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Purity Girls
Purity 101

Illicit Dreams
By Amy Schafer

 

     Although Tanalia turned off the TV abruptly, the vivid picture remained in her brain like data on a memory card. Unlike data, however, this memory superimposed itself without being summoned by cursor or mouse click.
     Her memory returned to the California beach scene, reveling in the blue sky, the sunlight that glinted among the glossy waves of Hector's tousled hair. Frozen in time, Hector playfully lifted his drenched co-star, Nadia, from the sparkling waves as a flick of her perfectly manicured hand ricocheted a spray of water off his tanned and muscular chest.
     Tanalia subconsciously gulped, imagining herself being hoisted by Hector's flexed arms and pulled to him, her skimpy bathing suit allowing for plenty of skin-to-skin contact.
     Stop! Tanalia's offended conscience put a screeching halt to the burgeoning fantasy sequence. She knew that her lustful thoughts were sin--that's why she'd stopped watching Illicit Love weeks ago. Before that, it had been her favorite show. She'd tuned in eagerly to follow each development in the romance between Hector and Nadia each week, flipping the show off only to snuggle deeper in bed, imagining that such a sizzling romance was hers. Later she and her friends would rehash the previous week's events, wondering whether Hector and Nadia would finally admit that their relationship was more than a friendship and whether Nadia would finally break up with her overbearing boyfriend so that she and Hector could…
     It was the pervasive thought of what Nadia and Hector could and would most certainly do that nagged at Tanalia's spirit: telling her that watching the show was wrong and revealing a change in her thought patterns, a gradual shift in her attitudes about flirting and sensuality. She even had to admit that the show was impacting her demeanor, her reactions to boys she knew, her visual assessment of their attractiveness. She was convicted that the Holy Spirit didn't want her mind to dwell on these things.
     So she quit. Stopped watching the show entirely. Even flipped off the commercials with their tantalizing scenes of romance. Made herself scarce during her friends' weekly recap sessions. She knew it was all too tempting. Even just watching one entire commercial could easily pull her back into the habit of tuning in just to see what would happen in the next episode.
     Of course it was difficult, but for the first few weeks Tanalia's primary emotion about boycotting the show had been exhilaration. It was as though yielding to the God had caused His Spirit to blossom in her heart. She felt a surge of joy and a new tenderness in her walk with God. The relief from the guilt that had been plaguing her was like a tangible load lifted from her shoulders and she was aware of a sense of God's favor, noticing a spate of "fortunate coincidences" throughout each week.
     But soon the novelty of her newfound spiritual strength wore off, and Tanalia began to feel weary. Weary of the nagging temptation, weary of avoiding the subject of Illicit Love. Instead of feeling it an honor that God wanted to draw her closer, she began to wonder, Why me?
     Discouragement turned to bitterness when Tanalia dreamed about Hector, not once, but three nights in a row. In each dream, Hector unexpectedly showed up somewhere: at the park, her friend's house, her locker. They'd start to talk, at first casually, but their conversation quickly became less friendly and more intimate. At the moment when Tanalia thought she couldn't resist kissing Hector one moment longer she'd blurt out, "Nadia's not here right now!" (As nonsensical things often do, it made perfect sense in the dream.) Then--and this was the part that was always the same in every dream--Hector would lean down until his face was mere inches from Tanalia's and say, "I didn't come to see Nadia; I came to see you." Just as Hector's tantalizing lips were about to brush her own, Tanalia would cruelly wake up (presumably due to the near heart attack she was experiencing because of her very elevated heart rate).
     At first, Tanalia would lay in bed, fighting the urge to slip back into the fantasy, not allowing herself to continue imagining that Hector was real, that he loved her, and that nothing in their make-believe fantasy world was wrong or off limits.
     Sometimes Tanalia won this mental battle; sometimes she lost. Sometimes she alternated between winning and losing for hours until she fell back asleep, exhausted and unsure whether she should feel guilty or victorious in the light of the next morning.
     Eventually she decided that it clearly was not that important. After all, here she had given up her favorite show just to try to please God with her thoughts. Yet wasn't He ultimately the one in control of her thought patterns in her sleep? She clearly was not.
     God had sent dreams to Joseph and Daniel, indicating that dreams were in His hands. Why should Tanalia feel guilty about impure thoughts when the thoughts were planted there by dreams that God surely could have put a stop to if He cared at all? The next time Tanalia had a sensual dream, she didn't bother to put up a fight.
     But she still felt miserable. She even wished she could go back to the way things were before she gave up watching Illicit Love, before her conscience had robbed her enjoyment of the show and the sensual feelings it evoked. She might as well go back to watching the show since her feeling of victory and God's approval had long since evaporated. Why, she felt just as guilty now as she did when she was watching the show each week. At least the watching had given her a little enjoyment to balance the guilt.
     She made the decision to grant herself another dose of hunky Hector and eagerly counted down the days to the next episode of Illicit Love.
     But two days into the countdown, Tanalia sat on a church pew and heard a visiting speaker say these words: "You need God's power on your life. Often I've tried to please God, but I couldn't. I said, 'It's too hard. God, why can't I do this?' It was because I was trying to do it in my own strength. You can't please God in your own strength."
     The words captured Tanalia's attention. Wow, I didn't know a preacher could have the same problems I'm having. She felt surprised.
     "But how can you get God's power on your life?" the

