“I’m waiting for your next blog post!” she said to me today.
I told her I usually wait for God to give me an idea. But I knew it had been awhile since my last post, so I was eager to write again.
So all afternoon, I pondered. I thought about all the things God has been teaching me lately. Most of them felt like things I’d read from another author, and I didn’t want to just rewrite something I’d read. I couldn’t come up with anything that would come right from my heart.
But then, this evening, I went to the Lord. The kids were outside playing, and Seth was gone. So I got on my knees by my bed and spent time talking to the Lord. I just let myself be still and tell Him how much I love Him. And then I asked Him for an idea. I said, “I need something that’s like a moment when You spoke right to me.” And then suddenly I thought, “Like the little squirrel.”
Ohhhhh, no. I started to cry. And panic. I said, “No, no, please, God, I don’t want to write about that!”
But at the same time, I knew that it was right. My goal in starting a blog was to bring glory to God, to tell my story in a way that shows how amazing He is. And I knew the little squirrel would do it.
But I still didn’t want to. I said, “Please don’t make me write about that! It’s embarrassing! It just doesn’t feel safe!”
But then God reminded me that He doesn’t want me to live a “safe” life. He wants me to be reckless. To do anything He asks in order that He may be glorified. To pour out my life in surrender to Him. Because HE is Lord. I am not. So I just kept crying. My tears and my mascara soaked my bed sheet. Because I was so afraid. And because I knew I would never say no to my precious Savior. How could I ever tell Him no when He has been so good to me?
So, here goes. This one feels like me bleeding my heart out in front of you. And I am terrified.
We have to start way back. Like in high school. I always wanted a boyfriend, and yet no boys ever liked me. I didn’t get to go on dates. And so I didn’t feel pretty. I felt fat. I didn’t like my clothes. I always wished I looked different. I always wished I could be admired. I watched cheesy movies like “License To Drive” and wished I could be someone’s Dream Girl.
And then, when I was 19, God brought me Seth. The funniest, sweetest, coolest college kid I could ever meet. And we fell in love. He has always made me feel loved, cherished, desired, beautiful, admired, etc. He was an amazing boyfriend, and he became an amazing husband. But….
There was this nagging insecurity in me. Still wondering if I was good enough. Still wondering if I was likable. Still wishing I was really pretty. Still seeking admiration from people. Nothing seemed to satisfy this longing to feel good enough.
And then, sometime after Ivy was born, to put it plainly, I started to be prettier. It wasn’t really intentional. I lost some weight. I went back to work and bought cute clothes. I was friendly and outgoing. And I started to get compliments on my appearance. A lot.
And then there are those compliments you get without any words being spoken. Specifically, getting “checked out” by men. And when I noticed that happening, I have to admit, it felt great. It felt like the attention I always wanted as a young girl was finally coming my way! I. Enjoyed. It.
Ummm, except, I’m MARRIED and all, so I’m not supposed to be looking to any other male for attention besides my sweet husband. But I felt like I couldn’t help it! It was so much fun.
(Pleeeease bear with me and be gentle, my friends. This is so embarrassing).
It got to the point where my main focus each day was trying to look “hot.” And seem like the perfect woman. I wanted single men to wish they could find a wife like me, and (gulp) married men to wish their wives were more like me. Ghaaaaa, I hate saying it! It’s so selfish! It’s so ugly! But it’s true.
I have always loved Jesus. And He tried to tell me again and again over several years that I needed to give this up. It was wrong. It was vanity. It made me feel so guilty that I felt distant from God and distant from my husband. But I enjoyed it. So I kept looking for more.
Finally, I told a couple of my close girlfriends about what was in my heart. I revealed the struggle. I revealed my temptation to seek male attention and my guilt in knowing it was wrong. My friends prayed for me. They understood that I was caught in a battle between honoring God (and my husband!), or choosing to indulge myself and feed my ego.
I started to get so EXHAUSTED by the struggle. I wanted a way out. But what could it be?? I just kept giving in to this. Until one night I remembered a book I had glanced through once at the Christian bookstore. And with a glimmer of optimism in my heart I set out to find it. I prayed there would be a copy waiting for me when I got there.
And then….there was hope.
