59 – The Cigar Story
Have you ever savored the flavor of a hand made premium cigar? There’s nothing quite like it.
For twenty five years I have occasionally enjoyed a good cigar, but never more than when travelling abroad where I can get my hands on authentic Cuban stogies.
As I’m sure you know, America has held an embargo against Cuba since 1962 when President Kennedy made it law. (As an aside, the night before signing the embargo the president sent Pierre Salinger on a mission to purchase 1,000 of his favorite Cuban cigars by H. Uppman. Salinger found 1,200, so Kennedy was set for a long embargo when he signed the papers the next day.)
To this day bringing any products manufactured in Cuba into the United States is strictly against the law, as is consuming them. Cigar lovers, though, have maintained an underground that keeps these peerless Cuban stogies showing up from time to time.
Recently, our family completed a trip to the Holy Land I’ve been dreaming about for over twenty years. It was a wonderful trip, and just before returning I decided to top it all off by purchasing four premium Cuban cigars. I put them in my backpack without mentioning them to my wife or two children.
Thus began a great spiritual battle. No sooner had I buckled my seat belt, than the Lord started dealing with me. A great moral test followed.
During the twenty seven hour trip home I scoured my Bible looking for some loophole that would allow me to keep the cigars. The Holy Spirit kept convicting me of my “little” sin. The more I tried to wiggle free, the tighter the noose around my conscience became.
I would open my Bible to where I had placed my bookmark, read a few pages, put the bookmark back, then rest for a moment with my eyes shut. A few minutes later I would open to the bookmark, read a few more pages, then put it back and rest some more. This went on for several hours.
After hours of reading the Bible looking for an answer that would make me less culpable, I finally broke and asked the Lord, “What would you have me do?”
Just then I remembered that my two children had given me the wine-colored, red leather bookmark as a gift a dozen years earlier. It had been in and out of my hand a dozen times already during the flight. I glanced down and read its message, “It is a wonderful heritage to have an honest father” Proverbs 20:7.
That is about as clearly as God had ever spoken to me. I confessed my sin but, of course, my mind rationalized, “You already have the cigars in your backpack.” It wasn’t difficult to go from there to the thought, “Okay, I’m going to declare the price of these cigars, but I’ll put it in with the leather cigar case I bought as a souvenir of the trip. Then, if they ask me any question whatsoever, not only will I tell the truth, I’ll volunteer information. I’ll offer them these four contraband cigars for confiscation. In fact, I’m going to put them in the very top of my backpack where they will be most conspicuous.” These things I did, but I still felt queasy.
We deplaned and started working our way through the customs maze. No one said a word. My guilt was so strong, I almost begged one of the customs workers to ask me a question. Finally, we had one last stop – the one where they randomly ask some people to open their luggage.
I led our family toward the final exit. About ten steps from the agent my wife looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Are you bringing any Cuban cigars into the country?”
My knees wobbled and my legs buckled. I couldn’t believe she did that! Ten steps from the agent!
We finished the gauntlet and gave the female agent our passports and customs form. She smiled sincerely, gave a quick glance, then waved us through. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to confess! I wanted to turn over these cigars to someone! But, no. She waved us through.
So I kept going, the cigars practically screaming to be noticed.
The next morning, now riddled with guilt like Swiss cheese, I went upstairs and called my two children together. “I’ve done something wrong,” I began, then proceeded to confess everything. I even shared the jolt I got when I saw the verse on the bookmark they gave me.
“Will you forgive me?” I asked. They both said of course they would, and it wasn’t that bad, so don’t worry about it.
“Well, what should I do with the cigars?” I asked.
“Dad, you shouldn’t have brought them into the country in the first place, but now that they’re here don’t worry about it,” they told me.
Guilt somewhat assuaged, I thanked them. But I was still troubled.
During the entire trip a scripture I memorized twenty-five years ago kept coming to mind, though hazily. The next morning, after a thankful night of good rest in my own bed, I rose early and turned to the passage,
“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?” (Luke 16:10-11).
I was starting to get the message! After my wife and kids stirred to life I called a family meeting, read the passage, and told them I had decided that I needed to destroy the cigars.
Let me be quick to point out that I’m not trying to tell anyone else what they should do. I’m only speaking for myself. To be completely honest, I have smuggled a few Cuban cigars into the country on three, maybe four, previous occasions. This particular day, though, God spoke to me in a crystal clear voice through his Word and Spirit. For me, destroying those delicious but contraband stogies was a test I could not afford to fail.
However, I have enough larceny left in my heart that I wanted to get some value in return.
So, I milked the story for all it was worth at the Bible Study I teach on Friday mornings, then cut the cigars up in front of the group. It got a good laugh, so not all was lost!
The lesson for me was simple: Scrupulous obedience.
I don’t know about you, but I have so many “big” things I’m dreaming about and working toward, I can’t afford to have any “little” thing disqualify me.
How about you? Are you holding back somewhere? Withhold no good thing from God, and He will withhold no good thing from you. The evidence of unwavering faith is scrupulous obedience.
1. What is one area of your life where the Lord may be calling you to scrupulous obedience?
Spend a few moments in prayer to the Lord asking Him to help you see yourself as you really are. Ask Him to reveal hidden areas of sin and to make you willing to forsake everything out of love and faith in Him.
Lord, help me to withhold nothing from you, so that I will not disqualify myself. Amen.
Business leader, author, and speaker, Patrick Morley helps men to think more deeply about their lives, to be reconciled with Christ, and to be equipped for a larger impact on the world.
© 1998. Patrick M. Morley. All rights reserved.