As a child I developed a habit that became a part of my life for many years. Insomnia is a family problem. Early in life I frequently heard my mother and grandmother speak of their sleeplessness. I too had insomnia, but that was only the stage where my habit was formed.
When I couldn’t go to sleep, I made up stories in my mind. When I was a small child this was harmless. I told myself stories about animals and my classmates.
In my teens my make-believe stories became more sophisticated. As a “good Christian,” I didn’t permit myself sexual fantasies. In fact, I’m ashamed now to remember that I took pride in keeping my fantasies decent, though no one knew of my fantasy life.
As a young married woman my imagination continued to spin stories in the wee hours of my sleeplessness. I thought these fantasies were harmlessly filling hours otherwise spent worrying. By now too, fantasy was also a part of my daytime life.
However, I was unaware that the life of my imagination was undermining my real world. Indeed, there was no way the people of my real world, especially my husband, could live up to the ideal scenes woven into my fantasies. I became discontent, not because my life was unpleasant, but because it could not compete with my fantasies.
I’m glad God is faithful to reveal Himself to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness. When He knew I was ready, God lovingly revealed to me that my fantasy life was not only harming my relationships, but also was an offense to Him. I was using my God-given imagination for escapism rather than healthy, creative purposes. I was giving myself to lies that Satan was planting in my thoughts. I certainly was not thinking of the things that were true and pure, mentioned in Philippians, chapter 4. Rather, they were not true and could not be. We are told in scripture to cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. Without knowing it, I had been giving myself over to fantasy as a tool of my spiritual enemy.
Knowing that repentance is the first step to victory over that enemy, I asked God’s forgiveness and asked Him to set me free from fantasy. He certainly did!
I thought that would take care of the problem. I had no idea there were many months of spiritual struggle ahead.
Along the way the Lord gave me a pictorial concept, similar to the parables Jesus told, to enable me to comprehend in my natural mind what was happening in the spiritual realm. This parable has helped others also:
It was as though a bird had built a nest on my head. That bird — fantasy — with my permission through yielding to him repeatedly, had lived in his home on my head for such a long time he thought he belonged there. He had comfortably settled in his home and didn’t intend to leave.
But the bird didn’t belong on my head. I had accepted Jesus as my Savior at the age of six. I knew my body and mind were to be the temple of the Holy Spirit. The bird nest was an invasion of my person – God’s temple. Yet I was incapable of getting rid of him. Sometimes I could ignore him for a short while, but he always returned. I didn’t have complete freedom and control of my own self and God didn’t have total access to His temple.
When I was in my mid-twenties God sovereignly showed me that I was sinning by indulging in fantasy. Though I didn’t have the parable at the time, I knew I didn’t have to contend with this intruder! Jesus had the power to drive away the bird and destroy its nest. With Godly sorrow I repented and God evicted the bird, and demolished its nest. The bird was gone! I was free!
I soon discovered that I had come to depend upon the familiar presence of that bird for comfort. I had habitually turned to him when I was tired or lonely or felt unappreciated. Like many other sins such as, pride, gluttony and addiction, fantasy gives pleasure–for a season.
One evening I was feeling sorry myself. I welcomed the bird; I fantasized. Without realizing it I was allowing the bird to bring twigs and string to rebuild his home. I thought I was safe, just indulging in a little imagining. How mistaken I was.
The bird’s nest was rebuilt, rather hastily and haphazardly, but it was a nest. I recognized a familiar presence where I had been enjoying cleanliness and holiness.
I cried out to the Lord and asked Him to forgive me for sinning. I knew I had given place to the enemy. He had won a victory.
Lovingly, Jesus once again drove away the bird and tore down the nest and destroyed its building materials.
How could I have been so foolish? I wondered. I should have known that I could not idly play with Satan. Many times I had read, and even quoted to others, Romans 6:16, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
Ashamed, I repented and recommited myself to yield only to God. I also asked God to help me break the habit of using fantasy as a source of comfort. I prayed, “Give me something so I will recognize when I am being tempted to sin.” Up to this point I saw my struggle only as a matter of sin, forgiveness, and participating again in that sin. At this point God gave me the parable of the bird and its nest.
In those silent, sleepless nights I was aware that fantasy was as a bird hovering above me. I knew that I needed only to welcome him and I would again be off in fantasy land. The temptation was strong. Sleep did not come easily. I called upon the Lord. Insomnia continued to plague me for another fifteen years, until I gave up caffeine in its various forms. I had to recognize that my problem was not insomnia, but rather, what I did with my mind in response to insomnia. I learned to spend my wakeful hours praying or to slip out of bed quietly to write shopping lists, letters or plan the next day’s agenda. Often I simply lay quietly singing hymns in my mind or quoting scripture.
Occasionally the bird lighted on my head. I had a choice to make. Would I indulge him, and myself, or would I call upon the Lord to drive him away. The choice was always mine. God never made the decision for me. Yet the bird seemed always to be hovering nearby.
In time I realized that the bird wasn’t hovering above me as regularly as in the past. Over a period of about eight months I noticed that the bird came less often. It was as though he were only checking to see if I would let him light, to discover if I would welcome him or if I would call upon the Lord to send him away.
Soon the bird’s presence was only a vague element. He was somewhere way up high, occasionally swooping low to assess the condition of my spiritual armor.
Over twenty years have passed. The bird is not dead. Now and then he descends from heights unseen and seems to take my spiritual temperature. I look upon those times as cues to evaluate my relationships. First with my Lord, then with my family and friends. Often I suspect that a signal has somehow reached the heights of Satan’s realm that I am vulnerable to a sneak attack.
I need only deal with whatever is amiss and call upon the Lord and He sends the bird soaring.
Perhaps you have an area of your life where Satan has deceived you. An area that prevents you from enjoying all that God offers to His children. You may have repented and enjoyed forgiveness, but still do not enjoy daily victory. You can be set free of Satan’s influence in each area of your life. The steps I followed are found in God’s word:
1. Acknowledge the element of sin in the problem, (I John 1:8).
2. Ask God to forgive the sin and to cleanse your heart, (I John 1:9).
3. Renounce the sin by name and command it to no longer be a part of your life. Webster’s dictionary defines renounce as: “to disavow, to give up.” (See II Corinthians 4:2).
4. Recognize that when Christ has set us free, we then can be transformed only by the renewing of our minds, (Romans 12:2). This is done by drawing upon God’s enablement to form new habits of thought patterns.
5. Take any necessary steps to fill with Christ the void where the sin once was, (Luke 11:24-26). Remember how I filled the void with hymns and scripture?
6. When you fall and again participate in the sin, remember that God is a loving Heavenly Father who is waiting to forgive, (Luke 15:11-24).
© Beverly Caruso