Tobacconist Theology, Part One: Ideal Conditions

"I don't care what anybody says. I know it's a matter of taste, but as far as I'm concerned, this is something that not even the Communists have been able to screw up. It's the best tobacco in the world. There's no comparison. This is not to put anybody else's down. I've looked into it. I've studied it. It's like Bordeaux grapes. You can try growing them in California, but they're not the same. They've taken Cuban seed to Jamaica and Honduras, but it just isn't the same."
-- radio pundit Rush Limbaugh on why the best tobacco comes from Cuba, in a Cigar Aficionado interview

This brings us to the conditions under which premium cigar tobacco is grown. Producing first-class cigar tobacco is an exacting process. Growing the stuff requires using the right seed and having the right weather and the right soil. And that's only the beginning. After harvest, the leaves have to be cured (dried), fermented and aged properly. The entire process can take up to two years. Tobacco grows fastest with at least 3 or 4 inches of rainfall a month during the growing season and temperatures around 80 F (27 C). However, those conditions are not conducive to optimum quality of cigar tobacco, which requires less rain and somewhat lower temperatures.

What's so special about Cuba? Tobacco is grown in many parts of the island, but the best comes from a small region called Vuelta Abajo tucked between the Sierra de los Órganos and the Golfo de Batabano in the westernmost province, Pinar del Río. This is the wettest region in Cuba, receiving about 60 to 80 inches of rainfall annually. Normally that much rain would be ruinous to tobacco crops, but in Cuba tobacco is grown during the dry season (November-April), when rainfall averages less than 2 inches a month. The unusual combination of moderately moist sandy loam soil, high relative humidity, and moderately low but dependable rainfall during the growing season, together with warm (but not excessively hot) temperatures and little wind, is what makes Vuelta Abajo special.

-- from a Straight Dope article on growing tobacco

Cuban cigars are cherished not (just) because of the "contraband coolness" factor, but because Cuba really does make the best cigars in the world. Experts and aficionados agree that there is something unique about the sun, soil, and atmosphere in Cuba -- not to mention the long history and cultural identity -- that make it the ideal place for premium tobacco.
For the appreciaters of fine cigars, it really does seem that God made Cuba especially for tobacco. If you want to plant, grow, harvest, cure, and roll the best stogie -- the ideal conditions for your task are in the land of Habana.

Ideal conditions.
God has designed us for such a place, as well. We have ideal conditions collectively, and we have ideal conditions individually.

And even apart from the general ideal conditions for individual disciples, I believe there are still more specific conditions for which God has designed each of us.
Most of us, I would guess, are living in less than ideal conditions. But God can still make it work. We can still grow.

The ideal conditions for each Christian person or family may include the right neighborhood, the right church, the right town, perhaps even the right country. Some of us are in the right places for us on all of the above. Some of us are still looking for the right place to grow. Some of us aren't growing at all (although sometimes that has nothing to do with the conditions we live in).
But for most of us, there are certain places God wants us, places God has designed for us, and us for the places.
And for all of us, there is a certain "place" God wants us to be to best grow as one of His children.

You can get really good non-Cuban cigars. Some good brands actually grow Cuban seed in the Dominican Republic or Nicauragua. And there are many cigars that have no organic connection to Cuba whatsoever. Stateside, good farmers in Connecticut, Maryland, and Tennessee grow quality tobacco.
But if you want the very best . . .

It's possible to grow in Christ in less than ideal conditions, in places we know is not the best place to be or not the place we were meant to be. And there's no need to get frantic or paranoid about it. But if we're growing in the wrong place, I suspect we'd be fairly restless or feel vaguely unfulfilled, knowing that if we want God's best . . .

The ideal place for growing in Christ has good soil, plenty of water, and lots of light.
Praise awaits you, O God, in Zion; to you our vows will be fulfilled.
O you who hear prayer, to you all men will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins, you forgave our transgressions.
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts!
We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.
You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness,
O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas,
who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength,
who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.

Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.

You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with showers and bless its crops.
You crown the year with your bounty, and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow; the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks and the valleys are mantled with grain; they shout for joy and sing.

-- Psalm 65 (NIV)

Photo at top is by Abigail Seymour.