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
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
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
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
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
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?
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.