when he could be outside doing something else. She would leave for a few seconds, unable to deal with his mumbling during the rescue mission.
“Here. I found one,” she would say, handing him what he had been trying to find.
It took me a while to catch on, but I figured out that she would, in an attempt to keep the clutter down, move all of them into one central location that he wasn’t aware of.
While he would happily leave with it in his possession, thinking she was the best locator of missing items, she knew exactly where they were all along.
Their relationship had small, built-in devices like that, where she got her way without him realizing it.
“When we were first married, he wanted to go sit at a bar with his friends and leave me at home. He did this before we were together, but I wasn’t in favor of that once we got married, and I told him. He refused to listen to me. So one Friday night, I got dressed up and told him I was going out without him.”
I knew he had been extremely protective of her. He had never gotten over witnessing her dance with another guy after he had said no while they were dating. Having her about to leave him in her dust to go off to a shady place on a Friday night set him off into panic mode.
She had been raised in a small town, which made him consider her naive and unable to handle herself in the “real” world. He would always say to me,
“I met her right after she fell off the turnip truck.” Or, “She is a country bumpkin that just fell out of a wagon.”
Then he would laugh while she shook her head. He had no idea how much she actually used all that to her advantage. He believed she was not up to his speed while quietly she got him to do her bidding, believing that it was his own idea. So, who was the turnip?
Seeing her about to leave him brought on a meltdown.
“He would not let me leave. He stood in front of the door, refusing to move. I had made the whole thing up to see what he would do. I never told him I didn’t have plans, but he got so upset by it, he said he wouldn’t leave me sitting at home alone ever again.”
There was a reason why she had done this.
“His friends were wild and not married yet, so I didn’t want him out there acting like them and coming home drunk. I felt this would eventually ruin everything, so that’s why I did it. He would not listen to me, so I thought to myself..I will show you. It worked. He knew what men were like at bars back then, and he couldn’t bear the idea of me being on display. We came to an agreement that we would go places together to guard our marriage at the beginning.”
Her tactic was to get him to see her point of view without saying a word as she was about to walk out the door with no place to go.
She became a full-time mom when all the kids started showing up. This didn’t stop her from educating herself regarding the latest health problems and their causes.
Because I ended up being with her the most as the others grew up and moved out, I was often involved in her findings of what was considered cutting-edge information.
“It says here that steak can harm your arteries.”
She was like a sponge when she read the newspaper, learning as she had extra time with fewer children to deal with.
For some reason, I had no idea that she had discovered that smoking a pipe had been linked to lip, tongue, and cheek cancer. This bothered her so much that she demanded he quit. She couldn’t use her usual technique of getting him to see things her way with a bait and switch approach. He just needed to believe her on this one.
Now we know it to be accurate, but at the time, it wasn’t prevalent knowledge, so it could be easily dismissed as “it won’t ever happen to me.”
One night from work, I came home and parked my car in the garage.
He kept his vehicle outside and gave me his spot—another perk of being born last, way after everyone else.
While my siblings had to leave their cars in the driveway in the heat of summer or blizzards of winter, he moved out so I could move in. I had grandparents at that point.
On that particular night that I pulled in, I heard a loud crunching sound near my front wheel on the driver’s side. I immediately stopped, jumped out, and saw a plastic bag sticking out from my tire.
I backed up with more crunching.
I got out, picked up the bag, and saw that I had crushed his pipes. I had no idea where they had come from. These were on their way to the graveyard with no way to save them. The back and forth over them had murdered them.
I thought nothing of it. I didn’t do it on purpose, and I knew he had more somewhere. I parked and took the bag inside. It was summer with the air running at top speed, and the house was closed up, so she hadn’t heard me come home.
She was in the living room reading. She looked up and said,
“What do you have in your hand?”
I held up the bag.
“I think I ran over some of dad’s pipes.”
Her mouth popped open. I got worried for a minute, thinking she was mad at me. I knew that familiar look where her eyebrows met in the middle, and her eyes looked like they could kill.
“He told me he quit!”
Oh. So I wasn’t in trouble, then? But, there was another storm ready to blow up.
She flew by me, snatched the bag, and stomped out the door.
“John! Where are you?”
Just run! I wanted to send him a message telepathically.
She was taking this outside where the neighbors might hear? She was seeing red.
I walked over to the window and saw him trying to develop some sort of explanation. She was an infuriated country bumpkin.
I opened the window slightly to hear what stellar excuse he was going to give.
“How many more of these do you have?” She said, shaking the pieces in the bag.
I knew she was coming at him for a good reason, but I felt a little guilty, like I had just walked him to the executioner.
“That’s all I had left. I put them in the garage so I could still have some without you knowing.”
Cringe. Not good.
“This is it?”
“Yes. I had them hidden, and I must have left them out. When she pulled in, they fell under her tire.”
A coincidence? I don’t think so.
I watched her walk over to the garbage and throw them away.
“I promise that’s it. I don’t have anymore.”
She noticed that I felt responsible for their argument when she came back in.
“God used you, Chris. Don’t feel bad about that. It was supposed to happen.”
I didn’t fully get it.
He stuck to his word, even though it was difficult at times getting past the craving for it, but his marriage was higher up on the priority list. And in the end, her urgency to get him to stop freed him from suffering consequences that would have been terrible.
Sometimes you can sense the detrimental while the other person can’t.
That is how God works. Everything is seen from a viewpoint that we might not always understand. Throw in our free will, then we can ignore that still small voice and go on our way, thinking we know it all.
God will place people in your life to be seers. They may come in different shapes and styles, but they are there for your good, prompting you to come up higher and dodging around hazards you may not think are harmful because it’s a habit. Or you are just plain ignorant. Yes, I said it.
The Holy Spirit is described this way in John 16:13:
But when the Friend comes, the Spirit of the Truth, he will take you by the hand and guide you into all the truth there is. He won’t draw attention to himself, but will make sense out of what is about to happen. (Message)
If you aren’t making yourself available to hear God’s message to you, someone will be sent, motivated by heaven, to try to wake you up to what you need to know. This is not punishment or condemnation, but to illuminate something you are not seeing or paying attention to.
From my experience, I don’t walk away feeling dejected or scolded but instead empowered to deal with an issue that was dragging me down spiritually, like fear or worry. A person looking out for your highest well-being is often a messenger, and you might not understand that at first.
In Isaiah 55:9, there is a reason why we might not get it right away:
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than yours, and my thoughts than yours. (TLB)
Just like it was believed that smoking cigarettes would hinder a person’s height, not heeding what God is gently trying to tell you will slow down your walk to an elevated place, moving in the direction you are supposed to go. When we cling to what is familiar and not useful, refusing to embrace the truth and shutting the door, God will come through another way.
That is how much heaven wants you to achieve your life purpose and protect you from harm.
When you are blind, it is a promise that a helper will come to get your attention and give you the needed direction and vision.