"You took the hopeless, the life, wasted, ruined and marred
And made it new ....You redeem and You transform,
You renew and You restore
You make all things new!"
This morning I received a testimony from a sister in the Lord who is struggling both with her eating disorder and with believing she still has value to the Lord. Interestingly, she touched on an issue that has real and lingering effects on how we see God when we've failed: her relationship with her earthly father.
With her permission, I am posting an excerpt from her letter to me, as I believe it will edify other readers who struggle with the same feelings. The book she references, pictured above, is a slim volume Gospel for Asia's president K.P. Yohannan wrote (the ministry often sends me freebies, which I love to pass on to those who may benefit). Of course, "When We Have Failed - What Next?" is not specific to eating disorders, but discusses the intense feelings of self-condemnation we all experience when we "disappoint" God in any way. Yohannan counters these instincts by presenting the biblical model - how God gently forgives, redeems and restores His children when they fall. The book can be downloaded for free at Gospel for Asia's ministry website, along with the other books in the "Journey with Jesus" series.
"I can't remember when I first began believing that I was garbage. I was young. I think I never understood what redemption and forgiveness was really like. When I dissapointed my Dad especially with sin, I could never figure out when his anger ceased. I once read that many girls develop their notion of what God is like,(wether right or wrong), through their relationships with their fathers and the examples they set. It made sense to me. I love my father and he is a good man but he was human and not without flaw. It was not his intention to do so, but his words, "I don't know when I'll ever be able to trust you again.", left a mark on me as deep as a whip would have. "I am not to be trusted.", were words that were etched into the foundation of my growing being. His inability to visably show love toward me from the first signs that I'd hit puberty and was pining after a boy (even though he was from church), never feeling I pleased him or made him proud until I got married (at 20) and showed him I could be a good wife and a loving mother, may have been a catalyst in whatever warped my relationship with God. I thought my father's face was a reflection of His. I thought He must feel the same way about me as my earthly father. " I must prove myself to God to re-gain his love and countenance.", were more words that resounded in me, Whenever I failed, I wanted to hide until I was strong enough (in what? I don't know) to get it right again and face God. My father rarely looked me in the eye while I was an adolecent, so I actually envisioned God with his face turned away from me in disgust, back then , and even more intensely, later when I first began to battle post pardom depression with my second child. This wrong perception of God carried on with the torrent of unhealthy coping mechanisms I learned and used (unsuccessfully) to try to replace my pain and despair over not being able to be a happy mother.
I know it must have pained God to know I thought he'd be so cruel, as to turn his back on me when I needed him most. I've realized this as my relationship with him renewed over the years, through my rises and falls but there is still a part of me that automatially feels the old lie when I fail. But I know that I'll never be good enough and I DON'T HAVE TO BE. This book helped remind me of that and how I need to throw the old vision away.
I want to keep letting him take hold of and fix all my twisted, broken parts....especially my ED. I have been struggling in vain to rise out of this all time low wt. for some time now but since I'm not ill or much under my BMI, I keep letting the deciever convince me that I am fine. I know I'm not and that I am chosing to remain in this sinful sickness.
I feel ready and strong today. Tomorrow I may feel weak and afraid but I will try to let him fill me with His strength and resolve over and over. I know i will probably make some mistakes, but I do believe that I will finally be fully delivered. I surrender all. I will recommitt myself and keep giving over my will as many times as it takes if I fail. I will no longer insult God by considering myself to be rubbish and treating my body and mind as such.
I remember the love I saw in my father's eyes as a child when he'd wake me from a nightmare and read the Bible to me till I could go to sleep. I felt his love. Llikewise, I remember as a child, knowing that I was special and unique to God and that for Him, no one could replace me. There was nobody like me. One day, (I think I was 5), I stood in my front yard, yelling up to the clouds, "Jesus!", over and over, unabashedly, gleefully wondering if He'd reply. The fact that I barely remember any of my childhood, but that those 2 beautiful memories, remain vivid, makes me feel that in his timlessness, He did answer me that day. I'm just now hearing Him 27 years later, "Remember how you you knew my love for you as a child. You knew me then and I have not changed. I'm still watching you shout to me and waiting for you to start calling my name again unashamed, with the innocence that I have bestowed on you with the shedding of my blood. You are still my child. If you've ever dissapointed me, I don't remember it. I have you now." . That's what I feel him telling me now and I am weeping with warmth and a bit of sadness at all the wasted years "that the locusts have eaten.", but I am not really sad. I know "He will restore..." He has called for me by name.
Now I am excited to see what he can make of me. I hope that someday, I am strong and steady enough in my recovery/repentance of all my addictions, that I can help others suffering in some way too. I never feel more blessed than when I have shared my savior with another. Believe it or not, I have managed to witness in my life, (even if I didn't always have it all staight) between my falls. Thank you for allowing God to use you as a vessel of help and hope for us that are still in the depths of, or trying to find our way out of the pit."
Thank you for sharing your heart, sister. I believe others will also be able to learn and grow from your insights - we're all here to support and encourage one another.