A few weeks after I quit smoking, my brother called. We were talking, and he asked how I was doing post-cigarettes. I told him that it was rough and that I really didn’t enjoy anything—I was living a “gray” life. I realized that I sounded really harsh and bitter (because, you know, I WAS), and I thought, “Okay, let’s lighten up a bit.” So I “jokingly” said, “I do think that it will get better, but hey, if it doesn’t? If I’m still miserable six months from now, I’m going back to smoking!”
I had forgotten about that until the Holy Spirit brought it back to my mind this past weekend. Why this weekend? Well, I finally flipped my lid and fell apart on God. I told Him that I couldn’t live in the nothingness any more. The occasional moments where I felt His presence weren’t enough to offset the daily grind of gray. I told Him that He hadn’t come through for me, that He wasn’t there and it was killing me. And if I don’t even have Him, then there’s no reason to continue living like this. After an hour of telling God the truth that was in my heart, I cried my way to a gas station, bought cigarettes, cried my way home again and lit up.
And nothing happened. No rush of happy delight. No sense of well-being. Not even a good buzz to welcome me back. There wasn’t an ounce of pleasure to be had, and I was astonished to my core. Maybe you’re thinking, “Good, so you threw away the rest of the pack and were done!” Nope, sorry. I smoked the rest of the pack because I just couldn’t believe that everything that I’d remembered so vividly was completely wrong. But it was! I smoked every cigarette in that pack over the course of two days and instead of it being wonderful, I was sick as a dog. I felt absolutely horrible!
My idol was exposed for the lie it always was. The so-called happiness was a delusion. I had tied myself to a ghost, and for six months, I was imprisoned by my “humorous” proclamation. I basically told God what I expected of Him – I demanded that He replace the role of cigarettes in my life, as I wanted. But God doesn’t take orders from me. I don’t get to tell Him how to love me. What I DO have the power to wield is my choice. I BELIEVED that without cigarettes, my life was colorless and bland. And in my proclamation, I chose – and declared my will out loud – to go back to smoking in six months if God didn’t do what I wanted Him to do. God DOES NOT violate our free will, but He also has a choice and a Will, and He bows to no man’s demand. He’s God! I effectively threw up a wall to God and told Him that He couldn’t move in that area of my life.
I told the truth when I told God that He wasn’t there and that He hadn’t come through for me. It just wasn’t the whole truth. The whole truth is that my choice, exercised in proclamation, was to tell God that it was my way or no way. And that’s the exact same as telling Him “no.” So the overwhelming nothingness of the past six months was the direct result of a vow that I made “in jest.” Ouch.
For by your words you will be acquitted,
and by your words you will be condemned.
Matthew 12:37 HCSB
This was an awful lot to see, and I’m still digesting everything, but needless to say, I am horrified by the power of one careless, bitter, “humorous” comment. I’m like a toddler with a loaded gun! And there’s only one solution: I just need all of Him and none of me, and mounds of grace to get there.
When I told Martha about all of this (confession is pretty important when you jump into sin with both feet), she said that I’d been fasting from cigarettes for six months and now I could really quit. And that’s absolutely right. I really hadn’t left my little god because I was bound by my proclamation to return. Having visited the true death of nothingness in my old flame, it is no longer difficult to say, “It’s over for good, and it’s not me – it’s most definitely you.”
So that’s my story of the danger in humorous comments that are really proclamations. I can’t know all the places that I’ve anchored myself to death, so it’s most fortunate that I have a Father who sees and knows everything. I’m asking Him to show me where I’ve cursed myself and others, and I’m trusting that He will, in His perfect time.
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.
Psalm 118:17 NIV