Earthen vessel

Vessel

You lift me up

in the valley of despair

above shadowy sorrows

downcast discouragement

ground-level grief.

You flatten my mountains

of pharisaical pride

arrogant accomplishment

puffed-up knowledge.

You level my rough spots:

habitual temptations

chronic conflicts

persistent flaws.

Your glory shines forth

through all the cracks

in this earthen vessel.

Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed
and all people will see it together.
Isaiah 40:4-5a NIV

My thought-life battle, Part 1

Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT

This summer we bought a new vehicle equipped with satellite radio. When I started listening to 90’s on 9, an old world opened up. A song took me back to the eighth-grade dance floor or to an Alabama beachfront on summer vacation. One song, “Hook” by Blues Traveler, took me to a place I never recognized back then. The refrain says: “The heart brings you back/I ain’t tellin’ you no lies/The heart brings you back/On that you can rely.” My thought-life battle often involves too much focus on the past, and that’s the first part I will address in this post.

A few years ago, I was suddenly distracted with thoughts about a failed relationship which I hadn’t considered in a long time. As I wrote out the memories, God revealed pain I had never processed. I thought that getting the story out on paper would be a quick fix. But while God healed deep wounds, Satan pounced on old weaknesses. The spiritual battle had just begun.

I tried everything to stop thinking about this person. I shared the story with a few trusted Christian friends and asked them to pray for me. I stopped re-reading what I had written about the relationship. I no longer looked at photos or listened to music that reminded me of that time, and I stopped looking for information about this person online. I prayed honest, gritty prayers. Sometimes I begged God to remove the temptation; sometimes I confessed I didn’t want God to take it away because I would lose its cheap comfort. I felt miserable and defeated because the thoughts kept invading my mind, no matter what defense I used.

Last year when my grandpa died, my church mailed me booklets on grief. Certainly I grieved Grandpa’s passing, but every time I read the booklets, my thoughts unwillingly returned to that person from my past. Finally I realized my heart was bringing me back. I had never grieved the loss. I wrote one final journal entry about the relationship. Then I curled up in a fetal position in my bed and wept, feeling my Father God wrap his arms around me as I turned all the sadness and pain over to him. After three years, the battle finally turned in my favor.

I still occasionally struggle with stray thoughts about this person. I now recognize loneliness and disappointment as my triggers. When a tempting thought enters my mind, I take the thought captive by telling myself: “You don’t want that poor substitute. You are crying out for the perfect love only God can give.” This area of my past may be a particular weakness for a long time to come, but it’s no longer Satan’s stronghold.

How do you handle tempting thoughts about your past?