 

preacher continued.
     Ok, here's the answer I've been looking for. Tanalia waited expectantly.
     "The first and most important thing is that you've go to be clean. God can't use a dirty vessel. If you want God's power in your life, you've got to get clean."
     Tanalia slumped emotionally. Yeah, real helpful. I'm having trouble keeping my thoughts clean. You tell me I need God's power to do that. I agree. Then you tell me I need to get clean to get God's power. So, I need God's power to do something that I have to do or God won't give me power. Great. Very helpful.
     Tanalia listened for the rest of the message, just in case the preacher said something else that solved the mental puzzle his words had created in her mind. He didn't. However, as he wound down to invitation time, he asked the people who wanted to be clean to raise their hands.
     Tanalia's hand rose. As much as she wanted to tune into Illicit Love that week, she wanted rid of the guilt even more. She wished for a mind that wouldn't conjure up visions of sensuality--not asleep, not awake, not ever. Long ago, she'd pledged not to have sex until marriage. Now, she wished that she were able not to imagine herself in scenes of sexuality until marriage. She just didn't think she'd be able to manage it.
     "I'd like everyone whose hand is raised to come forward right now and tell God that you want to be clean. This commitment is between you and God, not you and me."
     Shoot. I hate it when preachers do that--get you to raise your hand and then tell you that if you did, you need to go forward. I don't want to go forward. What would I say, anyway? Nevertheless, Tanalia edged down the aisle. Kneeling at the altar, she felt awkward, uneasy. Finally, she decided to tell God just what she was thinking.
     God, I want to get clean. I want my thoughts to please you. But I'm failing at that. The preacher says it's because I don't have your power. But then He also says that to have your power, I need to be clean. But that's just what I need your power for--to get clean. So, I want to be clean, but I honestly just don't know what I can do at this point.
     Tanalia lingered on her knees. She paused, searching for some answer, trying to think of some missing link.
     One word only came to mind: prayer.
     Tanalia shifted impatiently. But I do pray. When I wake up from a dream, and I'm tempted to think about it more, I pray, 'Help me, God!' Sometimes it works, sometimes not. It's not the magic cure.
     Then, a question: But do you pray before you are tempted?
     No.
     Do you talk to God before you fall asleep? Do you request Him to protect you from having bad dreams each night?
     No. Tanalia was dubious, yet relieved that she'd thought of something. At least now she could get up and go back to her seat, confident in the fact that she had at least one step illuminated before her. If that didn't work, she could return to the mire of her failure. But not tonight.
     The service came to a close, and the teens all went to the gym to hang out, since the church was hosting a youth social after church. By the time Tanalia got home, she'd forgotten her idea about praying before bed. She slept fitfully, but the only dreams she had were stressful, not sensual. The next night she remembered.
     God, I don't want to have bad, dirty dreams tonight. I really care that my thoughts please You, but I can't guard my thoughts while I'm asleep. Please help me. I know you are able. Tanalia drifted off to sleep.
     In the middle of the night, Tanalia woke from a dream. She tried to remember what it was. Suddenly, her eyes popped open and she nearly laughed aloud. She fell back asleep, only to dream again. In the morning, she awoke with a smile that wouldn't quit.
     She had to tell someone. At the breakfast table, she shared a brief account of her recent struggles and God's answer to prayer. Later at school, she had an opportunity to do the same, and she took it. Some girls nodded in agreement when Tanalia shared the sense of guilt she'd felt about her fantasies and about watching Illicit Love as well as some of the other shows on TV. When she got to the part about her new, God-censored dreams, Tanalia wasn't the only one who had to chuckle.
     "My first dream, which seemed really realistic, was about witnessing to some people and giving them a tract. In my second dream, I was singing in the choir. So, in one dream I was in church, and in the other I was witnessing--I've never had a dream about witnessing before!"
     After that night, Tanalia usually remembered to pray for protection from the bad dreams. Once she forgot, and on that night she had a recurrence of the dream. Once, she prayed a flippant prayer, "Oh, yeah, and please help me not to have any bad dreams tonight, amen." That night, her dream was a real scorcher, and it's steamy content returned to her memory many times throughout the day.
     The realization that these tempting dreams and lustful thoughts were actually the whispered suggestions of demonic messengers helped Tanalia to reject them right away--and to avoid self-condemnation for having them in the first place. She also learned that flippant prayers are the equivalent of taking God's name in vain. Each night, Tanalia first engages her will, acknowledges that there are two sides in this spiritual battle, and recommits her spirit to God through the salvation of Jesus Christ. She reminds herself that spiritual victory is now a higher priority than the temporary "high" of fleshly lust.
     Convinced that the devil has the ability to influence her thoughts using input of sensual material that she herself had previously stored in her mind, Tanalia now realizes the power and importance of prayer. Though she's never again had a dream about witnessing, she thanks God for the very evident point He made through her dreams that first night. Tanalia now knows that prayer has proven power to keep impurity at a distance.
     She wanted to share that knowledge through this story.

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