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.
After small-group Bible study
I can’t turn off the mental playback
and endless analysis
of every word I shared.
You went too far
you shouldn’t have said anything
you stupid girl.
“Stupid is a bad word, Mama,”
my little boy chastises from his car seat.
Oh–the inner voice crossed my lips
and now I hear its harshness.
“You’re right, bubba,” I say–
“Silly is better. Mama’s so silly.”
He promptly forgets
but as he naps
I ponder the frequency
and alarming volume
of that condemning voice.
Suddenly I hear myself
whisper leave me alone, leave me alone.
Is this spoken plea
a directive: “Get behind me, Satan!”
or a desperate separation
like the Counting Crows song:
“try to keep myself away from myself and me”?
Who is my worst enemy–the harsh inner judge
or The Great Accuser?
I turn to the scripture we studied
and Romans 8:1 shouts:
“There is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
God no longer condemns
my sins long reconciled
my embarrassments long elapsed
my griefs long buried.
When the dark voice snarls
Do you know who you are?
habitually I chant bad, stupid, worthless.
Now I ask God his opinion
and his words of life resound:
Overwhelmed with new joy
I get down on my knees
asking him to transform me
by the renewing of my mind.
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?