From Temptation to Triumph: Designing Your Personal Escape Plan

Whatever your personal brand of “stuff,” especially sexual “stuff,” you can be sure you will be tempted again. The process of transformation Jesus takes you through doesn’t happen in a moment. Your brain has developed deep ruts that it easily falls into whenever you’re triggered. You need a personal escape plan.

New brain pathways develop slowly. New brain cells grow and develop new connections at a rate of about two millimeters a day. That’s slow. So when you feel frustrated at your slow progress, remind yourself: two millimeters a day. And especially around sexual temptation, you’re stewarding your sexuality – tending with care to the physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects of how God made you in this deep aspect of your being.

But what you do in the meantime makes a world of difference. One key is to develop your personal escape plan – what you will do when you feel the urge to respond with your old templates rather than as the new person God is creating you to be. God has not promised that you won’t be tempted, either directly by the enemy or by the templates in your own mind. But there’s always a way out.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Your escape plan is not begging and pleading for God to remove the temptation. Don’t stop praying! But your personal  escape plan is what you will do at that moment. And you get to build it.

Building Your Escape Plan

The most effective escape plans target your first step down that slippery slope. Think about the last time you slipped; what was the first moment you can identify that could have predicted your failure? It may be HALT – you weren’t in tune to being hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. It may be a Friday night without anything planned, or a bad day at work, or your spouse’s “no” to sex, or feeling overwhelmed with too much to do, or boredom, insomnia, or something else. Begin crafting your escape plan from that very first trigger.

What could you do at that moment that would shift the chain of events in a different direction? You might call or text a friend, clean the house, remove yourself to the bathroom for some deep breathing, recite a Scripture out loud, go for a run, read a book that deeply engages you, listen to music you love, walk outside and cry out to God, journal, cook something you love to eat, build a fire in the fireplace, go to a 12-step meeting, watch the birds and look at the flowers, dig in your garden. You get the idea. There are endless possibilities for your escape plan.

Your temptation might be something internal or external. It might be to withdraw from your spouse, fantasize about sex with someone you’re not married to, watch porn, or visit a hook-up club. Being tempted is not sin; letting it roll around in your mind or taking action on it is. You can become increasingly alert to the first signs of temptation and develop increasingly strong brain templates that go in a different direction. Your escape plan is actions you take that point your brain in the new direction while your new templates are growing (at two millimeters a day).

Don’t Do It Alone

A friend is an essential part of your escape plan. The need for intimacy God built within you – and that evil has hijacked – requires you to tend to that need for connection. There are people you know who are struggling in somewhat similar ways as you are. Do the hard work to find your people and meet with them regularly. And then ask one or more of them for permission to text or call anytime you need to. Offer the same to them.

Should your spouse be part of your escape plan? That depends. If your spouse is mature, graceful, and eager to help, sometimes they can be. You’re on a business trip, tired and lonely. “Honey, I’m not in a great place. Can I hear your voice for a minute?” Many marriages aren’t in a place where that’s reasonable. It’s easy for your spouse to take things personally, and it may be hard for them to fully understand. Even if your spouse is one part of your escape plan, you cannot expect them to “contain” your feelings. And you also must connect with one or a few others beyond your marriage for this kind of support.

Escaping Thoughts that Trap You

Your escape plan must also include choosing the thoughts you will think. The lies from the enemy that sound very much like your own voice point you down the road to destruction. “If I don’t have sex today, I’ll blow up.” “I’ve messed up so many times, I might as well do it again.” You know what your own tapes are.

Choose a mental message you can go back to repeatedly that will replace the lies. Write it on a card to carry with you. Put it as the screensaver on your phone. Rehearse it hundreds, thousands of times. You get to choose what that thought is, but here are a few starters:

  • One hour, one day at a time. I can do this today with God’s help.
  • The Holy Spirit lives in me. I’m not just trying harder; I’m following His lead.
  • I have choices. I have an escape plan. I can put my plan into action right now.
  • I may feel alone, but that’s not true. Jesus is with me. And I have a friend I can call.

What If You Slip?

Slips are common. That doesn’t make them okay. A slip is not a relapse; a slip is a temporary speedbump in your journey to sexual wholeness, but it doesn’t take you back to the beginning.

Your first instinct may be to embrace the shame again. Don’t go there. It’s the enemy who immediately shows up to heap shame on you. I’m not sure where I saw this, but it fits: “Religion says, ‘I messed up. My dad is going to kill me!’ The gospel says, ‘I messed up. I better call Dad.’” Run to Jesus when you slip, not away from Him. Run to Him as fast as you can. He will never turn you away. Never.

By examining a slip, you can learn a great deal to help your forward progress. Look back at the first steps in your slide downward. What could have been your first clue? This is the time to adjust your escape plan.

And the best escape plan helps keep you from getting into that downward spiral in the first place. How are you going to keep from becoming HALT – too hungry, angry, lonely, or tired? You do it by becoming a friend to your body, learning to feed yourself, and proactively nurturing deep connections with people (even if messy) and a deepening connection with God.

So, What’s Your Escape Plan?

Your Turn: Where do you get tempted? Do you have an escape plan for when you’re tempted? Does your escape plan need to be updated?  Leave a comment below.

Want More? On this week’s podcast episode I talk with Drew Boa in a raw and hope-filled conversation about the journey to sexual wholeness. Listen or watch.

Tweetables: why not share this post?

  • You WILL be tempted again. So, what’s your escape plan? You get to determine in advance what you will DO with your body and your mind when temptation comes.   Tweet that.

What’s Your Sexual Story?

My book Sexpectations: Reframing Your Good and Not-So-Good Stories About God, Love, and Relationships shows you how to address the hard stuff.

If your heart is struggling with anything around sex, love, and intimacy, you need this! This book will help you:

  • reinterpret your sexual story with honesty and compassion
  • find freedom from shame, compulsive behaviors, past harm, and hiding
  • redefine the way you look at God, sex, love, and relationships
  • orient your sexuality as God intended and embrace what He has for your future
  • experience Jesus coming right into the middle of your story to bring healing and wholeness

Check out our new Sexpectations website where you can find related resources. You can download a free chapter of the book, and order the book for yourself.