Interview with Former Anorexic, Michelle Myers

Michelle today
 Yesterday, Lucy Ann Moll interviewed pastor's wife and author of "The Look the Kills" Michelle Myers on her radio show "The Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors". This is the same show on which I was interviewed last month, and Michelle talks about her battle with anorexia and obsessive exercising which started her freshman year of college.

Although I have not yet read her book, I appreciate her standpoint and willingness to give God all the glory for her transformation! As Lucy points out at the beginning of the show, motivation is what determines whether a goal of weight-loss is sinful or not. Valuing the opinions of people, or growing in Christ - what will rule you?

Although anorexia is much less common than bulimia, it is a dangerous obsession which still controls many Christian women. Listen to Michelle's interview here, and be edified:


As an epilogue, Michelle is now completely free of her eating disorder, is walking with Christ, and is six months pregnant. Praise God for her testimony!


Do You REALLY Believe Jesus Loves You?

Yesterday, the CCEF team re-posted this excellent essay from Dr. Ed Welch, a biblical counselor who specializes in helping people with depression and addiction (he has written several fine books on both). At the risk of sounding patronizing, I really, really appreciate Dr. Welch's writing, and I am sure my readers would be as blessed as I was by this piece. I have quoted Welch many times in the past (including in my book, which went to the publisher's yesterday!), because he just seems to get it. He has an insight into the deepest, most hidden parts of the wounded Christian's soul that eclipses most people.

I honestly don't know his personal background, but it sounds as if he understands perfectly the struggle many of us have to really, truly believe we are loved by our Lord. (Yes; I said "we" because I still struggle with this insecurity, and constantly ask the Lord for assurance. He is consistently faithful to provide it, including through the edifying writing of folks like Welch).

It may sound like an over-simplification, but I really think that if we grasped and really believed just how deeply we are loved by God, it would be MUCH easier to stop sinning. Not just the life-dominating sins like bulimia; but the habitual, don't-think-about-it-'til-I'm-in-the-middle-of-it ones, as well. Why would it be easier? Well, because when we give in to sin, we believe a lie. We temporarily believe, even if we know we're wrong, that what we're tempted to do will provide us with more satisfaction than Christ. If we trusted that His way is always best, all of the time, and He loves us so much that nothing else matters, sin would cease to lose it's appeal.

But we live in a fallen world, and as of yet, our faith is still imperfect. He understands this, and patiently guides us - through His Word - into the Truth that we really are His beloved possession. Let that sink in deep, and please read Dr. Welch's article below. (Or go directly to CCEF's blog and read it there). Be blessed!

Depression’s Odd Filter

Ed Welch

Someone says to you, “I love you.”

You hear . . . nothing. Actually you hear something. You hear a little voice in your brain that says, “I’m worthless. You’re only saying you love me because you think you have to.”

Somehow, from the mouths of other people to your ear, all words of blessing and encouragement get tumbled upside down and backward and confirm your suspicions about yourself. You are an abject failure. Unloved. Unlovable. And everyone knows it.

There are hundreds of variations.

“You look nice today.”

Push it through the filter of depression and you get, “Not true. I know I am ugly.”

Or, “You seem to be feeling a little better today.”

This means, “Oh, you don’t want to talk to me anymore.”

This is your brain on depression. And we could add, it is your brain on shame.

If this internal circuitry reversed every word, a loved one could say, “You are really such a jerk,” and you would hear, “I love you.” But it doesn’t work that way. Depression (or shame) corrupts every blessing and leaves the curses in their untouched, pristine form.

You might want to take a few minutes and identify this dastardly filter.

What kind words have other people said to you? What did you actually hear after your depressive, inner-translator did a number on it?

That was a warm-up. Now on to something more lethal.

God says, “I love you.”

You hear, “God loves some people but he could never love me.”

Notice that you didn’t hear, “I don’t love you.” That would be your inner filter doing its usual electronic voodoo and reversing any blessing. With this one, you don’t even feel worthy to hear anything personal from the Lord. So what came out the other side was your own voice, not God’s!

Do you think that, maybe, your wiring is completely messed up and you aren’t hearing God accurately?

“I love you,” becomes “God could never love me.” If someone else did that you would tell her she was crazy. But, somehow, for you, it makes perfect sense.

Is it possible that you are mis-hearing?

How convenient it would be if you could simply say, “Oh, now I get it. It was just a little misunderstanding. God, thank you for clearing that one up. I feel much better now. Now I know that you love me.” But life doesn’t work that way. Instead, against all the evidence, such as the sacrificial death of Jesus on your behalf, and his willingness to tell you, over and over, that he loves you, you stick with what you think you heard, as if the problem was hard-wired.

