To be completely honest, sometimes I want to go back to my old life. It just seems so glamorous at times, being able to go where I want, when I want, and do what I wanted to do. At times it even felt like I could get who I wanted. It seems much more exciting than my life now, a life that involves studying the bible, restricting internet access, and baring myself for accountability.
To better paint the picture, my life used to be filled with lots of porn. For almost as far back as I can remember, looking at naked women was all I wanted to do. Years passed involving strip clubs, hours of porn viewing, excessive drinking, and taking advantage of women. I was a deadbeat. I lacked any realistic goals and vision for my life and I would tell ridicules and elaborate lies to make myself look good and feel better. Looking back now, it’s obvious that I wasn’t headed anywhere but straight down, and headed there pretty quickly.
Fast forward a few years and I am a totally new person. I repented of my lifestyle and gave it all up. No more porn, no more lying, and no more alcohol. As a result, I have discovered who I really am. I have grown as a person, and have started developing my gifts and talents. I have goals for my life. I truly love my life, and it only looks like it can get better from here.
So why does the old life still appeal to me? If I really hate who I was, and love who I am, what is still trying to pull me back
I see a similar situation in the Old Testament, when the Israelites were being held as slaves in Egypt. Moses has been told by God to rescue the slaves and lead them to the promised land that flowed with milk and honey. The only problem with this process was that the Promised Land wasn’t exactly the next town over. To get there, the Israelites had to deal with many trials including battles, starvation, and tests from God. The journey took 40 years, and many times throughout the journey, the Israelites wanted to go return to Egypt and live as slaves rather than complete the journey to the Promised Land.
To them, being held as slaves, in bondage to someone else, seemed more worthwhile than where they were headed, even though they were free. In the end, they didn’t go back to Egypt, and they made it to the Promised Land, and became the Israel that God deeply loved throughout the Old Testament.
During the 40-year period in the desert, God was constantly trying to deal with the Israelites issues (for them it was trust), but they were too busy complaining about where they were at to see what God wanted to teach them in preparation for the Promised Land. I feel like I can relate to this; I’m constantly discouraged with where I am at presently rather that trying to focus on what God wants to teach me in each struggle.
So here I am wandering through my own personal “wilderness” after leaving the slavery of my old life, but I still haven’t reached the Promised Land. Yet just like the Israelites, I have moments when I want to just give up and go back to my old life, where everything was easier and I didn’t have do deal with the problems that come with trying to walk in freedom. So what can I do in these moments?
I can trust that the God who began this work in me will fulfill his promise to see it to completion (phil 1:6).
I can know that even though there are times that I have fallen, I have grown enough so that what ever I am doing is not the same as it used to be, because God now fills a lot of the voids I used to fill with porn.
I can try to look at my life from Gods perspective, and see how far he has brought me and how pleased he is with my progress. No matter how hard it is the process of freedom is I know that God loves me too much to let me continue being a slave. I can also remind myself how miserable I was in the old life, how I was truly in bondage to the things I was involved in and controlled by.
God tested the Israelites while they were in the wilderness, so I can try to examine my life and see what areas God is trying to change. Clark Gerhart says in his book “say goodbye to stubborn sin” that “you cannot go with (God) into freedom while you hold on to the flesh. You also cannot really go back….so if you cannot go forward and you cannot go back, there is only one thing you can do – wander in circles. God is giving you one opportunity after another to choose to submit the area of unsanctified flesh to Him until you are finally ready to give it up.”
So if God is truly testing me, and waiting on me to fully give up my flesh, then I want to give it up and move into the things that He has for me. I have learned that it’s hard to be wandering in the wilderness of my struggles, but I rest assured in knowing that God is good, and He will bring me into the promise land. He has already rescued me; I just have to follow him from here on out.
In reality, the old life wouldn’t be quite as glamorous as I remember (but that’s a topic for another blog). Paul says to “put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds, and to put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:22) God wouldn’t command us to do something if it wasn’t possible to accomplish!