I felt as though Monday would never end. I was running all over town, doing some errands, and I just felt as if I could not stand still as I tried to get to places before they closed, or before Claire came home form her first day of school. Colonial Road played an important role, I was never really off of it. Since we live where it presently ends, it was convenient. I’m at a point, having lived in Harrisburg off and on for about 25 years, where I think I can close my eyes and make it through town. I will never do that.. but still. There are times when I space out on Colonial Road and am at a red-light, fully stopped, and wonder how I got there.
Not Monday, however. Not at this moment, and I was glad I didn’t blink. As I went through the winding bit around the gully, there he was: a guy running with a cigarette in his mouth. I saw it first and though, “No.” So I kept looking. He was running towards me, and I almost felt like we were watching each other, I know his eyes were on mine. It was unmistakable.. he had a cigarette in dangling from his lips. A bit weirder… I don’t think it was lit. Actually, I don’t know if that makes it weirder than the primary fact that he was running with a cigarette in his mouth.
What would make anyone do this? It was about 2 in the afternoon and I remember thinking, at first, this guy is running at one of the hottest points in the day. And then I realized how inconsequential this was in light of the fact that this guy was running with a cigarette in his mouth. Again, why would anyone do this? Maybe he wanted to get to his “buzz” faster, so he figured if he was engaged in aerobic exercise that would do it. Or maybe he hasn’t told his wife that he hadn’t really quit yet and this was the only way he could do it. Or maybe, he was just that into smoking that he couldn’t imagine any part of his day without the cigarette. But, then, it really didn’t look lit. There wasn’t that unmistakable cherry at the end, and it looked pretty complete, unless he was either just about to light it or had just and it had gone out by his movement.
The absurdity of the whole picture is what stays with me. He was obviously serious about running; he had all the kit, including those men’s running shorts that are just that high. And he is obviously serious about smoking, willing to take do it while he ran. This could either be part of a Simon Pegg comedy, or a satirist take on exercise.
It is no more absurd, though, than any of the activities I run head long into while I pursue Christ. I love how Francis Chan puts it, borrowing from Scheaffer, that we cannot pursue both God and the things that are not honoring to Him. Which makes the call the cut off those things that hold us back (a hand, a foot, etc) all the more seriously. I cannot love my wife while having a secret lover and family. Not even a public one can explain how much I love my wife if I’m going to other wells to be satisfied. No, any attempt towards holiness must take seriously the call of Christ on our lives to follow him to the cross. There we do not just see the majesty of His love for us, but also the horror of our sin, and just how separate our sin is from the goodness of God.
In order to follow Him, I must die. And if dead, then free from the things of this world that keep me from Him. In his death, I am made free to follow and see sin for the folly that it is: running with a cigarette in my mouth.