But we are people who believe that the Spirit has been given and he is much more powerful than we think. He can even open our ears so we can hear, even ears that are mis-wired.

The Spirit does his work, in part, by giving you less confidence in the distortions you believe.

Have you ever said, “Lord, I heard wrong”?

Let’s say you go into the presence of a king – a powerful king. He tells you that he is pleased to put you under his protection. He invites you to live in the castle itself. You respond by fortifying your little shack, which stands a couple miles away.

Here is what you are saying to the king:

You aren’t trustworthy. I don’t believe you really want to invite me into your protection.

You aren’t powerful. I am safer outside the castle grounds. I am safer in my shack.

You are mis-hearing his invitation and proclaiming your independence.

But human beings are intended to live life with humility, first before our King, then before others. Sometimes, because you believe his words are too good to be true, you reject what he says and you trust in yourself. At those times, the way ahead is clear – confess to the king that you didn’t really believe what he said. You could call it repentance. You could call it your entrance back to sanity. Only those who walk humbly before the Lord can truly hear.

Be sure to say it: “Lord, I heard wrong. Help me to hear you correctly.”

And once your ears are open you will hear plenty. For example, take a look at the letter we call 1 John. John, who knew Jesus and lived alongside him, was getting up in years, which meant that he was going to stay on message: Jesus loves, not because we are lovable but because he loves, and he will always love first and love most. Then, as one who knew Jesus’ style well, since Jesus didn’t say “I love you” once but said it over and over, John was happy to repeat himself.

But those reversing filters can quickly return.

Jesus says, “I love you.”

To which your inner voice says, “Not me, I’m not lovable.”

Jesus responds, “But I do love you, not because you are lovable (nobody is) but because I love you.”

Pause on this one. Jesus loves you because he is love (1 John 4:8). He loves you because of who he is, not because of who you are. If you feel unlovable – and who doesn’t – that makes his love for you all the more amazing. The evidence of his love? It is much more than Jesus saying, “I feel all gushy about you.” Instead, “this is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And, if he died on your behalf, he certainly isn’t going to leave you on you own now.

You have to know that Jesus is not like a mere mortal. In human relationships, our love is way too dependent on how the other person is loveable. When you love others, they love you. When you don’t, they don’t. Jesus, however, is not like other people. When our love for him wavers, he loves us. Therein lies the fatal flaw in your hearing.

So you have your work cut out for you. All new wiring. Get rid of the tangled mess by confessing that you don’t hear, and replace it with a very simple connection: God says it, I believe it. If you want to check to make sure the system is working order, keep track of your relationships with other people. If you turn away from people because you believe you are worthless, then get back to your rewiring. If you notice, even for a minute, that you are facing outward, toward other people, and showing interest in them – showing love – then sit back and enjoy the fine workmanship. And truly hear.



Dealing With Shame and Letting Christ Heal You

My Dear Readers:

AS I type this, I am elbow-deep in last minute revisions to chapter 11 of my book (ironically enough, the chapter is about a godly response to abuse suffered in the past). There is a correlation between abuse and addictive, self-destructive behaviors such as anorexia and bulimia, and while it is not an exact "cause-and-effect" situation, it deserves some discussion.

One common denominator between bad things done to us (abuse) and bad things we've done (bulimia, for example) is shame. Even after we know we've been forgiven, this feeling of self-indictment is hard to shake, even in the light of the Gospel.

I would like to direct you all to two posts written this week by Dr. Laura Hendrickson, writer and NANC counselor extraordinaire: "He Heals the Brokenhearted" (how shame affects us) and "The Cure for Shame: Resting in my True Identity". What Laura shared there, and the biblical solution, is much more articulately presented than I am capable of doing at the moment. Please, ladies, go read her posts and then spend some time thanking your Saviour Who has removed all your shame...and loves you.

She and I had a brief dialogue after I was blessed by her first post (yes; I still struggle with shame and believing Christ loves me -- and it has NOTHING to do with my past eating disorder history). I share this with you as you may recognize some of these though patterns in yourself; shame and allowing ourselves to trust in God's gentle and gracious character is something many of us struggle with - it is not unique to eating disordered ladies, although you may well experience it. Rather than re-hash everything we said, here are my comments and Laura's response (below). I hope that you will be edified by knowing that even we counselors, who are given the staggering priviledge of pointing others to the Great Physician, battle the same feelings and doubts.


Sometimes God answers a doubt/insecurity we have in an unequivocably clear way. This shame struggle I have been having is something that Christ has been recently opening my eyes to, and He has used the writing of other biblical counselors like yourself in addition to the Word. Most recently, CCEF's counselor Winston Smith posted a 2-part article on the interplay between shame and pride that keeps us running from Christ instead of TO him (this is really excellent: http://www.ccef.org/node/910).

