St. James’ Lenten Series

2010

Several years ago I was asked to give a lesson on changing behavior. The text we were using mentioned the Seven Deadly Sins. Curiosity sent me to the dictionary and in an old Funk and Wagnall’s I found the following definition. “Sin—any character defect that impedes spiritual growth.”

The absence of guilt, admonishment or threat in the definition impressed me, reminding me that fear, guilt and my own willpower never changed me one whit. How often had I given up smoking for Lent only to have the habit creep or rush back as soon Easter came?

Prayer helped during Lent as I counted down each day to Easter. So I started an experiment. First, I had to accept that I had the character defect. I didn’t smoke because someone or some circumstance outside of myself made me do it. I had a lust for nicotine!

Each morning I asked God to help me that day to remember to seek His help when I wanted a cigarette. At night I said “Thank you God” and made a little list of things I accomplished that day with the time I saved not smoking, or things I enjoyed more, like the taste of food and smell of flowers.

Progress wasn’t instantaneous and the process was long, but it still works so long as I take responsibility, ask God’s help and stay mindful daily of the task at hand. It is amazing how much the sunlight of the Holy Spirit gets through when I am not standing in my own way, or obscuring it with smoke.

2011

“You. Snake. It’s me, Eve. You just lie there with your head on a rock, still sleepy from winter. Don’t you know I could bruise your head with a stone in your present condition? But I won’t. You’d be surprised to know that I’m grateful to you. If it hadn’t been for you I would never have been able to figure out good from evil and then, when I was tempted I wouldn’t have any frame of reference? Sure, I’ve suffered some consequences and one of them is that Adam and I are still having that argument about who did what when and whose fault it is. We don’t seem to be able to break the habit. That’s the bad news. The good news is I have my kids. Without knowing good and evil, I wouldn’t have known pain—or fabulous joy. I had to learn everything in life is a choice and you better have a standard to measure against. Choices have results, too. But you learned that, didn’t you? You’ve been mute ever since we had that little chat in the garden. God is just, isn’t he? Too bad for you. Oh, you just lie there and look at me with those beady eyes. I know you’re just waiting to take aim at my heel again, but I’m watching you, too, buddy. ”