Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Big Reveal and Public Confession

All right, this is a hard one. Almost more difficult than talking about PTSD in the last post. Understand that while the home I grew up in was by no means oppressive there were certain social mores to which one was expected to live up to. These tended to come more from the world around me and less from my parents, but the one tended to affect the other.

You are a Southern Baptist pastor’s son…there are expectations.

I carried these expectations with me through life. Even if no one had them for me anymore, they remained attached. As an adult entering ministry I continued to impose them on myself even though I got the feeling my congregation didn’t much care as long as I did my duties and stayed faithful to God.

You see when I was in the Navy I gave most of the “forbidden” things a try. I played some blackjack (not my thing) drank some alcohol (a little bit goes a long way) and at one point had a plan for how I was going to go to Amsterdam and sample marijuana when I left the service (decided that never trying drugs was an acceptable choice). I was thrilled to learn that I did not have addictive tendencies for these things and could leave them behind me as easily as I partook.

Then on a trip to London I decided to try something new. I walked into a shop on Oxford street.

“May I help you sir?”

“You know I think I’d like to own a pipe.”

“Are you a smoker?”

“Nope, not at all.”

“Then why do you want a pipe?”

“I don’t know. Just curious. Seems...British.”

The man came around the counter and reached into a basket and handed me a simple piece of brier. Straight and smooth. A shape I would later come to understand as a classic billiard.

“This is a nice simple straight pipe, cheap too. If you decide to smoke it you should get a good idea of whether or not it’s for you.”

He gave me a sample of some mild tobacco and some written instructions for packing and smoking and sent me on my way. Thus began a hobby that has stayed with me in some form even to the present.

Yes my friends, this is my confession: I am a pipe smoker.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising. I mean my profile pic on the blog is me on the beach in Jacksonville smoking the very pipe I mentioned in this story.

I’m not going to get into a huge defense of the hobby except to say that it is just that: a hobby, not a habit. A heavy smoking week for me is three bowls of tobacco and I once decided to take a week off of smoking and didn’t light a pipe again for three years.

I might also mention the lack of added chemicals in pipe tobacco, the fact that pipe smokers do not inhale into their lungs and a myriad of other arguments we in the pipe community make to try to ease the current stigma of tobacco usage and distance ourselves from cigarettes.

We might recall that such modern heroes of the faith as C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and Charles Spurgeon were smokers. Alternatively, perhaps we could devise an argument akin to those who insist that wine in the Bible was grape juice that C.S. Lewis was just hanging onto a bubble pipe while drinking his root beer in a local church owned restaurant…

Anyway, I know tobacco is controversial. And that this is a very “un-baptist” hobby to enjoy. But if feels good to get it out there so I can now publicly go smoke privately in my back yard...if I feel like it…in a day or two.

I leave you with this: "A pipe gives a wise man time to think and a fool something to stick in his mouth." - C.S. Lewis

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