I was a pack and a half to 2 pack a day smoker in my 20s and 30s. With gusts up to 3 packs if I had a desk job and coffee to go with my addiction!

I knew it was unhealthy and expensive. I knew the Lord wanted me to quit! I even thought *I* wanted me to quit. I threw away many a half smoked cigarette or ¾ full pack resolving never to smoke again! And sheepishly buy another pack just an hour later …

Each time the Lord brought it up I felt worse about myself. Like I needed another thing to remind me how far short of the mark my best efforts fell and what a failure I was!

One day the Spirit gently spoke to me while I was sitting quietly. Just His presence brought conviction … not condemnation but conviction. And I knew He was going to ask me, yet again, to quit smoking. Sure enough He did.

I wrestled, for the umpteenth time, with the idea. This time, however, a horrible truth dawned on me. I didn’t really want to quit. I enjoyed my routine and many aspects of my addiction.

But how to tell Him that?

I began to tear up as my conviction grew stronger. The longer I delayed answering Him the tighter my chest got. Until I finally choked out the words, “But God, I don’t want to quit!”

There! I’d said it! Now I just have to wait a few moments for the lightning bolt …

It would be difficult to overstate my stunned surprise when His still, small voice said – with an audible smile – “Ahhh, now we’re getting somewhere! I know you don’t want to, son … But will you quit anyway? For Me?”

It wasn’t “Quit because you’re a loser! Because you’re unusable and unlovable until you do!” It was, “ I love you and I’m asking you to quit, for Me! Will you do this thing you may not want to do? Just because I’m asking you to? Will you do it for Me?” I considered this new understanding of His request for a few moments. Then, I nodded tearfully and said, “Yes, Lord … I will.”

In a moment, a decades long habit was gone. August 30, 1992.

But, while I heard a valuable teaching that day, I didn’t learn the lesson or how critical that failure would be over the decades. Until yesterday …

The crises and sin that would ultimately destroy my marriage were still distant and unimaginable!

Across the years, the mother of my children would ask me, again and again, to do or be different than I was. To spend time with her and the children. To be more tender or gentle with her. To *always* make her feel safe instead of almost always …

All I ever heard in her words was condemnation. That I was failing as a man. That I was the problem. That I needed to change and she knew, better than me, the best path for me to take. That sort of self deception and self destruction has a very predictable end. Quit smoking, Ken …

Fast forward, almost exactly 30 years to yesterday when, out of nowhere the other shoe dropped. Of all things, while I mindlessly watched TV.

A scripted actor delivered a line for no other reason than to employ a talent, for pay and entertainment. Her job allowed her the illusion of sincerity while in reality she was simply pretending. Pretending at love and faking emotion, perhaps even saying things she didn’t believe … she delivered a line that crashed into me!

Speaking to a “love interest” who offered excuses why he couldn’t do what she asked of him she simply said, “I know … but will you do it anyway, for me?” The very thing the Lord Himself had asked of me years ago.

The Spirit gently said to me, “That’s what she was really asking of you, Ken, all those times … same as Me with the smoking. It was never about how bad you were! It was always about “Will you love me more than you love you?”

I understood in a moment that she wasn’t, as I had accused her in my heart, beating me up or throwing my sin in my face. She was speaking to the man of God she knew was in there somewhere – a man she could see even if I couldn’t, and telling him how to love her. She was speaking to the one who was supposed to love her like Jesus loves her and asking me to give myself up for her. She was showing me how to walk as a godly man and husband. Giving me an opportunity to be who I was destined to be.

Not as an end in itself so I could pridefully say I had done something good. But as a laying down of my life for her to keep the promise I freely made years before …

If she was giving me any order, it was this … “Love me like Jesus loves me! Like you promised to love me! Not because you’re failing at it. Not because you’re a bad husband! But because right now in my weakness it’s what I need from you and I will fail, we will fail, if you don’t!”

I didn’t. And, eventually, she and we did …

I missed the cues and misread the clues. She was pointing at a dragon for me to slay. The very purpose that beats in the hearts of most of the men I know, including mine. But in my brokenness, all I heard was the accusation that I was the dragon and I would never be enough.

I chose the narrative I told myself in the quiet of my mind and heart. It was mine to love her into the woman of my dreams to be adored or wither her into the shrew of my worst nightmares. I chose to see accusation and condemnation where there was only love, trust, faith and hope.

It took years. But I eventually “convinced” her I was not worthy of such things from her. When she told me she no longer felt them for me, for years afterwards, I was convinced she was wrong. Right up until yesterday afternoon.

Today, some hard work in my heart work, begins … And yes, I’ve forgiven myself. I know who I am now. So this is not a “Woe is me!” But it is a new revelation of the man I was. And a renewed challenge to leave him behind as I continue my transformation.

Prayers are appreciated as I begin learning another lesson, following that same whisper in my heart, “I know … but will you do it for Me.”

For the display of His splendor ~