John 1:16 “Out of his fullness we have received grace in place of grace already given.” (NIV)
1Corinthians 13:12-13 “For now we see a reflection as only in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (NIV)
I feel as though I am running on a track, moving forward, but going nowhere. I run for miles and miles on this journey that had a beginning, but appears to have no end. I am growing increasingly frustrated and weary as I want my recovery to have a finish line that I can cross waving my hands in victory. For now, I am Chevy Chase stuck in the round about saying “Look kid’s Big Ben, Parliament,” as he can’t seem to maneuver his way through the traffic and out of the circle.
I remind myself that I am at least moving forward even though I often feel stuck in some of the old eating disordered patterns. I wake each day and take a quick inventory of my body as I walk past a mirror in the hallway to pour my steaming mug coffee. My eyes have barley adjusted to the light of day and, as always wonder if I am seeing myself clearly. I squint my eyes and scrutinize my reflection. Usually, I throw my head back as I drop my tee shirt with a guttural, “Ugh,” rising through my throat. Sometimes it is in response to what I see, but lately it is more out of disgust that I force myself through this cyclic torment day after day; a cruelty that I would never inflict on another human being, but somehow it is okay to inflict on the woman in my mirror.
I sip my restorative coffee with cream as I walk back past the same mirror. I stop once again to see if my coffee has changed how lucidly I see the reflection of my body. Round two, and I allow myself to look past my body and into my prying eyes, “Just stop it!” I say to the hum of the eating disorder.
I settle into my reading chair and feel compelled to look up 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 because of its reference to a mirror and what we see of our reflection does not reflect who we are in Christ. I am desperately in need of this reminder today. I know I am stuck and fearful of who I am without the eating disorder, but I am fearful of dying in it. I often feel that this recovery is only skin deep as I continue to fall short of the meal plan meant to nourish me. I continue to hide within bars of the prison I have built. I am afraid of being rejected if I am fully known.
I breath and hear The Holy Spirit quietly speak, “Liz, you are fully known by me, I made you, I call you by name! I love you so much that I gave my life for you. I want you to fully know yourself and love yourself. You are more than a body; you are my daughter. You have faith and you are holding on to hope, but you do not freely receive the greatest gift of love. Hunger, my dear one, is not a virtue, but love is.”
I think about how many times God references food, water and tasting in the scriptures as metaphors for his goodness and ability to satiate our spirits. How can I truly let him satiate my spirit when I won’t satiate my body?
I recognize that the fear of feeling physically full and the inability to cherish it, but merely tolerate it, must somehow be connected to my ability to receive the fullness of God’s grace. How can I absorb the love of God and those who love me when I continue to deflect love with the shame of the eating disorder? Shame always blocks out love. Therefore, he took our shame to the cross. Yet, I still find myself wearing it like an armor shield deflecting the good along with the bad.
I sat across the table from my dietitian handing her my food sheets. “Liz, this is just not enough fuel for your body!” She seemed intense, and this scares me as she uses words like cannibalizing, to describe to me what can happen when I am undernourished even as I maintain my weight. My eyes drop to the floor and I feel tears stinging my eyes. She asks me, “what it is I want to achieve?” She sees my pain and changes her question, “What do you need?”
I am washed in a wave of sadness, but I am not sure from where it bellows? “Peace,” I answer. “I want the peace that Jesus promises in Philippians 4:7. The peace that ‘transcends all understanding…’ and eyes to see the accept the reflection of my physical presence and eyes to see beyond the physical and into the soul of this woman God knows by name.”
I want to know this stranger that I am becoming more familiar with as me. I want to embrace my strangeness and call it unique, special, beloved. I want to love her so much that I wouldn’t consider with holding nourishment, or scratching her flesh. I would never begrudge her a day off from training. Instead I would fluff her pillows, bring her warm tea with honey, stoke her cheek, and kiss her gently on the forehead as I dimmed the lights.
How do I relate to a familiar stranger? I am honestly not always sure what to do with her? This familiar stranger is like meeting a new friend. Most of the time I enjoy her company and want to know her and be fully known to her. I am afraid of being vulnerable and wonder what direction thes relationship will traverse? How will I know when I can trust her and count on her? Will nourishing her body, allow her to accept the fullness of God’s grace? I read a poem from my writing circle and think,” this, this is what I want.”
Love after Love
The time will come when with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat. You will love the stranger who was yourself. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.