Letter to a Friend

Recently, a new friend admitted to me that she has struggled with an eating disorder for many years. As we shared pieces of our stories, she asked a question that launched a mini-sermon in me. Don’t worry, I’m preaching to myself really! But as I clicked “send”, I realized just how much of my response encapsulated all that I’m learning about my eating disorder and recovery in the process of prayer and writing.

I want to share my letter with you.

Dear Friend, 

You asked about the “why”. Funny, I have thought about that a lot lately as I penned my book and prayed and relived all those years of my own eating disorder. And yes, I’ve come to a conclusion. 

 
The treatment community spends an exorbitant amount of time trying to unearth our issues, figure out what made this happen. We say that we aren’t “blaming” anyone, but that family dynamics, abuse and a plethora of other things must have all combined to make this happen. Exactly as you said though, “Why not everyone?”
 
My sisters grew up in the same household and under the same parents that I did, in the same communities. Personally, I don’t have a history of abuse to blame my issues on. I have a fairly perfectionistic father (toward himself more than toward anyone else) and at time I believed he loved my sister, Jennifer, more than me. And, Jennifer was incredibly talented and smart so I was jealous of her for years. But really? I don’t have a good reason. 
 
The more that I’ve prayed about it, I think the common treatment modality, “figure out the root and fix the underlying issues”, does us a huge disservice. I have really, really come to believe that my anorexia was nothing more than addiction and idolatry on my part. No, I’m not blaming myself either. I don’t believe there’s a “why” to be found or blame to be placed, at least not in all situations. 
 
It’s really no different than any other sin. It’s the way you and I chose to react to the circumstances and catalysts within a fallen world. Because we believe in Jesus as our Savior, our sin does not banish us from God or cause Him to hate us. So, I’m not saying that as we struggle with an eating disorder God is upset with us. Quite the contrary – and this where I get so excited!! – The pain of living in my sin, the pain of struggling with body image constantly, or starving myself or brutal workouts, the mental anguish of an eating disorder DROVE me to Jesus. It’s His kindness that leads us to repentance. It’s because as I was falling apart, He didn’t turn away, but reached out to me and loved me anyway (while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me).
 
Anorexia was what drove me to my knees before a loving Father. I can honestly say that I would not know Him like I do if I had not struggled. He might have used another issue, but He chose this one for me that I might seek the only one who could save me – not just from anorexia but from sin altogether. Does that make any sense?
 
We are stubborn creatures as humans. We will not naturally admit our need for a savior, so in order to open our eyes, humble our hearts and cause us to seek Him, sometimes God allows us to intimately feel the savagery of a sinful world. It is then that we know how much we need Him.
 
I hope that helps. Kinda got on a soapbox there, but I get so excited! 🙂
 
I’m just figuring all this out.

Come on, an Idol? Really??

If you’re like me, you cringe when I say that living in an eating disorder is equivalent to practicing idolatry. As a Christian, one of the most confusing, painful parts of my eating disorder was wondering why I didn’t have enough faith to get well.

Perhaps you think, like me, “But I love God and I believe that Jesus died for my sins and I am trusting Him to get me to heaven.”

And then you kind of panic.

“Is God frustrated with me? Will He give up on me? Have I lost my faith?”

I cannot tell you how many nights I cried out to God, “Please, please just take this away! I don’t want to be miserable and feel distant from you anymore. Please, just let me wake up and all of this anxiety over food and my body be gone!”

Then, I’d wake up one more morning and know, one more time, that I was still stuck. If Jesus had sat down on the bed next to me and said, “Stay here with me this morning.” I would have stood up, put on my running shoes and left Him sitting there. I could not resist the call of my other master.

Let’s start at square one. To establish at eating disorder as an idol, consider these verses:

Colossians 3:5, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”

The Greek word for “covetousness” can also be translated as materialism, avarice, or eager to have more especially of that which belongs to others.

I won’t put words in your mouth, but I will confess that in my heart of hearts, that’s exactly how I felt about my eating disorder. I craved the attention that it afforded me, I was covetous of beautiful bodies and clamored for more of what I thought would make me perfect.

On a more obvious level, I began to see my eating disorder as idolatry when I realized that it consumed more of my time, more of my thoughts, indeed, all of my life, than Jesus did. Being thin and the concept of being strong and needless was my treasure, and yes, that’s where my heart was also. (Matt. 6:21)

So, what of this idol, this earthly treasure? Can I not have God, too?

