I’ll Tell You What I Want

Here is a naked truth that I did not even know about myself. As I sort old journals, cull memories and query friends and family, I am realizing how little I actually knew about my own battle with an eating disorder. It’s kind of like taking a shower, an effort to cleanse away the day’s dust, and discovering a birthmark you had never seen before. images

Obviously, it’s been a part of me forever. Since opening the womb, my “me-ness” has been as God sketched it. My soul has born the same imprint. Surely, culture and family and circumstances ebb and flow across each life and erode some things faster than others while sifting silt and revealing precious stones. But I had hardly seen it.

I was told that in writing my book, I must “bleed on the page and be saved in the process.”

Well, sometimes bleeding hurts. And when you’re naked, even the smallest prick can make you bleed.

I WANT.
You see, I grew up the oldest of four girls. One of the anthems that I remember echoing through the halls of our home was, “Abby, you’re the oldest, can you please just give in this time?”  – – or – –
“Be the mature one.” – – or – –
“I expect more out of you.”

And I did, and I was. But denying want does not erase it. In fact, denying want on the surface dug a deep, subversive pit in my heart where I stuffed want and greedily demanded all my desires while on the surface, others observed a starving little girl denying even her need to eat.

Now, I can clearly hear the melody of my heart all those years, the percussion to which I kept time:
I want you to want me. I want you to think I am the smartest, the thinnest, the most beautiful. I want you to want to be me. I want to be enviable. I want to be impervious. I want to need nothing. I want you to know that I am strong. I want to think I am better than everyone else. I want others to think I am self-disicplined. I want, I want, I want. I want all of my parents’ attention. I want to be your favorite. I want you to notice me. I want you to think I am spiritual. I want your sympathy. I want your touch. I want to be able to have everything I want. I want you to tell me I can eat anything I want. I want to be safe. I want to be independent. I want, I want, I want. 

It was so sneaky that even I did not recognize my greed. An anorexic appears to be in need. The life of an anorexic is an exercise is asceticism, self denial, ultimate self control. But for me, it was ultimately a ploy to get everyone else to condescend to all my demands.
That’s a pretty ugly naked. 

Now, lest you think I am unnecessarily berating myself, or attempting to beg pardon, let me tell you the TRUTH.
I was needy. I do want things.
There are a couple differences now, this is not selfishness. I have learned to ask for things – both my  needs and wants. Secondly, I am learning to be attentive to the needs and desires of those around me. And lastly, I have stopped looking for others to notice and fulfill my emptiness.

I have found the bottomless source of gifts. I have found the unquenchable fulfillment of all my desires. I have found the solitary source for the satisfaction of all my needs. And He loves for me to come to Him HUNGRY. 

The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them. Ps. 145:15-19

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17

 

Starved and Bored

“You don’t realize how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Sounds a lot like last week’s post, Stripped of Chaos.  However, humbly I admit that Lewis does a far more thorough and creative job of warning against this sneaky syndrome. Business, turmoil, digital content, hectic schedules, deadlines, productivity, expectations, urgency, all lend to distract us from the one purpose of our life.

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.
Westmister Shorter Catechism

Most of our hurry has become ordinary. But interestingly, another word for ordinary is humdrum, which Webster’s relates to boring, mundane, drab, blah, lifeless, insipid.

In Lewis’ book, Dear Uncle Screwtape, tells his protege a story about his golden years as a master tempter. He once had a patient hungry for knowledge. This man found himself in the museum feasting on books and historic truths. Suddenly, this ambitious young man was drawn to a fundamental truth, a truth that threatened the fabric of deception Screwtape had laid. In the quiet of a museum, the calm of solitude, what recourse did the demon have to distract his patient? Only the ordinary.

“I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch.”

The subject of interest was much to important to tackle on an empty stomach, so persuaded by his grumbling stomach, the man laid aside his book and left the museum in search of food. As soon as his shoes clipped the pavement, the man caught sight of a bus, then an advertisement, and heard a newsboy’s urgent call.

“I had got him into an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head while shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of ‘real life’ (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all ‘that sort of thing’ just couldn’t be true.”

Ordinary chaos. Daily distraction. Buses, newspapers, hunger. I’m well aware of how distracting my humdrum life can be. In fact, I am sitting, even now, at Starbucks to write this post, because I find the dailiness of  home distracting. There is that hot-pink, sticky note t0-do list on the refrigerator that condemns me for sitting down to write. At home, there is a pair of sappy puppy eyes that accuse me of neglect (even though he already went of a 2 mile walk this morning). There is a hungry husband, a perpetually full laundry hamper and for some reason I am compelled to attend to the phone while within the four walls of my home. If I am this easily drawn away from my work, how easily am I lured away from my God?

If what deserves my full, momentary attention can be avoided, do I tire of and avoid the God that deserves my constant admiration?

Do not imagine me waggling my finger in your face admonishing, “Shouldn’t you be reading your Bible right now?”

But don’t you wonder how Job ever came to say, “I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food.”? Job 23:12

And Jeremiah, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts.” Jer. 15:16

Jesus is an unordinary joy, an extraordinary magnetism. There may be a time of tasting. Like trying a new food, it requires digging into something that might look a little bland. But do not turn back to your common diet. To whet one’s appetite on Jesus is to never be able to get enough.

Does Mercy Truly Triumph Over Judgement?

Talk of injustice brings to mind apartheid, racism and lawful matters. It makes us think of courts and authority and right versus wrong. When a hurricane is hurling toward our doorsteps, we usually don’t stop to wonder about the justice of its attack.

