“I’ve been totally attracted to this certain man.” Stephanie admitted over mugs of chai at my kitchen table.
Trying to appear unruffled by this startling declaration was a challenge. I love that my good friend honestly admits her deepest struggles, but her latest temptation was a bit surprising to me. Besides the fact that she’s married to an awesome and attractive godly man, she’s also the women’s ministry leader at her church and rock solid in her walk with God.
“I hate to admit this because I know how terrible it sounds, but I really want to share with you how God is getting me through this.” She went on to explain. “You remember that mission trip last month I took into central Mexico with our sister church. Well, the man happens to be the worship leader from that church.” Mounting concern forced my eyebrows up.
“It’s crazy, I know. I have a great husband who loves me. I’m not unhappy or unfulfilled, or even looking for anything else. But I was so…caught off guard. This guy was amazing in so many ways — fun, wise, discerning, tender-hearted, a great leader, and his passion for God was exhilarating!”
“Anything else?” I piped in with a hint of sarcasm.
“Listen,” she ignored me. “Have you ever met those people who seem to spill out joy, faith, and passion? Being around this guy I felt like a moth drawn to a light bulb!”
I mulled her last statement in silence, wondering if Stephanie would have even had this struggle, had her husband been able to accompany her on the trip. Being away from him and in close proximity to another attractive godly man for two weeks — in a new and difficult environment — made her more vulnerable, and I told her as much.
“You’re right about that. Since my hubby wasn’t there, this guy sort of stepped into the protector role, looking out for me the whole trip. He was so attentive; it was like having a guardian angel. Tell me how any woman stays objective under those circumstances!”
I thought about her experience and remembered times in my own life when I’d been temporarily captivated by different character qualities of godly men whom I’d known or served with in ministry. I could totally relate. Especially when it came to feeling exceptionally protected or attended to. I wondered if it was possible a guy like that didn’t realize the effect he was having on her. Under the circumstances, I was pretty sure the attraction she was feeling was somewhat normal. After all, temptation isn’t the sin. But what she did with it was going to be critical.
Heart vs. Head
“So how did you deal with it?” I fully expected that since she was being so honest, things were under control.
“It hasn’t been that simple.” Stephanie explained. “You wouldn’t believe the battle going on between my head and my heart. It’s like a giant tug of war. My head has all these super-spiritual answers, you know, the ones I tell other women all the time. Dwelling on him is wrong, thinking I would be happier with someone else is a total lie, I can’t get away with sin, and this is a test I must pass…”
After watching the results of this path in so many others’ lives, she certainly had all the right answers. If anyone knew that following her misguided desires would lead down a lonely road to destruction, it was Steph. I could tell, however, that there was a “but.”
“What threw me when I left Mexico were the more powerful arguments coming from my heart. First, I really missed him. Then, when I made up my mind to quit missing him, it drove me crazy wondering if he missed me. It was like some irrational obsession made me want to know if he was as captivated by me. It was so hard to let go of that control.”
From my own personal experience, I thought about this weird approval game women play in their minds, wanting to know we have power over the heart of a man. I wondered how much of it could be resolved if we understood we had already captivated the Man of our hearts.
Anxious to hear how Steph dealt with her heart, where emotions take over and secret sins can easily be cherished in the dark, I asked how she actually made progress in that area. I was amazed at her course of action. “The first thing I did to defuse the situation was to go to my husband. God told me that if I wanted this consuming gravitational pull to lose power over me, I needed to get it out into the light…either expose it now or be exposed later when the damage is done.”
“What? You told Andy!?” I was mortified. “Weren’t you scared of his reaction? Didn’t he feel totally threatened and betrayed?”
“You know my husband. He’s pretty understanding and secure — he didn’t take it as a personal attack. Besides, he’s my life partner. I needed his prayers and accountability, and for him to know what I’m dealing with.”
“What did he say?”
“We sat down the first night and I told him the whole thing. And get this,” her relief was tangible, “the first thing out of his mouth was, ‘I think it’s a normal struggle under the circumstances.’ Then he went on to tell me that he’d be a total hypocrite to be mad at me, considering his own battles of the heart and mind.”
Without a doubt, Andy was one in a million. There weren’t many guys who could handle the truth like that, offering such extravagant grace.
It had now been a month since she’d come home, and my hopeful curiosity showed through. “So how are you fighting temptation to think about him now? What’s keeping you on the right path?”
Steph leaned forward intently. “Do you realize what’s at stake here? This man has a far-reaching worship ministry in a great church. If I was in any way responsible for bringing him down, many lives and budding faiths would be hurt or ruined. And think about the women I’m working with. How many of them have I counseled through this very thing? Even one little compromise in this area could destroy two people’s impacting ministries, not to mention the individuals who would be devastated in our personal lives. If I have any sincere love for the work God is doing through him, I should do whatever it takes to protect him, from me, if necessary. I should be praying for him to be strong for the sake of his ministry and the lives he’s touching through it.”
All that was powerful stuff, but Steph’s greatest revelation on the matter came after she finally surrendered this struggle completely to God. Her eyes grew warmer as she explained. “God and I had this long heart-to-heart, and He showed me something amazing. It was suddenly so clear that the person I was really attracted to was Jesus in this man, not the man. I realized all of the enchanting godly qualities this man exemplified, ones that women get weak in the knees over, were really glimpses of his Creator. But as soon as any boundary of impropriety is crossed, the Jesus part is lost, and the man becomes just another fallible, broken, sinful person without the qualities I was drawn to in the first place.”
I couldn’t help but think about how her husband, Andy, had been a stellar example of this kind of Jesus-beauty shining through. It was obvious that his unconditional grace and acceptance made him more attractive to her than ever through this experience. I realized most women would probably be better off telling a close friend or counselor, but I was inspired by Andy’s remarkable response just the same.
Jesus Side of Beauty
After talking to Stephanie, a godly woman with so much wisdom and spiritual discipline, I wondered how many Christian women out there are experiencing the same kinds of struggles, yet terrified to talk about them. I mean, who’s a woman going to tell that she’s obsessed with one of her church leaders? Who will help her figure out what to do about it? She risks incredible rejection and judgment. And if it’s a battle for someone like Steph with such a great guy at home, how much more tempting would that kind of man be for a woman who feels unloved in her marriage? It’s all a great reminder to be ever vigilant around godly men, and to make sure I get the right elements of protection in place. Most of all to realize that, when I’m fascinated by earthly men, no matter how godly and wonderful, it’s actually the heart and beauty of their Creator that I’m drawn to. It’s the Jesus side of them I’m really in love with. There’s no man on this earth who will ever compare or captivate me continuously like the Man I’ll share eternity with.
Copyright © 2007 Julie Ferwerda, Used with permission.
Read more from Julie at julieferwerda.com