As I did when I read your post above, I immediately thanked God because it spoke DIRECTLY to my own inner experience. I know the verses that speak to His removing our shame along with our guilt, but why do I still duck my head and hear the whisper "He doesn't like me" when certain memories flash? Why do I find myself whispering apologies to God for sin repented of over a decade ago? It's one thing to realize you are forgiven. It's another to not remember the past with shame. It still makes me shrink from His touch.

And then, as you said - Duh! - I realize the answer is still, always and ever, prayer - to the one Who redeemed me.

I did not divulge all of the more graphic details of my childhood abuse in my book, because someone (a NANC counselor, no less) made me feel even more ashamed. She greatly hurt me by saying "You got off easy". (While the most painful abuse was the constant verbal humiliation, I was molested by two immediate family members. No one else knows this. You don't say "incest" aloud in church...but it still causes shame). Even more so now.

I wish there were some magic "formula" that would change the way I feel inside; not just the doctrinal knowledge that I can share with other people. To be a truly effective counselor, I will have to truly be able to walk free of this shame that you describe, and really, truly believe that I can live beloved and unashamed before God. Posts like yours help, because you not only point back to the Bible and the Truth we should all internalize, but you also emphathize in a personal way because you walk through the same thing. You and Winston really seem to "get" it, and that compassion is what really helps get through to the hearts of those who struggle with shame. So, THANK YOU!
And her response:

Hi Marie!

Thanks for the link to Winston's article. It's a wonderful, succinct statement of a very important truth. I would argue, however, that we're all proud, certainly, but this isn't the biggest thing that keeps us survivors from calling out to the Lord. I think rather, that it's a pervasive attitude of mistrust, which results in a tendency to rely on my own resources (eating behaviors, cutting, masturbation, etc, etc) rather than crying out to God. And BTW, this is a natural human response. Our precious Lord, who loves us so much, knows our frame and isn't surprised that those of us who've experienced terrible things struggle with trust.

I don't believe that you have to conquer shame to be an effective counselor. I haven't, and I'm am. Paul tells us that God ministered far more powerfully through his weakness than his strength (2 Corinthians 12:9,10). It's recorded for our benefit, and I believe that we can have the same experience of God's power as we minister through our weakness as Paul did.

I'm going to keep on saying "Incest," "Rape," "Domestic Violence," "Molestation," and "Child Abuse" in church, because the church needs to hear it, and suffering women need to be comforted even more. I'm so sorry to hear about the woman who shamed you for your suffering. I've experienced some similar things in the past. So many don't understand. This is why I'm speaking out about these great evils--because they need to understand.

For more on relying on your own resources, see my post, Self Comfort or God's Comfort?

Please stay tuned, Marie. There is gospel truth that is a powerful weapon against the whispers of the enemy, that say things like that God is disappointed in us. My next post will address this very issue.

I'm praying for you.




Relapses, even in Eating Disorders, are Part of the (Christian) Life

The other night it dawned on me that there is a subject I have not written much about in regards to overcoming anorexia or bulimia. Because my book, "Redeemed from the Pit" is not an autobiography (although I do include my testimony), relapse into bingeing and purging while on the road to transformation is not a subject I developed too deeply, because I assumed that the reader would understand that the principles of repentance apply whether it is the first or 1,000th time you bring your sin before God.

However, I have been thinking about the dynamic of relapse in the larger picture of the Christian life (the sin-repent-accept forgiveness-sin again pattern). I realized the propensity for a repenting bulimic to fall back into her old snare of turning to food is very real, at least for the first few months. The process of transformation is a cooperative effort between God's grace and our responsibility, and we often stumble and fall along the way.

The other night, I was chatting with a young friend who had a great few months of new found joy in the Lord, but lately has fallen back into the bulimia. What I've sensed from her (although I'd not want to put words in her mouth) is that her struggle with food is a near-hopeless one. She perhaps feels, at least for the time being, that it's hopeless. Bulimia wins.

Well, a situation is never hopeless to him who believes; and there is no believer outside the grace of God. Victory is possible; but let's leave that aside for the moment. I have written so much for so long about the reality of total, permanent victory over eating disorders that one might be forgiven for thinking my own transformation (recovery, if you prefer) was instantaneous or somehow supernatural. True, biblical change is always supernatural in the sense that God's Word is living and active, and the Word and the Spirit effect change in a believer; but there was nothing mystical, magical, immediate or fail-proof about it.

