Sometimes, in the divine drama of destiny, God’s providence takes weeks or months or years to prepare us for a life-changing event. So it was that for about two weeks past, like never before, on the way to work, on the way home, even on the way to prayer meeting, smoke had been in my face. When I got on the train, when I got off the train, when I got on the bus and when I got off, there it was, the acrid irritating scent of tobacco that clings to clothes and seems to surround the soul and follow you. Smelly smoke. You know, the kind of smoke that slithers snake-like through the atmosphere and like a boa constrictor wraps itself around your neck trying to choke the very life out of you! Oh for a breath of fresh air!

It was a clear violation of my personal space. This viper had no respect for the three foot rule. No! It was in my face, around my neck, in my mouth, a serpentine intrusion spewing it’s venom into my nostrils and polluting my very breath.

Oh, I tried to escape. Upwind, sideways, behind barriers - as best I could find them - at train stations and bus stops. Wherever I went, before I could board the train, after I got off, at the bus stop, no matter where I was, no matter how I might move to avoid it, the serpentine scent of tobacco would slither into my presence. Even at home when I would step out into the evening peace it was there; my neighbor was on her porch violating the purity and serenity of the sunset with the venom of the smoke viper. No matter how the wind blew somehow those strands of smoke found me. Why couldn’t she stay inside polluting her own place and leave the rest of the universe alone! Well, it wasn’t the entire universe. It was my universe because it was her smoke in my face. Of course, it was because of her children that she smoked outside; perfectly logical, a sign of a good conscientious mother, so I thought as I prayed.

 I prayed for her as I prayed for those who polluted the train and bus stops and wished the wind would blow the smoke away. There wasn’t much else I knew to do. I prayed for their souls. I prayed that God would somehow reach them. Sometimes I prayed that God would have one of them – the smokers – start a conversation with me. Not that I’m shy. I could and often did start conversations with just about anyone about nearly anything. But now the serpent had me avoiding people. The smoke was so repugnant, so disgusting I just wanted to avoid it and in avoiding it avoided people. Well, in trying to avoid it I avoided people because, as I said, wherever I went, however hard I tried to reposition myself and shield myself it was in my face, assaulting me, a salient invisible assailant in my personal space.

So I prayed and paced and spaced myself, as far away as I could get from that obstreperous scent, and the people now also offending – and at the same time just as much the property of God as I.

This saga, my unintended sojourn with smoke, continued in the weeks prior to our Week of Prayer at church. It was extraordinary, remarkable in the power and frequency that the offensive smoky serpent presented itself in my usually serene face. To be sure I had always hated smoke, but it was usually only occasionally that it was up close and personal, and then, most often easily avoided; a mere nuisance or inconvenience. Now it was frequent, fast and furious like that six foot plus water moccasin that pursued our Pastor’s canoe on a church outing past. It chased him right up onto the Paluxy shore where – save for a thin sliver of skin - it’s serpentine head was finally severed by an Elder more fleet of foot than I.

As I have said, sometimes in the Divine Drama of Destiny God’s Providence takes weeks, or months, or years to prepare us for a life-changing event. This time it was weeks. When we had the first presentations in our long awaited Week of Prayer we learned from Pastor Paul Coneff how to pray effectually with people who need healing power from God, healing for the hurts caused by sin and the lies of Satan that are the power behind temptations and addictions.

Now I had something special, new, powerful, out-of-the-ordinary to share and it wouldn’t be long before the opportunity to use what I had learned would come my way. My heart was filled with eager anticipation for the spiritual blessings yet to come as our Week of Prayer continued. Not only did I see new ways that I could bless others, but I had a vision of work, of changes, of healing in my own life that I needed God’s help with.

The week raced to Wednesday. Increasingly heavy responsibilities and stress at work caused the days and hours to fly. Now I was on the way to my midweek oasis of serenity at Prayer Meeting, relaxing on the bus. I had been highly blessed with the things I had learned on Monday and Tuesday evening and was looking forward to what God had prepared for us at church that evening. Then it happened.

The bus stopped the doors yawed wide like the jaws of some gigantic whale shark, as if to indiscriminately scoop up impatient pedestrians and whatever else might there be found entwined in their path and surrounding their souls. Instantly the repulsive noxious scent of the wicked weed preceded the next passenger. Why can’t people just exhale and take a fresh breath before getting on the bus!  It was as though that last odiferous lungful was somehow sacred, a thing to be cherished, savored slowly, and then exhaled softly like some sweet exquisite treasure so it could be enjoyed for one more millisecond and then graciously shared to bless all on board.

Our eyes met. He reeked. My eyes shot down to his half cupped hand hardly hiding the smelly wicked weed and then back up to his eyes again. I read guilt in the windows of his soul. It was painfully obvious; guilt, embarrassment, and also a haunting sense of helplessness. Clearly it wasn’t the first time he had felt looks like mine. My heart was touched. I prayed.

Because of the training I had just experienced I knew how to approach Jim in a redemptive new way with a fresh, powerful, and remarkably concise invitation to experience the fetterbreaking prayers of power we had experienced.

Only minutes remained before my stop. Again I prayed. I just had to say something or perhaps lose forever the chance to give the blessing that had been given to me. I could not allow my new friend to pass on toward eternity without sharing with him what had given such hope to my own heart. I could not!

“Would you like to have the power to quit smoking?” “YES!” “Well, I am on my way to Prayer Meeting at church and we have learned to pray in a way that gives the power to quit smoking. If you wish you can come with me now.” “I can’t. I have a previous engagement, but would you pray for me?” Now it was my turn to say YES!

Here was a friend made in minutes because I knew I had a hold on the Source of Power he needed and could with undeniably positive conviction offer him the solution to a problem he had been longing and probably praying for.

He was blessed. My heart was refreshed. We were both smiling in the conscious knowledge that we had both been blessed by God. It was indeed redemptive. That was a breath of fresh air. It was incomparably better than the powerless guilt that I had seen in his eyes but a few moments before. It was my stop and I was off.

Now I can hardly wait to see Jim again and pray with him.

I won’t much care if there is smoke on his breath.

 

                                                                                    Nick Schacht

                                                                                    June 3, 2012

 

To be continued… because, as I said, sometimes in the divine drama of destiny God’s Providence takes weeks, or months, or years to prepare us for a life-changing event, and, this is just the beginning.

 

PS   As I composed this I took two busses and a train home. There was not a hint of a whiff of the scent of smoke.

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