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.
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 teacher—am 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."