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July 24, 2013

a small no now

There is a rosy-cheeked, bright-eyed man on the sofa. He's eating chicken and drinking vodka and talking about Manhattan. He hasn't been there long; he arrived in the late evening. And he arrived with gifts: expensive perfumes and large bottles of premium alcohol.

When he's not listening, my friend tells me that he is the sole heir of his parents' successful international business. But he doesn't seem uppity; he converses easily, offers drinks...and stays even later into the night.

More information shared behind closed doors: he has known his share of women. He was thrice engaged and is doubly divorced. But tonight, he's visiting a solo female family friend, one who had a little history with him, many years ago. He says one of the perfumes is from his father. She says his sister was supposed to come with him, but cancelled last minute. And the clock turns to mark midnight, then one o'clock, then two o'clock, and the story is that his friends are coming to pick him up. I think he knows the game fairly well. Everyone has slept. There are only two left awake. My friend has a choice to make.

I remember the moment so clearly. It was me and the grass and my God. I was sitting on a green knoll, reading and praying. Other than a man playing basketball on a faraway court, the park was virtually empty.

After half an hour on the court, the athlete ambled in my direction. He's exiting the park on this side, I thought. But instead, he kept coming toward me. Sat on the knoll, ball at his side. Struck up a conversation, as if it was the most natural thing in the world: two young strangers shooting the breeze on grassy hill. The sun was shining, birds were chirping, and he was not godly, but he was affable.

We talked for five or ten minutes. And in those minutes, I saw my frailty. So I went home, promptly, by myself. That day taught me that I—the church kid, the "good" kid, the "spiritual" kid, the Sunday school teacheram fragile. That I can't sit on ledges and not risk falling off of them. I need to keep my distance. It is only wise.

That day taught me that small, right decisions now can stop big, wrong decisions later.

Oh, but the flesh encourages us to toy.

To keep the phone number.
To reply to that text.
To accept the friend request.

To stop being old-fashioned.
To loosen up a little.
To keep the door open a crack.

But the way of the flesh is death.
Broad is the way that leads to destruction.
And he who sins is a slave to sin.

It's hard to identify death, destruction and slavery when they wear a guise. When spiritual death looks like a band we really like (with songs that feed our flesh), a movie everyone's watching (with content that hurts the soul), or a novel that captures your fancy (but takes your mind to bad places).  When death looks like expensive perfume or a genuine connection on a grassy hill. There is a way which seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.

The fruit that was "good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable" brought death. How could Eve have known? The only way to know was to listen to her Creator. Without His input, we don't know which is the forbidden, death-bringing fruit, and which is plucked from the tree of life. We need insight from His eternal vantage point. That's why we train. That's why we press on to know His mind and his person, as revealed in His Word.

It's morning and the common room is adorned with half-full cups. Untouched table settings. A plate of chicken that tasted good last night. The patio doors are closed and the muggy space smells like yesterday. But does it smell like regret, like death? Not if we learn to say a small "no" now.

"The mind governed by the flesh is death, 
but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace."


  1. Thanks for the reminder to be on guard by keeping our connection with the Father open. Reminds me of the song by Casting Crowns, "Slow Fade". Falling doesn't come all of the sudden, it's the small steps that lead to more small steps in the wrong direction. It's nice to be noticed and if we let that lead, then we will go down paths that will hurt us and others in the end. Keep close to the Father and the family He gives us and we will see that those paths are not good for us either in the short or long run.

  2. Hey Kendra, I thought of that song when I was writing this, too. We always think life is about the big, monumental decisions but those decisions are just made up of 1000 small decisions in that direction. So, we have to seek Him always, daily, often!