It is called Every Woman’s Battle, and it is a companion to the book Every Man’s Battle. Every Man’s Battle helps Christian men overcome the struggle with lust of the eyes when they look at women. Every Woman’s Battle helps Christian women overcome the struggle with relationship lust, how we want to be desirable and we want to receive compliments and how that can lead to emotional affairs.
I devoured that book, people. It was all about me. It taught me how sin starts with our thoughts. We must take thoughts captive, and every time a thought about any man besides our husband comes into our mind, we replace that thought with a Bible verse or a worship song. It also said that our relationship with Jesus must be intimate and deep, so that it fills that insecure place in our heart that goes looking for attention and compliments from men.
It also strongly encouraged revealing to my husband that I was dealing with this type of sin. Oh. Crap. My husband is sweet and wonderful and amazing. And I’m supposed to tell him I am constantly looking for attention from other men?? Ghaaaaaaaa. I’m such a jerk. I kind of hate myself.
But I did it. I told him. I remember it was a sunny morning and the kids were at school. I remember praying that morning and God prompting me that it was time. This was the day. I was beyond nervous…but it was time. Sin will continue to flourish in the dark, but once it is exposed to the light it must flee.
“Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” John 3:20-21
As I’m reliving this for you, I just had to pause and cover my face and cry. I hate remembering that day. It really, really hurt him. My husband has always been so good to me, you guys. I don’t even deserve this kind of man. I hate that I was so selfish that I dishonored him in this way. And you know he forgave me. Not immediately. It took a few days. But he loves me, and he knew that I was revealing this ugliness in my heart because I wanted it to END. I wanted to stop living that way. So he forgave me.
Forgiveness is so powerful. It is so undeserved. God forgives us of our sins when we accept that Jesus died for us on the cross and that He saved us from hell. We do not deserve this forgiveness. And He tells us we must forgive one another in the same way. My husband did that for me.
So….You’re wondering when I’m going to get to the little squirrel, right?
Well, just because we recognize our sin and confess it does not mean it easily goes away. Bible study author Beth Moore said that God could just immediately take away the sins that have us enslaved, but then we might be tempted to rejoice more in the freedom than in the Deliverer. He wants us to need Him. He wants us to understand how powerful He is, how patient He is, how gracious He is, and often we learn that lesson better when we walk with Him through a lengthy process of overcoming a certain area of sin.
I went through a lengthy process. I continued to struggle. To be tempted. Sometimes I had victory! Jesus helped me be strong, and it felt great! But then I’d fall back into more weakness. More temptation. I gave in at times.
I have a friend that is like a sister, and she’s the one I go to for the best godly advice. She told me to avoid all situations that make me weak to my temptation. She said if I was a recovering alcoholic, and I drove past the bar each day on my way home from work, it would be time for me to CHOOSE A NEW ROUTE!! Why put myself in situations that will likely lead to failure? That was some wise advice, friends! I put that into action immediately.
Something else I heavily relied on was the armor of God. (Ephesians 6:10-18). I read that passage every morning to protect myself in the spiritual battle I would face that day. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (v.12) We do have an enemy, and the last thing he wants is for us to walk in freedom and bring glory to Jesus Christ. My favorite part of the armor of God is the belt of truth. Because whenever we sin, it’s because we are believing a lie. I continually reminded myself of this truth: THERE IS NO GREATER JOY THAN PLEASING GOD. To me, that meant that I might be tempted to seek male attention because it felt fun, but really, absolutely nothing feels better than pleasing God. I used that truth, and the belt of truth, many times to prevent myself from doing something I knew was wrong.
So, what about the little squirrel??
In the book Every Woman’s Battle, the author recommended finding time to retreat with the Lord, maybe once a year. Like literally going away to a cabin or to a hotel at the coast, alone, just to spend uninterrupted time with God. It said you could pray. Journal. Listen to worship music. Light candles. Just create an environment and the time that would let you commune with God. And the beauty of this would be that the intimacy you would have with God would be far better than any attention from men.
“Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8
I decided to do something like that. The kids were staying at my parents’ house, and Seth was attending a conference out of town. I packed my Bible. My music. My journal. And I went for a hike at my favorite park. I was there to ask God for help. I wanted Him to help me overcome this battle. I wanted the struggle to end. I wanted a word from Him.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
I was paying attention to everything. The trees. The birds. My music. I was waiting to hear from Him. I found a spot by the creek to sit. I was alone. I got out my Bible. I found some powerful verses that I decided to memorize. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
As I was sitting there, listening to the creek, I saw a little squirrel. He was high up in the branches of a tree, off to the right of where I sat on the creek bank. He was making quite a commotion. I immediately tuned in to him. Was this God trying to tell me something?? The squirrel was leaping around the very tops of the trees, where the branches were wispy and flimsy. He kept barely making it to safety! I gasped more than once! I thought, “I have never seen any squirrel do this in my entire life!” He was after some white petals. He’d stop and desperately nibble them from time to time. Then he’d dangerously travel to another ridiculously flimsy branch, and devour more petals. I watched him intently. I said, “God, am I supposed to be getting something from this? I came out here to get a word from You, and what I’m seeing is a crazy little squirrel.” As I continued to watch I kept thinking to myself, “Why would this little squirrel be putting on such a show for me when I’m asking God to meet me here? Is this God talking to me? This is so weird.”
After about 20 minutes, the little squirrel wandered off. The whole thing was odd. I didn’t get it. I figured it was just a nutty little creature interrupting my quest to hear from God.
After awhile I went home. Hours later, I was alone, so I lit candles and even put rose petals on the carpet, so I could have a special time of prayer with God. I got down on my face on the carpet. I told God I needed to hear from Him. Then I concentrated on the sound of the ticking clock so that my mind would be uncluttered by my own thoughts. I wanted to hear God. So I waited.
“The little squirrel.”
I heard that in my mind. I said, “What? Was that You, God? The little squirrel? What about him?…I seriously don’t get it. You’re going to have to be more clear.” So I waited.
“The little squirrel.”
“OK…..I don’t get it! What??”
“The little squirrel. He was so HUNGRY. He almost fell. Christi, you have been so hungry for attention that you have put yourself and your marriage in danger. You have almost fallen!”
I started to cry. God was right. I had been seeking attention so much that I had put myself in danger. That little squirrel risked his very life for those stupid petals.
I did not want to be him anymore.
And now? I am free. My friends, Jesus has set me free. I cannot even write this without crying. He is incredible. And faithful. And THERE IS NO GREATER JOY THAN PLEASING GOD.
God continually reminds me that I do not need to seek admiration from people, because His love for me is more precious and more fulfilling than anything else ever will be. I have grown to be far more concerned with the beauty of my heart than with my outward appearance. And God is the reason I am becoming beautiful within.
“Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30
My friend, I wrote this for you. Someone needs to hear my story. I bared my soul so that you could have hope. Whatever it is that you are holding onto, that thing that gives you pleasure but that you know is wrong… you will never experience the fullness of joy until you surrender it to Jesus. Don’t make Him send a little squirrel to set you straight, friend!! Get on your knees and ask Him to help you. Ask Him to show you what you need to do, and then go all in. Give up whatever you’re holding onto. Then tell a godly friend about it. Get someone to pray for you. And then learn to fight your daily battle against that temptation until you can say you are free!
John 8:32 “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
A Word From Christi’s Husband
Christi came to me the other night and asked if I would read this blog and give it my “ok” since it involved me. After reading it I would not dare change one word of it. It was difficult for me when Christi first shared her struggle with me. I felt betrayed. I felt stupid. I felt as though all of the love and support I had given her had somehow not been enough. It was a hard thing to hear. It did take me a few days of thought and prayer but then I realized, it was a much harder thing for her to say than it was for me to hear. For her to come to me and be honest, to confess a struggle in her life that she knew would hurt me, THAT is hard.
It seems like hearing this kind of information would make someone jealous and suspicious, and I was at first. But, as I watched her ferociously seek God and draw her strength from Him to overcome this, I totally admired her. It seems like this is something that would destroy trust in a relationship. But in the long run I have gained so much trust in my wife. I know that she loves me and trusts me enough to be honest with me, even when it hurts. The way that her faith and commitment to God have grown over the last couple of years has been amazing. Facing this struggle in her life and walking through it with God has given her an amazing heart of compassion for people who are struggling. She is doing some amazing things in the lives of others (not the least of which is this blog). I am not sure any of that would have been possible without her being willing to face this struggle in her life. I do not have words to express how proud I am of my wife. I love her more everyday.