Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? Because I knew you, I have been changed for good. (For Good- Schwartz)
Tis the season for change. In my area of the southeastern United States, summer weather is creeping up, many relationships are taking a sharp turn for better or worse, and summer is on the rise. The seasons changing always remind me of change in my own world. Every year around this time, I find myself reflecting on where I have been the year before, comparing the state of where I am in the present.
When I was younger, I related my past with fondness. I would long to go back to those carefree younger years, and yes, do some things better, but enjoy the innocence of my moments more. As I get older, I realize the looking back on my twenties doesn’t entice me to go back go that time in my life, but I can still get caught up in some of the worst memories of my sexual history. And in a odd way, I want to taste those bitter pills of growth again, to blindly think that somehow it will remind me of how far I’ve come.
As I grow in my own spiritual relationship with God, I must remind myself on a daily basis to praise Yahweh for ALL the sad, beautiful, ugly and struggling times in the past, present and future. These are what make my story unique. However, I must also pray and meditate on living presently, using my God-given Truths, and reclaiming my ground on the progress I make- and to press on further; not being retroactive for the sake of character analysis. This is especially hard when it comes to heart matters, being that the Spirit resides there as a result of loving Jesus and keeping his commandments. When you live to overcome your past exploits, and to love your God, you need MUCH more than just your memories to guide you. Your memories will lie. Your spiritual truths and God will not. You will change every day, along with your memories. Your God will be everlasting and steadfast, and your LOVE needs to be in alignment with your God.
When I catch a drift into the lies of sexual strongholds, I am reminded to reflect on the following to resist a setback: (1) people who love me (2) photographs and (3) John 14:15-17.
Steadfast accountability partners are a great source to help me remember more clearly, just how hard my struggles have been in the past, and how bad they really were for me. If I find I can’t access anyone in person for a conversation, I immediately go to my journal or email to look up encounters from a certain incident in my life. Oftentimes, we don’t realize how vital seemingly insignificant correspondence can be when we are struggling with a past stronghold. When reading the words of your younger self, or the commentary from a trusted friend, you can see more clearly how your mind plays out a situation much differently than it actually happened. Trust me, you need a reminder and not your own memory, to view yourself more accurately. How vulnerable were you? How much did you withdraw from your closest friends and family? Even if you are prone to introvertedness, how social were you? Did you participate in more/less community? These are the questions to begin asking.
If none of the above is available or if you wish to add to your findings, – get out your scrapbooks and albums online, and LOOK AT YOURSELF during your lowest points. If you can’t remember exactly how far back, try to remember the point where your journey reached a breaking point, then view the photos prior. How did your skin look? Were your eyes hollow? Did you look tired? Were you ever smiling? Of course, these factors can indicate other areas of struggle, but I find I notice a vast difference of appearance (and your colleagues and friends did too- they just didn’t tell you at the time, or, they told you and you were too deep into your struggle to notice) when I was battling an addictive sexual stronghold.
Furthermore, the last, and actually, the most important research and pondering for your heart, comes from Jesus: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you for ever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.” (John 14:15-17)
Jesus is telling us to LOVE Him and LOVE the truth. Love the truths that you have been given post-struggles from your past sexual strongholds, and embrace His Spirit because you are keeping His Words in your heart. You are living in the present with a fire inside to move onward and upward! You have no need to go backwards. You will persevere with truth.
A pastor from the Downtown Presbyterian Church in Nashville, TN says it most clearly in a recent devotional: “The Holy Spirit is not something we can consume. And that’s an important point in our consumer oriented/focused/driven society. Please understand that the Holy Spirit is real. [He] can pick us up. [He] can give us a boost. [He] can rock our foundations and shake our world. But [he] comes to us in the context of keeping Jesus’ commandments to love one another. The Holy Spirit comes to us in the context of loving Jesus.” (Ken Locke)
The Spirit’s stirrings help me rest and help me choose the Truth over the consuming aching of sexual stronghold. Embracing it makes me battle the urges to retreat into a past grip- each and every time they arise.
And I change and know I have been transformed- for GOOD.