Burning Plows

fireOn Monday, we talked a little bit about burning bridges. We have to eliminate all options besides recovery if we are to recover from an eating disorder, or any other addiction. It’s the same in our walk with Jesus; we have to forsake all other options, burn all bridges to the past, in order to follow Him.

The example we looked at first was Elisha in 1 Kings 19. Elisha had been plowing in his father’s field, behind 12 yoke of oxen, when Elijah threw his cloak over him. In essence, Elijah was commissioning Elisha to become his disciple, to follow in his footsteps and to become like him. The interesting part is that Elisha didn’t simply say, “Okay,” pack his bags and leave. First, he slaughtered the oxen and burned the plows. He had no alternative now, all that was left was to obey Elijah, all of his past life was destroyed.

When we accept God’s free offer of grace, to follow Jesus and to submit our lives – including our addictions and disorders – to Him, it is essential that we burn all bridges to the past. There is no plan B.

Now, I want to take a quick, hypothetical peek beyond Elisha’s story and meld it a little bit to my own. I wonder, if Elisha ever wanted to go back? Certainly, there were tough times ahead. After Elijah was gone, Elisha bore a heavy burden as a major prophet to rebellious Israel. I wonder if he ever walked past his old home, visited his parents and wished that he could return to simpler, familiar days? Did he feel loss?

Recently, I have felt the bare knuckle punch of rejection. It’s worst when no one intends to hurt you, but invariably everyone does. And, it’s because I can’t go back.

When we moved back to Columbus, GA, I was excited because this time I already knew people in the area. Unlike so many previous moves to places unknown, there were familiar streets and places and people in this southern town. Most of my friends were from the running club. I used to meet them four mornings a week for runs up to 21 miles. We also celebrated a few birthdays together, organized local races and got pedicures for our swollen, post-run feet. But since I have begun walking full-heartedly in recovery, I had to forsake distance running and in a sense, burn my running shoes, a bridge to the past.

Right after we arrived in Georgia, I met one old running buddy for coffee. I chatted with a couple on Facebook, bumped into two downtown. I have been politely dismissed. And it hurts. You see, each of them invited me to join them for a run, asked if I was still doing races told me of upcoming running club plans. I cannot go. You see, I burned plan B.

My only viable option is anything but returning to old habits that fueled my eating disorder. For me, one of those was compulsive, extensive exercise – especially running.

If you give up your eating disorder, or other addiction, what bridges, shoes, plows will you have to burn? Will it cost you something? Will you ever have the opportunity to look back and then realize there’s no way to go back?

If you have decided to follow Jesus in all that is His best for you, including your health, physical body, habits and heart, burn everything else.

She Loves Magazine

One of my greatest pleasures and honors is writing for SheLovesMagazine.

Regardless of individual issues, anorexia keeps all relationships at arm’s length. My heart screamed for my husband to love me, call me beautiful and scare away all my self-loathing. At the same time, my sharp hip bones, malnourished mood swings and amenorrhea told him I was unapproachable.


You can read more of this post here… Jesus Never Gave Up On Me

Who Me? An Addict?

Call it passion, drive, ambition, even obsession. But I don’t like the word addiction.

Tobacco is an addiction. Alcohol can be an addiction. Smartphones and game systems can be addictions. But exercise?

God called my intense focus on exercise an idol. “Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.” Philippians 3:19

I called it training. Every morning, before anything else, I tied on my running shoes and slipped onto the lamplit street. If my schedule got too tight and something had to give, it was anything except my workouts.

Once I skipped church to get in a long run. Often, I rolled out of bed on a Saturday morning leaving my slumbering husband to wake up alone. I had goals, no time for relationships.

Many modern addictions have become socially acceptable, even applauded. The workaholic is rewarded with raises. The compulsive exerciser is congratulated on being so thin. The shopaholic is envied for her good fashion. If we finally admit that we might have gone a bit overboard, rather than confess and abandon our idols, we demand a placebo. Or perhaps we are willing to reduce our obsessive pursuits but we fear to forsake them.

Recently, I spoke with a friend who was concerned that she might be drinking too much. “Is there something I can eat or do to cleanse my body?” she asked. She wanted the glass of wine, but she didn’t want the consequences.

