The dreams came again, haunting me and waking me up with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I felt violated, dirty and terribly condemned. How could anyone call themselves a follower of Jesus and have that kind of dream pollute their night? I thought of our beautiful innocent children lying asleep in the other rooms and fear grabbed a hold of me, making me cry out to God for answers, asking Him if there were open doors in my life for Satan to fill my mind with this filth. The battle for my mind had been raging in a whole new way the last couple months. I've noticed that whenever I'm carrying another baby, a future soldier for Christ, that i come under attack but something still bothered me. I felt weak, and in my heart i knew that i wasn't having the kind of victory that God wanted for me. But in spite of self condemnation, which never worked except to ruin my day, and in spite of thanking God that i was no longer the person i used to be, i seemed to be lacking the victory i so desperately wanted. I went to Marlin, who listened but also wisely realized that it's a battle that i needed to fight by the power of God and God alone. And God has never failed, but sometimes i wondered what was taking Him so long............
It all started when i was about 11 years old and my father brought home a box of books from an auction. He forbade us kids to read any of them until he went through them and weeded out the trash and burnt them. I remember waiting until he turned his back and then slipping a book out of the box. No one noticed or if they did, it was right in the kitchen, so what's the chance of me reading anything unsafe. As it turned out, those few pages that i read changed my life. My young mind went into over drive and to this day, i remember what those words said. I felt no guilt for disobeying my dad, i just remember being intensely curious and keeping those thoughts to myself. My mother had shared with us girls about the "birds and bees" but it wasn't until then that i realized that it involved far more than i had a clue. I started searching those books out when i went with mom to her cleaning jobs and discovered that i wasn't the only one with that kind of interest. I also loved reading "christian" romance books, Janette Oake being popular around that time. My parents and 99% of the rest of the church had no problem with them and although i had a school teacher that warned us about "christian" romance novels, we laughed at him and thought him an idiot for his convictions. After all, those books were loaded with the words God and Jesus so how could they be a negative influence. I dreamed about the day when my knight in shining armor would ride into my life and love me passionately for the rest of my life. Ahhh.......i couldn't wait.
My mother would faithfully check our books before leaving the library but she failed to check what we were reading while at the library. I eventually made a commitment at our church's revival meetings and went through instruction class and then baptism, all without saying a word about the filth that i had read and continued to read. I don't remember it ever crossing my mind to confess it, after all, it was just books. Simply put, i was addicted and that addiction was to become a monkey on my back.
My knight in shining armor did arrive, and while lacking both the shining armor and the white horse, he did have a cool car and he did love me passionately. After marriage i made many trips to the library, reading for hours when i came home and naturally, those books and what they contained invaded our marriage. Christian romance no longer interested and thrilled me, i wanted the real stuff, the kind of reading that made your heart pound. It went from that to wondering what real pornography was like and as you can imagine, the monkey on my back grew larger and more demanding. Women weren't supposed to have these issues but i was curious, so i figured there's nothing wrong with just looking once. I can only sit here in tears, my heart aching for that lost soul of 10 years ago and marveling at the mercy and grace of God.
It wasn't long until i allowed myself "harmless" emotional affairs with other men, loving the thrill that it gave me. I mean, what's wrong with a cute look or a sassy response? Of course i would never take it any farther, after all, i was still a professing christian and even more than that, i was a Mennonite. Sort of. So my skirts got shorter, my heels higher and my attitude bolder. I wanted to have fun and i intended to have it, all within the boundaries that i set up for myself. I felt beautiful when men looked and whistled, not realizing the damage i was doing to our marriage, much less myself. And frankly, as time went on, i cared less and less.
Enter salvation. Modesty was one of the first areas that God worked on and a good half of my closet disappeared in the trash. It was beautiful and it was hard. I loved pretty, flirty things but the Holy Spirit was persistent and He showed me the beauty of a modest woman. He showed me God's love and passion for the women that He created and the reason for modesty. My body, and its form was for God and for my man alone. I had so much to learn and am still learning, but God, my husband, and my friends have been so very gracious. Modesty, however, was the easy part. What about my mind?