Luke 16:13 makes it clear that we cannot serve two masters. Goodness knows, I tried. Every single day, after my workout of course, I pulled out my devotional, my Bible and journal. Every single year, I read through the Bible again. I led Bible studies at church. But hollowness lingered in my soul. I could not pursue my anorexic goals with all the passion of my mind, and give my heart fully to Jesus.

I’m sorry if this is hard to hear, but neither can you.

Let me be clear, having an eating disorder or any other addiction does not mean you are not saved. Salvation is by faith alone in what Christ did for you at the cross.  (John 3:16)

But I was wondering why I couldn’t grow in my faith, why Jesus seemed distant, why I wasn’t learning how to trust Him more and more, even with things like eating and my physical body.

Back up a few verses in Luke 16. I’m pondering here, so search this out for yourself if it makes sense.

Verses 10-12 say, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?”

It is a very great and precious treasure that God has invested in us, the very life of His Son, Jesus Christ. However, if I prove less than faithful with my own physical body, how can I ever expect Him to continually reveal to me greater levels of intimacy and freedom in Him?

Flip the passage over. Think with me of Christ’s faithfulness. In my eating disorder, I essentially said, “God, I trust you for heaven and eternity, but I don’t trust you with my body right now.”

If Jesus is continually faithful to forgive all my sins and to save my soul, is He not then obviously faithful and capable of caring for my physical body? Why would I not trade this worthless idol, this brutal task master of anorexia for the One True and Faithful God who not only guarantees my eternity, but is capable and worthy of tending my physical body as well?

LASTing Peace, Week 2

Today we’re discussing Biblical support for the idea that an eating disorder or addiction can be an idol in our lives. Also, we take a look at Scriptures that explain how to abandon our idols and find peace in Jesus.
Supporting verses John 6:35, Is. 30:15, Jonah 2:8

Prayer for Crushing Idols

Last weekend, I was disappointed because Patrick had to work. I look forward to our Saturday morning coffee times. We roll out of bed about 7 a.m.  and sit our butts right back down in cozy living room chairs with steaming cups of banana nut-flavored coffee and the computer. Sounds romantic right? Well, we don’t get cable and we don’t pay for newspaper delivery, so Yahoo News, and FOX online do the trick. After browsing a few depressing stories, our search deteriorates to the funniest pictures of animals, or YouTube bloopers.

But this last weekend, one of his soldiers got a DUI, so Patrick called the whole company in for a corporal punishment of 8 hours of safety classes. But my greatest Lover, my Heavenly Father, met me right there. This week, I promised to share Scripture prayers with you. The Bible is laced with perfect narratives, supernatural dialogue and personal scripts for prayer. I am without excuse for prayer-less-ness. Saturday morning, God got personal.

I am doing a wonderful Bible study called In His Image, by Setting Captives Free. I had been doing it infrequently, a day every couple weeks, but I’ve been missing out! God has used my study mentor and the probing questions to dig deeply into the lingering worship that I ascribe to food and exercise. The Bible talks several times about the Israelites “following God,” and yet at the same time refusing to tear down their high places of idol worship. I often find myself in that exact position: daily serving and following God, all the while with my idolatrous alters standing in the background. Why? Is it a safety net? The idea that I can always go back?

So, Father brought me again to a place of surrender. I want to share with you the verses that He strung together and draped as a garland around my neck. When I am inhaling, exhaling, gazing at and living in God’s word, then I am beautiful.

“My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment,
do not let them out of your sight;
they will be life for you,
an ornament to grace your neck.” Proverbs 3:22

Father, today (Saturday, April 28, 2012) I lay my body and my appetites before you in reasonable and rightful worship. [Romans 12:1] I choose to renew my mind in your word and conform it to your perfect, personal will. I am setting my mind purposefully on your Holy Spirit, grateful for and convinced of your promise of life and peace. Just as you raised Jesus from the dead, you can and will fill my body with life. [Romans 12, 8] I confess to you that I am unable to do this at all – but you promised to help me in weakness. Intercede for me and personally meet my needs and bless me. I am opening my very mouth before you – fill it. [Ps. 81:10] I will feast on your sufficient word, it is my delight. [Jer. 15:16] I hear you call my name. Speak Lord, your servant is listening.

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