Broken relationships. Infidelity. Deceit and distrust. Where do we go from here? Tired of being taken advantage of, tired of looking the other way or turning a blind eye, one partner finally decides to call the other’s bluff and confront a most serious fracture.
While the song itself describes a personal story, one that may be all too familiar, there is something in the overall arc that causes one to consider this from the perspective of Scripture and our relationship with God. Since Genesis 3:8, the story of God’s relationship partner has been one of repeated infidelity, pursuing other old flames, and being confronted with our sin, affairs with other gods, other priorities, straying from our commitment to the covenant to which God has remained steadfast. As the husband, God can smell the smoke on us, sees through our excuses, has discredited our dishonest alibis, and is finally questioning our commitment to this relationship that we repeatedly say has value and meaning to us.
“I want to believe you; I want to trust you, but…” God is more aware and perceptive of our attitudes and behaviors than we may want to acknowledge. We need to be mindful of the harmless conversations that can lead us astray, just like the Genesis account of the serpent in the garden. There was nothing explicitly wrong with the conversation until Adam and Eve went too far. How often are we tripped up by seemingly innocent forays into things about which we ought to know better to avoid? The lure is sometimes too much to resist. God wants to hold us close, but can’t ignore the smell of smoke about us that gives us away.
Curiously, the song is open-ended, and does not resolve the immediate circumstance or conversation. There is not a moment of repentance and subsequent reconciliation, no happy ending. We are left in the tension of the moment of truth. Like the unfaithful partner, when the Law finally convicts us, we are left to decide whether or not we wish to repent and stay (as God has stayed through our infidelity) or leave to pursue that old flame or greatest regret.
God loves us enough to not ignore our indiscretions, but to hold us accountable, reminding us of the intimate partnership to which we are to be committed as baptized people of faith. How can we still come back smelling of smoke?
Song: “I Smell Smoke”
Artist: Darden Smith
Album: Love Calling