The Thorn in My Side

I was pretty stoked: God had given me an out! I had discovered the Bible verse that indicated anorexia was something I could struggle with my whole life.

Now, that sounds discouraging, but then, as someone who had fought the battle with anorexia for over a decade and continued to lose, it seemed like a welcome release. Perhaps I didn’t need to fight so hard, maybe this was something God had given me; my personal struggle. Maybe God wasn’t going to heal me or rescue me, maybe I could quit hoping and waiting and trying because this was just “my thing”.

Second Corinthians 12:6-10 says, “Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

See, I thought, even Paul had something that he struggled with his whole life.

But as I prayed about this and tried to find the peace that proved I had found the solution to my struggle, it wasn’t there.

Paul’s thorn served a specific purpose. In the preceding verses, Paul says that the thorn was given to him to keep him from boasting in himself; it was not a random affliction such that “everyone has one”.

Paul had become an untimely apostle, having seen the risen Jesus after his ascension. After that, with many visions, his extensive schooling in The Law, his dual citizenship and rightful authority and notoriety as an evangelist, Paul had good reason to be proud. God gave him this “thorn” as a reminder that he was not self-sufficient and perhaps even as a physically humiliating attribute that kept others from idolizing him.

My eating disorder can never be compared to Paul’s thorn in the flesh. First, the Bible says that God tempts no one. I believe that my anorexic behaviors were evidence of idolatry—worshipping myself. God frequently commands us to have no god besides Him. He will not “give” me an idol.

Second, Paul closes this passage by saying that he rejoices in his weakness so that the power of Christ might rest on him. To resign myself to an eating disorder as simply “my thorn” does not express the power of Christ and honor Him as the supreme one and only God, as The Redeemer.

Indeed, my eating disorder kept me on my knees before Jesus, more aware daily of how much I need Him. However, His power is made evident in my surrender to Him, not in my resignation to anorexia.

This article was first published at FINDINGbalance.com

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The 3 “P’s” of Shame

It all started with shame. I was ashamed of who I was. No, I wasn’t a terrible person and I never endured much of what other women have that evokes shame. But I wasn’t super smart or super pretty or super athletic or super funny. I was simply plain, run-of-the-mill average. And I was ashamed.

For fourteen years, anorexia allowed me to excel at something. No one wanted to compete with me, but I competed with everyone. In my malnourished mind, I “won” every time I was thinner than another girl, every time I turned down food that another person simply couldn’t resist, every time I went for a long run in the rain while others pulled the sheets over their head and enjoyed the warmth of a cozy bed. I was an excellent anorexic.

Finally, I surrendered. I quit trying to make myself into someone I could be proud of—someone with a strong self will, a perfect figure and uncompromising strength. I finally relinquished the my pursuit of “excellence”. But then, shame reared its ugly head again; this time, he had a double-edged sword.

You’re still average—average weight, average strength, normal temptations. Did you just have seconds? You’re pathetic.

I can’t believe how much of your parents’ money you wasted. It’s shameful the emotional toll your behavior took on your sisters and friends. I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian and you couldn’t even summon the faith to get “healthy” in less than 14 years. You’ll always be pathetic.

Henry Cloud says that shame has three characteristics that distinguish it from God’s gentle correcting voice. He says shame is always personal, permanent and pervasive.

I ran the diagnostics on the voice that kept accusing me. You are pathetic. Pretty personal. In 1 Corinthians 6, even as Paul points out the Corinthians’ shortcomings, he also reminds them whose they are. “Do you not know that your bodies are a temple of the Holy Spirit, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Pervasive. It’s shameful the emotional toll your behavior took on your family and friends. I can’t believe you call yourself a Christian. The enemy’s accusation encompassed my whole life, my faith and all of my relationships. However, Colossians 3:3 says, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” If sin and shame pervaded my life before, they do no longer because I have Christ’s life.

Permanent. You’ll always be pathetic. But the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “…anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” No sin or mistake is permanent. God holds nothing against me.

Today I walk free of those specific lies, but I know that times will come when I feel ashamed again. But I have learned to recognized the voice of truth and I choose to listen to what my Father says about me: “You have made [me] a little lower than the angels and crowned [me] with glory and honor.” Psalm 8:5

(This was first published at http://www.findingbalance.com)

Active Rest, Walking out the “Stuck”

I’m really good at giving advice. And I’m pretty good at taking it from others. I start to struggle a bit when I know that I need to take my own advice. More accurately, when I need to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He tells me something I don’t want to hear.

There are a lot of things going on in my life that I don’t have much control over. Yet, I’m wearing myself out, tangling myself up in my mind trying to get a grip on them, force the proper outcome, demand the delayed response, see the future. But I’m hearing God say “rest”.

How does one rest? What does one do in the meantime? I mean, the world keeps spinning, expectations keep mounting, time marches on and: I still don’t have an answer God! I don’t know what to do about this circumstance, that situation or another relationship.

