Genesis 1:3 -4 “And God said, ‘let there be light,’ and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good…”
Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?
God frequently uses the world light throughout scripture and generally light is good. He saw that it was good! Jesus even uses light to describe who he is. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
I love light. I love that Jesus is my light, I love Christmas lights, bright lights illuminating my house, the light of a full moon, starlight, candle light, firelight and night lights. I love how the sunlight of fall can make a hillside of trees glow akin to dancing flames. There is nothing better than winter sunshine reflecting off a fresh layer of snow warming my cheeks as I ride the ski lift to anticipated adventure, but summer sunlight and I have a love/hate relationship.
I adore the way the summer sun warms spring from its winter slumber bringing with it new life. The grass is transformed from a carpet dull brown and matted blades, into a lush inviting carpet of green splendor; A breeding ground for bunnies and other small creatures. The sun coaxes the lilacs and peonies to unfold their petals for all to see, releasing a fragrance for all to inhale. I sit on my porch and just breath in God’s aroma. I Gaze in wonder at the colors splashed across lawn as I listen to the sweet melody of birds singing in the background. Everything made possible by the light that God created and called good.
Sunlight is good and necessary for life, but just as the sunlight exposes the dormant life of winter, it has the capacity to expose my ties to the eating disorder. These ties are no longer thick, sturdy ropes that could hold a boat to the shore. They now resemble the fishing line that reels a fish into the boat. The line is delicate, yet strong at the same time. The same fishing line that I can break with my hands, can haul in a rather large fish. I find so much hope in the weakness of the line while denying its strength because I know I hold the power to break this tie in my own hands.
The same sunlight that invites the flowers to push their way through the soil, pushes me out of my comfort zone as I am forced to shed the protection of my winter clothes that conceal my body, donning summer clothes that reveal my body. My judge and jury, the mirror knows my name and it calls for me in my weakness, beckoning to assess my body before I put it on display for all the world to see. The mirror’s call, up until now, has been hushed and less frequent. I am grateful that I am turning more and more to God’s truth, about who I am than some distorted image mocking me in the mirror.
I am able, most days, to limit my body checking ritual to twice a day or even avoid the mirror reflecting my image to my own critical eye, but how can I avoid critiquing what the summer forces me to expose; my body in a bathing suit. There are reflections from windows and the glassy surface of bodies of water that draw my eye to peek and critique my body. It is the simple things that cause me to pause and check out how I feel about this body; like feeling my stomach round as I sit in a beach chair. I feel compelled to look down, to feel it, to be ok with it and appreciate the life that came from this rounded belly. I ask myself, “is my body different from how it was yesterday in the same spot in the same suit?” Realizing that the real question is “am I different in the same spot, in the same suit as yesterday?”
The answer is “NO!” I am still me: A women in recovery from an eating disorder, doing the best I can each day to do the next right thing for The Lord and myself. I am a child of God.
As women, we are inundated with the message that we need to prepare, well in advance of the changing season to have our summer, pool, lake, or beach body. I peruse the magazines in the checkout line. “Six weeks to your perfect beach body!” I watch the morning “news” shows. “Tune in for our next segment on how you can have your abs ready for the beach with these 4 simple exercises.” I imagine these statements can cause most women to be disgusted with their bodies and fear going near any body of water exposed in a bathing suit. I yearn for the day when I believe; when women believe, that if you have a body and you are at the beach…you have a “BEACH BODY!’’
For those of us in recovery bathing suit season can set us back, cause us to lapse, and feel ashamed of our bodies as they morph into a ‘’healthier” body that can feel heavy, foreign, and uncomfortable even as they appear quite normal. We may even have the warped cultural ideal “beach body” yet still we hide. We hide because we are used to hiding behind more than our winter bulky sweaters; we are used to hiding behind our eating disorders. I hide fearing that someone will comment on my body. Even compliments become perverted in my head. I don’t hear “rocking body!” I hear, often, “you failed at anorexia,” instead of, “you are kicking recovery.”
Recovery is vulnerability. I hide because what recovery “looks like” and what it feels like for me in this time and this space are two very different things. I hide because sporadically, recovery leaves me feeling more vulnerable than being sick. The way recovery looks and feels is a varied as the victims of the illness. I may appear healthy, stable, and confident in my weight restored body, as my friends and loved ones’ look upon me breathing a sigh of relief, but I am feeling anxiety wash over me like waves crashing upon a shore. People see recovery… I feel fear. And while anything but confident in this body, in this time and space, I do press on with confidence that the day is coming soon when my mind, body, and spirit will be united in recovery.
I also carry sorrow that I can make other’s feel worse about their bodies as I shroud mine in towels and sarongs. If you are one of these beautiful women I have wounded through my own body image distortions, “I am sorry!” Here is something you need to know about me, I rarely notice your body, only your eyes, your smile, your wisdom, and humor. If I do notice your body, sadly it is because I am comparing mine to yours, assuming you are judging me. Or I may be wishing I had the body confidence you appear to exude.
As the sunshine and warmth beckons me to shed my winter layers like a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon, I find myself fearful of once again feeling the stronghold of the eating disorder squeezing the life, that I am just beginning to enjoy, right back out of me. I am tired of the fear of this stronghold squeezing me out of my life, and I know this is not God’s will for my life. I hear him speak to me through the scriptures. “…The LORD is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid.” Psalm 27:1
I know it is time to make the exchange of the eating disorder’s stronghold for another; The Lord’s stronghold. I feel ready to step out of my comfort zone and taste a bit of freedom. I have spent enough time tasting nothing and want to “Taste and see…” all He has in store for me even if that means feeling exposed in a bathing suit. I am fearful, but I am also tired of sitting on the beach or by the pool covered in a towel, when others freely frolic in the water.
I open up the shades and turn my face to the sun. I believe I am ready to step out of my comfort zone with The Son to light my way. I pack my beach bag, slip into my bathing suit, because today I am ready to take the plunge and dive into life.