Pipe Smoking and Godly Masculinity

A few weeks back I was out of state for a friend’s wedding. The first evening there, after having a beer with the other groomsmen at a burger joint (I arrived after the kitchen had closed, and was not able to get a burger), I excused myself and went outside. I had just lit my pipe when the groom walked out. “They are all in there talking about how manly you are.” “Why, what did I do?” “They saw the pipe sticking out of your pocket when you left.”

That was the first of many comments and questions my evening ritual engendered over that weekend. I was told in nostalgic voices of fathers, uncles, and grandfathers that had smoked pipes. I was asked about everything from why I pack the pipe the way I do to how long a bowl of tobacco lasts. And, after the weekend was over, I was asked to recommend a pipe and tobacco by one of the other groomsmen.

One of the more interesting such discussions was on how cigarette smoking perfectly encapsulates one aspect of the current culture, and how pipe smoking stands as its opposite. That aspect, of course, is instant gratification–what I often refer to as “microwave culture.” For the cigarette smoker, the nicotine “hit” is imperative–even the few seconds required to roll his own cigarette is too much to ask of him. The pipe smoker, on the other hand, is not concerned with nicotine, but rather with ritual. The process of packing the bowl, the false light, re-tamping, the second light, is just as important as the actual smoke. The cigarette smoker drags long and hard, drawing as much smoke into his lungs as possible in as short a time as possible. A pipe, on the other hand, will punish you if you try to smoke it in such a manner (and of course, you never inhale pipe smoke). If you draw too hard and too often on a pipe, you will get a stinging sensation on your tongue. If that doesn’t remind you to slow down, it will be followed shortly by a foul taste from the tobacco burning too hot. You will have to dump out the bowl and start all over again from the beginning.

I don’t know if it is just because of the relative rarity of seeing a pipe these days, or because of the memories it stirs of grandfathers and the like, but that pipe seems to draw people in and start conversations wherever I am. Just as the pipe sparks the interest of those nearby, so you and I ought to strike their interest (even without our pipes). Godly masculinity has become rare, just as pipe-smoking has. Just as my pipe evokes memories of fathers and grandfathers, so too ought Godly masculinity evoke memories of Godly men of the past. And just as my pipe sparks conversation and curious questionings, so too ought the way you and I live our daily lives. We ought to be at least as good as our pipes at capturing the imagination of those around us, at engendering questions and sparking conversations, at stirring the memories of those who have forgotten what Godly masculinity looks like.

And once we have drawn them to us, we must point them to the One who draws them through us.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. —John 12:32 (NASB)

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