The One Word God gave me as a lens through which to view this year is walk. I sat with my Bible on my lap, staring out the window at a gloomy, spring morning and waited, as best I could, for God to give me something more. I didn’t know how to get up, or what to do next if He didn’t answer me. Finally, He spoke:

Abby, I want you to see the correlation between walking and rest. Do not charge ahead as if you’re in some race toward a marked finish line. There are no lanes, no finish lines, just a person-goal, Myself.

When I was deeply entrenched in my eating disorder, compulsive exercise was one of my greatest challenges and resting was very hard for me. In “workout vernacular” there’s a term active rest. It is those seconds between sets or days between workouts that capitalize on all your hard work. During those rest periods, the muscles and tissues grow and rebuild. Without them, the body’s ability to perform diminishes.

When those rest periods are used wisely, the body is able to lift more, run farther and perform more efficiently over time. In those periods, it is beneficial to drink water, consume nutrients, stretch—and walk. Stagnant rest is detrimental to muscles, but slow, constructive, mindful movement accelerates healing and increases longevity.

Walk, Abby. This is how you wait. One foot in front of the other; the next right thing.

The exercise analogy can be related to the importance of rest in my daily life and walk with God. So often throughout Scripture, God calls us to wait on Him. Usually, I spin my wheels in those spaces, wondering when He is going to act, or maybe I can just step in and do whatever it is for Him. But God calls me to wait, tells me to rest for my own good.

He knows that when I slow my movement, consume the nourishment of His word and walk mindfully through each day I’ll eventually come upon His answer. And after those seasons of slow movement, rest and recovery, I will be able to serve Him longer, in more difficult circumstances and with a stronger faith.

This was first published at http://www.FINDINGbalance.com

Life Lessons From Callie

Partially reposted and linked from Finding Balance:

I have already learned a lot from Callie, the newest member of our family.

I was having a hard time after my grandma died and I really wanted a cat. I had been praying for one for 5 years, but I live with my mom so the answer was always no. I however kept praying, believing God would bring me one. I had no idea that the cat he would give me would be one I needed badly to teach me lessons I need to learn.

You can read the rest of Gina Paris’s post here…

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Visit Me at Finding Balance

Hi guys! I recently wrote an article for Finding Balance that I believe is very applicable to (myself) and my readers here. Hope you enjoy it!

The modern portrayal of the perfect female body is a misnomer. Dictionary.com defines perfect as, “excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.” How then is it possible that today’s image of a perfect woman is so much different than it was a mere 15 years ago?

Finish the article at Finding Balance!

Crazy has an Itchy Trigger Finger

You’ve already gotten the true Naked confession that returning to Columbus, GA, the scene of my relapse into anorexia 6 years ago, has huge potential to be triggering for me.

Now the second Naked truth: I was kinda hoping that walking in recovery meant I wouldn’t have anymore triggers. An excerpt from my journal this morning:

My heart is bowed low in humility or embarrassment, pain or fear, I’m really not sure which of these it is or might be. In spite of all my words and plans for preparedness, Crazy is trying to kick in. Almost quite literally, Crazy (the compulsions I obeyed and my behavior while under the influence of an eating disorder) is trying to kick down the door and all of my defenses, the things I propped against the door are shaking, quaking, threatening to collapse around me, crush me and all my valiant efforts to “stay well”.

I admit (Naked truth here) that I have wondered if it might require less energy to drop my resistance. To just slip back into the habits, routines and culture of my “former Columbus”. Just let it take me under. But what of the next move, what then? Would I ever, ever be able to resurface again? I fear that if I let anorexia take me under one more time, I’d never breathe again.

So, as I am leaning into my One Word 2013, Naked, and bearing my soul to you here, I wonder:

How does Crazy kick in?

Few people actually think they’re Crazy, how does it sneak into my life and habits?

How do I slam the door since I already know what Crazy looks like?

How do I get away?

I’m in a position right now to be staring Crazy in the face, let me tell you how he got here, what he looks like and how I will banish him.

Crazy always walks in with a trigger. From a place of recovery, that looks like something you did or someone you knew before when you were still acting Crazy. And while you are chatting with this person, or considering this behavior, a flood of optimism comes over you. Crazy tells you, “We had good times. You don’t want to lose this relationship. You can keep it under control this time. You can find balance even while flirting with this behavior.

On a personal level, my trigger is all the familiar streets in Columbus, the sweet friends who are still running and competing in triathlons. The friends who somehow are able to contain Crazy without letting him take them over. I’d like to think I could do that, too. But I recognize this trigger, if I start extreme exercising again, I’ll flip the switch for Crazy.

But perhaps what Crazy looks like and even how he got here aren’t all that important relative to how to get away from him. Praise the Lord, who through Jesus, has finished all the work for me.

“LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.” Is. 26:12

As I prayed and continued writing in my journal, the Lord spoke to me.

Beloved, all your defenses, the plans you stacked against the door of possible relapse, are pointless without me. No good intention will ever succeed without me. It is not only someday in Heaven that you are safe from fears, secure and protected from your enemies. Darling, you have me, The One True God, now, and forever. And it is not only eternity or only your spirit that I love and care for. I am intimately invested in you. Trust me with your recovery.

“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure…You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Ps. 16:9, 11