As I explained to this young lady, when I initially repented of the bulimia and was prayed over, I went about 6 days without falling into a binge episode again. I quickly re-grouped and continued to do well (prior to that, I had been bingeing and purging every day for 17 years). I did, however, completely relapse into the bulimia about 2-21/2 months after my initial decision to walk away from it. In February 2004, I vaguely remember eating the pepperoni pizza at my daughter's 7th birthday party....and a full-scale binge resulted. And then another. The details are fuzzy, but that month I nearly lost all I had worked for.

However, as February became March, I reminded myself: "Look, if God was with me then, He's with me now. If, in His strength, I could resist the "urge to purge" for 6, 8 days at a time, why can't I do that again?" I repented, and rather than give in to a downward spiral of self-pity, I got back up and continued where I had left off. Each time you resist temptation instead of giving in to the sin, you are stronger against the next "attack". That's true of bulimia and it's true of sin in general. Standing firm against the "lusts of the flesh" strengthens your inner man. You truly are in a spiritual battle.

The reasons WHY we may relapse after we choose to let God change our thinking and behavior may be many, but focusing on the reasons for our failure really isn't important....it's more important to focus on the SOLUTION. The way we respond when we fail and relapse is extremely important. The "whys" don't matter nearly so much as the "what next?" Although we can't assume everyone who relapses is sinning high-handedly (being apathetic to the fact she is in sin; not really caring anymore) sometimes, if we honestly examine ourselves, we have become indifferent to the seriousness of our sin. It's not all that unusual for someone to repent of her addiction when her life has become unmanageable, and as soon as she feels more "in control" to re-adopt her anorexic or bulimic behavior. This is remorse, and not true repentance. Does this describe your heart condition? Sometimes, you might not even want to give up your eating disorder all that much, even though you understand intellectually how dangerous and ungodly it is.

I wrote:

If you don’t want to, you don’t want to. But when I was struggling with this [double-mindedness], I realized that by willfully continuing on in it, I was essentially saying to Jesus, “Thanks very much for dying for me; that scourging must have been a real bitch...but I think I’ll just do what I want and keep sinning. I don’t want to think about what my sin cost You.”
Sometimes, we resist conviction because we are afraid it will hurt too much. Conviction is the "constructive criticism" the Holy Spirit uses to call us back into fellowship with Jesus. It's a merciful, necessary first step to repentance - which is the door to freedom.

Other times, we truly are broken over our sin and don't understand why we've dived head-long back into it. But as we contemplate our misery, we stay away from the Cross because of our shame. As CCEF counselor Winston Smith wrote, "We don't want anyone - especially Jesus - to touch our guilt". (See Smith's excellent, edifying, 2-part series on shame "Do You Want to Say No to Jesus' Touch?" and "Pointing the Shamed to Christ - Feet First").

While we know His seeing, touching, and cleansing our stain is the only way we can be free - forgiven, and walking in the full knowledge of how loved we are - shame before His holiness and "do it yourself" pride keep us stuck in the pit of relapse longer than necessary. Trying to "fix" ourselves without throwing ourselves on His mercy is legalism, and is bound to fail and lead to despair. The bottom line to a relapse: GET UP. Go back to the Throne of Grace, the same source of mercy you found when you first set out on this walk. Christ's mercies are new every morning, and He has promised never, ever to turn away the contrite heart that seeks Him.

Even seven times in the same day.

When I get discouraged over repeated sin patterns in my life, I think back to the time I "fell off the wagon" as a repentant, but still weak, bulimic back in early 2004. If I had given up, would I still be alive today? Even more, I turn to the biblical examples of men and women who loved God, but messed up, and were forgiven. Guess what? After they were forgiven, they messed up again. And again. The Apostles, in case you hadn't noticed, were not exactly perfect. My favorite Apostolic homeboy, Simon Peter, seemed to have learned his lesson in John 21 (when Jesus reinstated him after his painful denial). End of story, right? Wrong! In Galatians 2, we learn that Paul much later had to correct Peter for his hypocrisy. Even after spending three years with the Lord, these saints didn't always act like it - which is why their stories, warts and all, remain for our edification.

The Reformers wrote of the Christian life being one of continual repentance and renewal. This is true in both "respectable" sins (of course, we know there aren't any, really) and major failings, like relapses. Just because you have fallen into a relapse doesn't mean it's the end, or you'll never be free of bulimia, or that God's done with you yet. He has great plans for you, but you cannot fulfill them with your head over a toilet. If you do not feel repentant but rather are numb, apathetic, or even rebellious, admit that to God. He already knows anyway. It is often the case, when we relapse into addiction, that we can only pray a "help me want to want to" prayer, and this is an honest cry that God will answer. His love for you is intense, gentle, and burdened for your well-being.

Do not put it off another day; run to Him!