When my health came to a critical point, I was forced to give up running. I looked fearfully for something to take its place. As I tried hours of weight lifting, swimming, spinning and fitness DVDs, peace remained elusive. But I continued to wonder, how can  something intrinsically good, like exercise, be sin?

James 1:14-15 says, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”

Christ is the power that removes our addictions. “And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.” Philippians 3:2-21

 

The Moralistic Appeal

On Monday, I confessed several ways that I see the moralistic gospel veiling pride in my own life. Continued reading reminded me of a specific instance, or several instances.

When I was 14, I began a long struggle with anorexia. I endured hours and hours of counseling. I was treated from every angle – coddling and compassion for the disease that assailed me, conviction and chastisement for  yielding to a sinful addiction. At first, it was easier to lean into the people who felt sorry for me. But, as God has peeled away the scabs of pride, painfully revealing my frailty and failures, I realized that I had been lured into sin.

Personally, my eating disorder was a mask for pride. I had invented my own moral code: extreme bodily self-control. I berated myself for succumbing to food or a shortened workout. I looked down on others who couldn’t mortify their own desires. So pride festered, manifesting itself in my own bodily destruction – what sin will always do.

When I married, my wonderful husband turned out to be human too. I won’t confess his weaknesses, but he had a few addictions and failures of his own. I mounted my moralistic ladder and instead of displaying Christ’s love to him, I preached a moralistic gospel. He didn’t measure up to my personal moral code, he wasn’t reading the Bible as much I was, he wasn’t seeking Godly counsel as I was, he wasn’t fighting his demons as valiantly as I was. So I lambasted him for his shortcomings. Regrettably, I even doubted his salvation.

Case in point – a moralistic gospel.

If I can refine one nugget of gold from the years of my eating disorder, it is that God used it later in life to show me how patient, graceful and forgiving He had been toward me. God even showed me how my own family had displayed the true gospel toward me in the midst of my eating disorder. In this way, He convicted me of my counterfeit life-preaching toward my husband. If God stooped so low as to redeem me from the pit of rebellion, how could I insist that anyone else climb out of the pit, clean themselves off and then present themselves to the God of Grace?

Wax’s chapter on the moralistic gospel in Counterfeit Gospels, rings true in my own history. I pray the Lord to keep me humbly in the center of the one true gospel.

We’re So Vain!

As if gambling were not already enough of a social ill. As if it weren’t enough to encourage a society that can scarcely employ its population, to risk, barter and fritter its income on cards and electronic games. As if 90,000 teens getting plastic surgery in 2007 wasn’t a clear enough sign that America is beauty-obsessed. As if!

The Trump Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City is offering $25,000 worth of plastic surgery to one lucky winner. Gamblers can earn points throughout the month of October. On October 29, someone will be awarded the opportunity to look in the mirror, dissect and despise their body and then submit themselves to a surgeon’s knife for liposuction, breast implants, a nose job, ear tucks or any one of a number of procedures.

I heard this on the radio a couple days ago, and I had to Google it – surely it couldn’t be. And of course, if it sounds unconscionable, ridiculous and absurd – it’s probably real. One only has to watch the progression of reality TV shows to notice that American entertainers are in a vicious competition to be the most deviant and aberrant.

I am the first one to admit that I don’t often admire a picture of myself. Even if I appreciate what I see in the mirror at 9 in the morning, I’m likely to feel frumpy and disheveled by 10:30 a.m. I work at a gym, and daily I watch people struggle to thin their thighs, tone their triceps and trim their tummies. At least they’re trying.

I don’t advocate body disparity. The Bible says that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139). Instead of squandering our children’s college tuition on chance in the casino, what about investing in their healthy bodies, thirsty minds and malleable spirits? If we don’t we’re likely to find our teens spending their high school years sullen, self-absorbed and at odds with us. Rethink your priorities!!

As I read several articles about the Taj Mahal’s unique prize, a couple things struck me in addition to promoting discontent with our bodies.

