How to deal with the flicker of an old flameWritten by Tricia Goyer
What's inside this article
I worked at my desk, noting flakes of snow fluttering down outside my office window. In the windowsill, a family photograph warmed my heart. The "you’ve-got-mail" chime sounded, and I glanced at my email. Scanning the name, my heartbeat quickened. Steven. My first boyfriend. My first kiss. My first everything. I opened the email:
Hi, Trish, I found you on this classmate site. Remember me? I’d love to reconnect.
A few years after Steven and I ended our relationship, I became a Christian. I’d married a wonderful man, and we had three great kids. Yet right away, my curiosity about Steven – and my longing to reconnect – surprised me.
Someone help me
Steven and I emailed each other a few times that day, sharing about our lives and families. And that night, when I didn’t want to mention our communication to my husband, John, I knew there was a problem.
The second day, Steven admitted he was getting a divorce, confessed he’d never stopped caring for me and told me he’d named his daughter after me. I was flattered. My chest warmed. And I knew all communication had to stop. I needed help.
I turned to my closest friends for help, spilling the details and confessing that I needed their prayer. They filled my inbox with Scripture verses, notes of concern and similar stories. I was surprised how many others had struggled with being drawn to an old flame.
Feeling the strength from my friends’ support, on the third day, I approached John. I told him about Steven and confessed that the emails had stirred up old emotions.
John held me, he cried, then he did something I’ll never forget: He took my hands and prayed for me. He prayed that I would be strong and that God would heal my heart and that I would understand how much I was loved and adored by my family, especially him.
Even though feelings for Steven lingered, I’d never felt so loved by John. It’s one thing to do everything right and feel appreciated by my husband; it’s another to feel weak and confused yet see the obvious love in John’s eyes.
Revealing the past
After talking with John, I emailed Steven and told him that I loved my husband. I put an end to all communication with Steven. The emails stopped, but the memories lingered. It was as though a memory box hidden deep in my heart had been reopened and its contents refused to be stuffed back inside. I prayed God would take the memories away, but I felt alone as I fought against them.
One night, my friends joined me for prayer, and afterward, I realized I’d been trying to hide my past from God. Sure, I’d confessed my sins after giving my heart to Christ, but I hadn’t specifically confessed this relationship. And I hadn’t confessed how much I still wanted to be adored by this person.
That night as I lay in bed, in my mind’s eye, I took Jesus’ hand and walked through those memories. With God’s help, I saw myself as the young, vulnerable teen who wanted to feel beautiful and loved. I wept as I realized Jesus had been right there waiting for me to turn to Him.
With each memory, I asked Jesus to give me an undivided heart for Him and my husband.
Guarding my heart
Because we live in a world where we can Google anyone at any time, I now take steps to guard my heart. I tell John about contacts with people from my past, no matter how innocent. I also avoid building close friendships with anyone of the opposite sex.
I’ve continued to ask Jesus to filter my heart, praying Psalm 139:23-24, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
Yes, I was forgiven for the things I’d done, but Jesus didn’t want me to ignore the past. He wanted to redeem those experiences, to heal me.
Nearly four years have passed since that day when I got the email. While the struggle was hard, today my prayer is the same that David prayed in Psalm 30:2, "O LORD my God, I called to you for help and you healed me."
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