I smoked my first cigarette when I was eight years old. David and I kyped one of his Mom’s Tareytons and headed for the woods out behind our house. Up to this point we had really never smoked a real cigarette, we made do with the ferns that grew down in the woods, but we had to wait til summer to smoke them. In the Spring time those same ferns were green and five to six feet tall. They became spears for us to chuck at one another, in our game of war. In the Summer the ones that survived became reddish-brown and dry enough to catch fire.
At this time there was a whole gang of us growing up in the South end of Seattle. David was not only my neighbor, but my older second cousin. He was the second oldest child in his family, and I was the second oldest in mine – we naturally hit it off. He was the one who told me not to grab a hold of a certain branch when we were climbing the trees out in the woods. I was the one who thought “I am so much smaller and lighter – surely I could …”. And a moment later I was headed 17 feet straight down. Luckily, I landed on my face – no harm done, except for a chipped tooth, and the feeling of never going to be able to draw breath ever again.
Many wonderful childhood memories were made in those woods. Like the time we found a hornets nest in the tree that was the center axis of our rope swing. We called it “The Tarzan swing”, but that was just the name of it. So us kids thought if we could knock the nest out of the tree, then the hornets would build it again in a different tree, and we could swing without disturbing them. So a half dozen of us started throwing rocks at the nest. Miss, miss, miss, close but still a miss, miss, miss…Oh, oh, ow, ow …run, run. Hornets never give up. The least stung kid was the fastest kid and he got thirteen. Us slow pokes received many more. Our folks were none too pleased with the pulsating stingers quivering in our arms and other body parts . Like the mob that goes after the monster in Frankenstein – they banded together with saws and axes and cut our Tarzan swing down. Too bad too, because we were right – the hornets moved to Charlotte.
So David and I were off to the woods with his Mother’s weeds and a pack of matches. After taking my first drag the back of my throat felt like someone had made me drink battery acid. My lungs probably never even were touched by the smoke because it got gagged out of my throat before it ever got that far. I let David finish it off. Here is the kicker. David had a pack of sen-sen. David says to me.”Put one of these in your mouth and suck on it – your Mom will never know you’ve been smoking.” What a clever and resourceful cousin.
As I came bounding up the steps from the garage to the kitchen, (wrapped in my invisible cloak of sen-sen), I see my Mom and give her a pearly chipped tooth smile. She says to me, “I smell sen-sen, have you be drinking or smoking?” No answer was forth coming from my reeling little mind. It was thee perfect moment to take that picture of “guilty silence”. She patiently explained to me that she had used sen-sen in her youth, and for the very same reason. Sen-sen was a dead giveaway that you had been up to no good.
Just like there is no fooling Mom; there is no fooling God. He doesn’t need to smell the sen-sen to know when you have been out-of-bounds. And while we are His children – He expects better things from us than childish behavior.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sen-sen which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.