My husband and I didn’t respond to Hurricane Sandy with the prescribed panic and preparations. I didn’t buy any extra batteries, water or canned food. We didn’t board up our windows or batten down hatches. In fact, the only thing I was concerned about was whether or not we would lose power.

During the freakish summer storm that caught most of the east coast by surprise, we lost power for about 2 days. With heat indices topping 110 degrees, we lay motionless in our basement complaining mildly. It’s a terrible inconvenience to not be able to make my morning coffee, dry my hair, do the laundry or watch TV. So as Sandy came, I dreaded another few dimly lit days.

Sandy rattled our windows and threatened to toss the neighbor’s trees into our roof, all day long. Suddenly I thought of a little old maI see almost everyday on my dog walks. He sits serenely on a wooden bench in the shade beside the public library. Usually, he is surrounded by newspapers and a couple of small, flattened boxes. He’s always dressed in the same brown, mid-weight coat, black pants and plain shoes. I don’t think he speaks English, because when I nod politely and murmur, “Hello,” he just looks simply back at me.

What startles me every time is the shine in his eyes. Blackest black, they glisten and glint in the morning light. The sparkle belies what I wonder about his situation: is he homeless, hungry, hot or cold? Does anyone know he’s out here everyday and does he have any family?

One quick dash to our mailbox that afternoon, proved that Sandy was ushering in winter. The temperature had dropped to low 40s and wind whipped, slapped and stung as it played pingpong with raindrops. I wondered, Is he out there in this? Was he out there this summer?

The next morning, my dog and I hustled down our usual route past the library, and there he stood in the narrow doorway, hands stuffed deeply into his pockets, elbows locked defensively at his sides. His chin was down as if he could disappear inside his coat collar.

Impulsively, I ran down the hill toward the library and pulled what little cash I had from my pockets. “Here,” I said. “Please, go get something warm to eat or drink.”

At first he wouldn’t take the money from my hands, but I stood for a second, really wondering what to do. He didn’t answer me either. Finally, both brittle cold hands wrapped around my own, and cupped the money then slid away, concealing the bills. I touched his arm and said, “God bless you.” Then hurried away.

I was fortunate to show the man mercy, but what about justice? Is it just that I will finish my walk, shed my layers and curl up on the couch beside a husband who loves me? Is it just that even if he manages to get a hot meal and a pair of gloves, tomorrow he’ll be right where I saw him today? Is it just?

That day, my heart began to simmer in my chest. I wondered helplessly, at first, What could I possibly do? The next day, I got a sweet letter from the child we sponsor through Compassion International. Innocently, she asked about my life, but what could I reply?

Is it just that she is an orphan? Is it just that her lot in life is to scrap and save and rely on mercy just to live; while I enjoy variety in my food, advanced education, warmth and relative comfort?

“He has shown thee oh man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8

It’s just like the Lord to leave me without excuses. Through the volunteer coordinate from another organization, I recently learned about a group called FACETS that reaches out to the homeless specifically. Starting in just a few weeks, they will begin a special program to prevent hypothermia among the homeless in our county. I called immediately and was put to work the next day.

James says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment.” Despite the social urge to do something about these injustices, judgement cannot reconcile innate discrepancies. Romans 12:1 tells us that God has shown us great mercy. To live out this mercy, to be a conduit from God’s heart to an unjust world, this will triumph.

I Wonder…What is Wonder? A Review of “Recapture the Wonder”

We Miss It, But What Is It?

A man far smarter than myself, started Chapter 1 of his book with such a question. Blissfully and quickly engaged in the generous free copy of Recapture the Wonder, that Moody Publishers provided to me for this review, I pawed through the first several pages. Suddenly, I was aware that I hadn’t actually captured any of the message. Though reading the words, even out loud at points, their meaning slipped through the slats in my mind. Slats created by tiny gaps between streams of constant information: schedules, studies, obligations, requisite “fun” time, etc.

Though his prose are heady and intellectual, as I write this post I’m gaining a better understanding of Ravi Zacharias’ message in his new book. Maintaining a sense of wonder in this adult-world is just like my fruitless efforts to grasp Zacharias’ intent and retain it. I’m a very capable reader, I have plenty of light, a comfortable chair – all the tools necessary to read this book thoughtfully and to gain insight. And yet, I finished the first chapter as clueless as I began. What is this?

Can you honestly explain wonder? We miss it, but what is it?

A less educated child, the one I’m watching lift her sleepy head off of the bouncy-chair tray. Glassy blue-gray eyes blink at me, slightly out of focus. She’s unaware of the drool dripping from her chin or the creases in her cheek from resting on top of her toys. But within seconds, still unaware of herself, she sees her mother. And her eyes snap quickly into focus, a contented, pleased, wonderful smile spreads across her face. She knows what wonder is. She is unaware of herself, but she knows what wonder is.

Zacharias shares the story of walking down a busy street with his wife. They bump and jostle past affluence, ignorance, business and all other walks of life. Then, they notice a homeless man, oblivious to anyone watching, digging desperate and hungry through a dumpster. The story ends there, but imagine if someone had tapped that man on the shoulder and offered him a steaming bowl of chicken soup, a sandwich and water, then walked away without demanding reciprocity. That man would display wonder.

I’ve struggled with slow digestion as I read Ravi’s book. I wish I could hear him read it in his rich, mesmerizing Indian accent. Ah well, the written page will afford me many re-reads. And I will need them. So far, I am considering whether intellect and knowledge – especially self-knowledge – are potential enemies of wonder.

What do you think?