The battle became nothing short of vicious. Satan doesn't give up without a fight and this fight was to last for years. I spent countless hours crying and praying, fighting it in every way i knew how. It invaded our intimacy, the filth i had seen and read flooding my mind. God gave Marlin a supernatural grace and patience, and there were many times when we would kneel together and plead for deliverance. I learned that there is nothing to dirty for Satan to try and many times i wondered if i would ever win. I remember after a particularly hard battle, i wrote a cry out to God on paper and as i stood there looking at it, God spoke into my heart. He told me how He sees me, not as the Mary Magdalene woman of my past, but as pure and white as snow. A daughter who is the apple of His eye, and one that is incredibly precious to Him. Slowly the battle turned and i gained victory, although i learned to never let my guard down, but to protect myself from any thing that would cause a struggle. He also showed me that sexual intimacy between a man and a woman is a beautiful thing, one that He created and one that is actually a picture of Christ and the church. I was shocked the first time i realized that and i immediately went to Marlin and asked him if i was hearing the Holy Spirit right. He confirmed it and slowly we allowed God into our bedroom, trusting that it could be beautiful and holy, not dirty and sick. The battles were far from over, for even while Satan backed off from my mind, he simply stepped it up with the emotions.
I believe in every woman's heart lies a desire to be beautiful and desirable. After all, we are created to be the feminine side of the marriage, and God put a love of pretty things in our hearts. It's a gift, a gift that makes a house a home and fills it with all that's womanly and homey. We are also very prone to emotions and we tend to cry in sympathy of other people much quicker than men, although that varies even among women. Our hearts are soft, providing our children with the God given gift of tender motherhood. Can you imagine a marriage with 2 unemotional people? Our emotions are a gift but along with that comes a temptation. It's the same temptation that causes a man to stumble when he sees a beautiful woman in skimpy clothes. No, we're not tempted to lust over another woman, we're simply tempted to lust for the attention of another man and we need to fight it the same way a man fights that second look. To immediately "bounce" our minds to something else and if that fails, go to our husband. Now THAT'S humiliating, as well i know, but it works.
So here i am, 7 1/2 years after salvation, and i felt like i was back fighting some of those same battles i had fought in the beginning. God showed me clearly that He loves me not because i do good things, wear a head veiling, dress modestly and submit to my husband, but because I'm His daughter. That brought great peace, but the battles continued and i was becoming thoroughly sick of it. And that brings me to the other morning and the dream. I sat up in bed in a cold sweat, desperately seeking God for an answer, convinced that there was an area in my life that needed dealt with but not sure what. He showed me and what He showed me took my breath away.
Remember those "christian" romance novels that i enjoyed as a teenager? Those harmless, talk about Jesus love stories? I refused to buy them after salvation, realizing they were fodder and dangerous for my mind and emotions. I wouldn't even bring them home from the library, knowing my conscience and husband wouldn't give me peace. Marlin made it clear that he considered them pornography for women, setting a woman up for emotional affairs, and the thing that shocked me the most was the amount of other men that agreed with him. I agreed, to a point, but i would casually read them in other people's homes and even borrowed them on occasion. I was deceiving myself into thinking that a little won't hurt, besides, sometimes they were so interesting. I had learned to be very careful of the kind of magazine i picked up at the doctor's office, knowing that they would kick a battle up in my mind. I was shocked at the ads in "good" magazines like Good Housekeeping, the ads that were nothing but soft porn. But these books were christian.....right? And i only read a few..... but that morning God showed me differently. I have always assumed that because of my past, i had to extra careful of my reading and there may be some truth to that, but I realized that they are dangerous for every christian woman out there. It isn't coincidence that as perversion and immorality rises in the world, the sale of christian love novels are rising right along with it. Our impressionable young daughters, who should be saving their hearts, emotions and minds for the man God has for them, are filling their minds with handsome young "godly" hunks, and another woman's fantasy. It breaks my heart and makes me FURIOUS to realize that Satan has snuck in the back door of our homes and set up housekeeping on our bookshelves. HOW DARE HE!!!!! But he has and he doesn't care...... in fact, he thinks it's funny. Not every girl will take the path i did, thank God, but many will have to fight emotional affairs with men other than their husbands. It is a very real battle that you hear very little about. Women love romance and let's face it, after marriage, dirty socks, and smelly bathrooms, your husband isn't quite as hot as the man in that latest book.
I repented and asked God to do house cleaning in my heart and i also purposed to once again build a wall around my mind. To do the very same that a godly man has to do in this perverted world of billboards and half naked women. He has to make a conscious choice to turn the eye the other way and to confess when he messes up. Temptation isn't the sin, but giving in to it is. We can blame it on so many other things, but the fact remains, the choice is ours and when we make that choice God supplies the power. Sometimes it feels like 2 steps forward and 10 steps back, but if we are serious about our walk with God and not only our purity but also our daughters, God will answer and give us victory. The battle for our mind and emotions will never leave, for if we are a threat to the kingdom of darkness in any way, there will be war. But when you are in the shadow of the Almighty, the battle is already won and there is no other shadow I'd rather rest under.