Ephesians 8:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on a new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (NIV)
It is so difficult to believe that the God who created all things, loves me and cherishes me when my own mother didn’t. He is into love, discipline, and forgiveness, not wrath, punishment, and abandonment, when I step out of his will for me. This, my mind knows, but at times my heart forgets.
Our image of God is often erroneously formed by what our parents model for us. I still struggle to understand that God isn’t in to punishment and I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. I am constantly reminding myself “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
It is a daily process to internalize that I am a new creation in Christ and I am the sum of all my experiences; none of which alone defines me. He, Jesus Christ, defines me.
Satan would like me to believe the skewed image of my parental love, thus, grow weary and cease fighting to find my identity in Christ, and continue to identify with anorexia. I am exhausted, but My Father reminds me that all the hard work I have done and have yet to do, will not been in vain. Philippians 2:16 “…And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not labor in vain,”
You see, the hardest part of my recovery is before me as my weight is restored. I “look” recovered but the battle to hold on to my recovery and my identity in Christ day after day, rages on in my body, mind and spirit. Before I even have my first cup of coffee, I still stop and check my body in my hall mirror, wondering, “Am I okay?”
What do I need to do, be, or look like to be okay?
I don’t feel okay in this body as I have gone “all in” and tried my best to remain married to my meal plan I was placed on by the staff at The Center for Balanced Living. I look in the mirror and the once familiar curves, and straight-a-ways, appear distorted and foreign. Imagine traveling home after a very long trip and all the familiar roads and landmarks have been, changed, detoured or removed. I can feel this sense of panic and distress when gazing upon my reflection. I am as lost in this body as trying to find my way home traveling unmarked roads blindfolded.
When will my body stopped expanding? Each day my skin feels like a latex balloon being blown up one breath at a time. And, it is doing this even as I have increased my training to my pre-IOP care. Can you say “FEAR?” I can say it, as it envelops me even as I know that The Lord commands us not to fear over 300 times in scripture. I have allowed fear to replace my faith. Oh, how this must grieve The Father.
My fear is a huge as my body appears to me. God whispers to me through song, “Fear, he is a liar. He will take you breath, stop you in your steps. Fear, he is a liar; he will rob your rest, steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire ‘cause fear he is a liar.” (Zach Williams) My mind races towards Jesus and scripture as I resist entering my closet, engrossed in this fear.
Maybe I am just destined to be huge? Or at least bigger than I want to be. If this is the case, I plead with Jesus to work in my heart to accept this. “Thy will be done!” A bold prayer because in this moment in time God’s will and mine clash, even as I pray Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”
Yes, I “can,” do all things, but will I? I see the reflection of my closet out of the corner of my eye and I know that I need to face my fear and rummage through my clothes to confirm that I am no longer in control of this body, but He is. I am feeling out of control of everything. I fear losing control and in turn I lose the fruit of the spirit including self-control.
I begin to cry and turn in annoyed circles, not knowing where to begin as I wander through the closet door. I pull off my pajamas and slip into a baggy Vineyard and Vine Tee shirt. It is loose, and it conceals my body so that I can no longer see how big it is, but I can still feel it’s girth beneath this temporary shield.
I start with the drawers, pulling out a stack of jeans and slacks from their resting place. I hold my breath as I pull each item slowly up my body to assess their fit and then slowly wriggle out of them. Initially, I pull them on, casting my fear upon The Lord, as I slowly pull them off casting them neatly into a laundry basket. In order to shed the vestiges of this eating disorder, I realize I must winnow out the items that hold me encased in the illness. Fear and emotion begin to slither in as I feel like I am not discarding simply clothes, but a part of me.
My faith departs and the fear morphs into, some sort of rage. I am no longer slowly and methodically going through this process. I finish the drawers. My legs are raw and chafed by yanking the clothing up and down my limbs with rapid hostility. Who am I angry with, God, myself, the anorexia?