It’s interesting: gambling is a get rich quick effort. (for some interesting statistics see http://www.overcominggambling.com) Plastic surgery is a discouraged individual’s attempt to perfect her body overnight. Americans want everything yesterday. Hard work and waiting are disappearing values.

Gamblers are more likely to be male than female. Is this an all-out effort to attract women to the “sport?” I guess luring women into surgeon’s chairs through unrealistic magazine spreads, billboards, runway models and TV ads wasn’t working fast enough.

It seems almost crazy that someone could be addicted to plastic surgery, but we’ve seen it happen. We already know gambling is addictive. Imagine combining the two!

According to an interview with The Associated Press, Dr. Eda Gorbis — an assistant professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and founder of the Westwood Institute for Anxiety Disorders in Los Angeles — said she’s already seen cases of people struggling with excessive plastic surgery and excessive gambling, and has grown concerned about the connections.
“Definitely one thing reinforces the other one,” she said. “Both are addictions, and they’re bad addictions.”

First we’ll boost the casino’s business and keep the plastic surgeons busy. In a few more years we’ll be overwhelming Gamblers Anonymous and other 12 step programs.

 

 

Heroine Addict, from my journal, July 2009

I feel like a heroine addict.  I read once about a pastor overseas who was addicted to heroine.  In an effort to purge his life of all the idols in his life and determined that his God was bigger than anything that assulted him, he locked himself in his house until he had conquered his lust for the substance. He said he would rather die than dishonor God by his life.

The story goes on that for weeks he writhed in agony on the floor suffering withdrawl symptoms that seemed worse than death itself.  In his lucid moments he screamed scripture outload and defied Satan by the name of Christ.

 

In time, tested and tried, he emerged as purified gold.  A pure bride of Christ with no desires for anything else to sustain his life or offer him satisfaction and joy.

Today I cried,  I moaned, I sobbed over a pathetic piece of biscotti!!!!  I spent time alone and grieved the silence.  But I battled.  I called those who love me, read of God’s love for me and Christ’s sacrifice.  I clung to hope and confessed my weakness.  I relished the comfort of my mother-in-law and the peace of my Savior.  I will win this war.   It has gone on long enough.

Some of the wounds seem so fresh today because I was reading my oldest journals and read of the pain, sorrow and loneliness that invaded my life when I was only 13!!

Joel 2:25-26 “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, The crawling locust, The consuming locust, And the chewing locust,My great army which I sent among you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, And praise the name of the Lord your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; And My people shall never be put to shame. “

Hanging up the Asics

I am writing this before and posting it after my in-laws visit us.  Mike and Julie are arriving on Saturday evening!  I really am excited, I just wish Patrick had more time off to hang out with us.  But here’s where the honesty/truth thing comes in:

My in-laws are both incredible athletes.  In fact, they have earned themselves a reputation that precedes them at every running event they attend.  Mike can still run a 5K in less than 17 minutes!!  Julie’s endurance is uncanny as she has made numerous double crossings of the Grand Canyon among other things.

I used to be a distance runner.  I did a couple marathons and trained aggressively, averaging over 50 miles a week.  My health plummeted.  The more I ran, like a crack addict, the more I had to run.  In my sick little mind it gave me a way to identify with the Kelly’s.  Pride would wriggle up my neck, perch on my shoulder and urge me on, “Tell them how much you run!  Run that race with them.  Make sure you tell Mike about your last 10K time.”

In other addictions, like alcoholism, abstinence is required.  I can’t be abstinent from food.  It wouldn’t be healthy to completely abstain from exercise.  But, I am under the conviction and am persuaded that abstinence for me is to quit talking about, thinking about, allowing my life to revolve around food and exercise.  So, that topic of conversation, that element of identification is out.

The problem is, Mike and Julie still think I run.  The fact is, this morning I went for a run and I had to walk part of it.  Here’s the confession and it’s hard: I am not a distance runner.  I am not winning any races.

True familial honesty demands that I tell Mike and Julie this.  I need to tell them that I am not strong enough to talk about food and exercise without entertaining the old demons of addiction.

Also, honesty with myself and an honest effort at recovery means that I must change the subject and talk to them about things other than fitness.

Right?