You lift me up
in the valley of despair
above shadowy sorrows
You flatten my mountains
of pharisaical pride
You level my rough spots:
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
Some nights when I lie awake
with him snoring at my side
a familiar longing rises up:
Adore, cherish, pursue me again.
For a moment temptation lures me
with honeysuckle’s sweet fragrance.
I ache for a glimpse of my black-and-white past
when the boy sat as close as possible
just to draw near.
Then I projected annoyance
but inside I trembled at his unabashed admiration.
I turned him away.
After a weak pause
I refuse, knowing those memories will entwine
my heart for days, and his image will blossom
in my dream garden
unless I slash the wild vines.
Suddenly the Spirit whispers:
This is an idol, a false god, a poor substitute
for the love I lavish upon you.
If you ask, seek, and knock
I will overflow your earthen vessel.
As I divide the dark and light
with a switch
the sickly sweet scent dissipates
like smoke from a snuffed flame.
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?