I feel tears and sweat flowing from deep within my body as I begin to snatch one thing after another from the hangers. They sway, clink, bang, and eventually fall from the rods littering the dressing room floor. I lean, physically and emotionally spent against the island of drawers. There is nothing left to pull out, nothing left to pull on and off my body.
I look at the basket overflowing with my discarded clothes. My fear still feeling bigger than my faith, I dump the basket, kicking it out of my way. I shuffle through the pile with my feet. This shouldn’t be so painful, but it is. I wonder if God’s other creatures feel this pain when they are forced to shed their skin that has become too tight?
I snap a picture of tangled heap of clothes and send it to those who know how to cover me, stand in the gap and pray for me when I am at a loss and either can’t pray or don’t know what to pray. “Here lies the pile of shit that I can no longer fit my fat ass into and I am scared.” 🙏🏻
The familiar pings of support begin to come through, Linda offers to come sit with me after work. I am embarrassed, and ashamed that this has caused me to fall into despair. Another “ping” as I wash my face to meet my new client. She is cancelling because she has been hospitalized for…(I protect her identity). I felt so broken. I couldn’t imagine why God could or would use me.
I go immediately to my default of projecting the punitive nature of my parents on to The Father. Satan has a field day with my weakened mind and spirit. I am convinced that God has ordained her medical condition because I am weak and have allowed the eating disorder to break me down again.
“Liz,” he (Satan) whispers, “you aren’t good enough, faithful enough, recovered enough, wise enough…to counsel as a conduit of The Holy Spirit. If you were faithful instead of fearful, you wouldn’t have lashed out at God, yourself, and those that love you.” I feel punished and put in my place. “I am sorry Lord I don’t want this to be so difficult.” Like a child I ask for a second chance to prove to him that I am still beyond capable of serving His kingdom even as I still wrestle to feel, to be okay.
I enter my therapist’s office and report all that has beaten me down in the past 24hours, including myself.
She asks me why, as a generally honest, I came in and misrepresented what had occurred with my client. What did I want? Did I expect her to engage in some way with me?
I am frustrated and feeling insulted as my integrity is questioned. Yes, my client truly had a medical condition, but my God who spoke the world into being is certainly capable of ordaining circumstances to stop me from doing his kingdom business. So, in this moment in time, within her four walls, I am being totally honest and transparent. I believed or at least feared that God was punishing me because I allowed my fear to be bigger than my faith. I am irritated because I am not sure how safe or understood I feel.
I welcome the opportunity to continue to process, as well as a call from my director to do 2 new intake appointments. (God is faithful). I always welcome and need the time to process. I used to feel inadequate because of this, but I believe this thoughtful introspective process is how The Father grows me and gets me into his word. It is how I discerns the voice of truth from Satan’s lies.
God offers me comfort as I come to him for wisdom. James 5:1 speaks directly to me, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (NIV) He addresses my shame Romans 5:5 “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who, has been given to us.” (NIV)
He also reminds me that this affliction is not a result of sin or punishment. John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’’ said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’ (NIV)
I read verse after verse of God’s great love for me and begin to see this from not a God of punishments’ point of view, but a God of love, gentleness, and healing.
I still believe that God in his sovereignty ordained these circumstances, but because he is for me and not against me. Romans 8:31 “What then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us.”
My perspective changes. What if, and I believe he did, ordain this cancellation not as a means of punishment for all the emotion that I was feeling as I was shedding what represented my old self, but to allow me to have the time for him to reach down into to my heart and spirit to comfort me in my grief and my fear?
He gave me the gift of time to reach out to those who love me and allow them to reach out in love to me. It is quite possible that God was saying “Today you need to be taken care of so that in due time you can and will take care of my people.” Perspective is a lens shaped by our own life experiences. So, while I saw punishment, God saw his daughter, in pain, and he loved me enough to say, “Liz, this is tough stuff! Take the time you need with me, you friends, and yourself. You give and give of yourself. Today my child… receive.”
“My great hope is to laugh as much as I cry; to get my work done and try to love somebody and have the courage to accept love in return.”