Jennifer also struggles with bulimia. With an insight I wish I'd had at her age (my eating disorder started when I was 15, long before I knew the Lord,) she writes powerfully and reveals the raw, painful struggle that continues to battle within her, even though she belongs to Christ.
With her permission, I am sharing her story here as it is a very poignant and true-to-life glimpse into the temptation and snare of an eating disorder. We are all familiar with Paul's lament in Romans 7:15 "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do," as well as the rest of the chapter, dealing with the hatred (yet battle) of sin that sometimes grips every believer. No one knows better than a bulimic that the moment we turn to Christ, while all of our sin is forgiven, in practice it does not vanish overnight. As I wrote to Jennifer, "Even though we are regenerate (have been given a new spirit) at the moment of conversion, not everything immediately becomes blue skies and fluffy clouds!"
I hope her essay blesses and encourages you:
20 March 2011
There has been only one significant event during my lifetime within my memory frame, and that is because it has taken over my life and mind since three years ago when it first began. On and off since February 18, 2008, I have been bound by chains. My journey through this world thus far has already proved painful, exhausting, and captive - but most of all, blessed.
I am not going to give you a sob story, because I have none. I have never experienced what the law constitutes as abuse in any way. My parents are still alive. We have an average amount of money and have never been significantly lacking. I got picked on sporadically in elementary school, but nothing I would ever refer to as bullying. I’ve had injuries and health problems here and there, but never anything too serious. My only explanation is this: sin tears apart lives.
To start off, I have always hated myself. That has been my natural mentality since I was a preschooler. No matter how many people tell me how loved I am, how many times I ruminate and reflect on myself and point out my positive attributes, or how many truths I find in God’s word, I have never been able to get past this belief. It has by far been the most misleading and detrimental part of my life.
Fast forward to seventh grade. Depression. Confusion. A strong sense of feeling trapped with seemingly no cause. I am an innocent twelve year old girl attending Springhouse Middle School. I am a Christian. My parents are divorced, but it’s been that way since I was three. My mom is getting remarried, but I’ve wanted her to do so for years. I have the occasional fights with my dad, but that can only be expected at this age. I have friends and a social life. I am an avid athlete. Nothing wrong here.
So why would this girl living this life rapidly and suddenly develop an eating disorder?
To be honest, I don’t know. The media? I doubt it. Bad body image? Sure. Chemical imbalances? Probably. “Personal strangeness,” as Marya Hornbacher says? I wouldn’t be surprised. Trust issues? Of course. A desire to be in control, a splitting of the mind? Definitely. Without a single doubt in my mind I know it is some sort of a spiritual problem. But that’s about all I can say. I don’t think these kinds of things can ever be fully explained.
Secrets. Lies. Despair. I need to be heard. I need to be wanted. I need to be hugged.
I lay sleepless. Tossing. Head pounding. Fingers swollen, throat puffed up like a bullfrog. The light flipped off, the dark and the racing thoughts flooded in. The fears. The prayers. (Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia)I’ll spare the details for now, but three years ago I began violently destructing my body. It wasn’t long before I was forced to reveal my struggles to my parents and enter treatment. I was there for three months, made some progress, and surrendered to God’s will over a year later. At the time, I thought I was promising never to act on that particular sin again. How unrealistic and naive a promise that was.
It was not until many months later that I learned the true meaning of surrender – to give my entire life to God, and to trust Him with it. To show God that I love Him more than anything in this world and that I want to live my life completely for Him, but that I recognize that I will fail, and will not carry out my wishes to the full extent... yet I also know that I am completely covered with the blood of Jesus Christ, and there is power in His blood (Following me?).
That, too, though, is a hard act to follow. I dug into His word. I prayed without ceasing. I made awesome friends and did awesome things. I felt peace and transformation for the first time in my life. But my predictions were correct. I was about an inch away from complete freedom before I sprinted a mile backwards. Crashed and burned. Relapsed.
One may ask once more, why? Again, I’m not quite sure. I was stressed. I had a tremendous amount of pressure on me. I was scared. So I destroyed God’s temple. I know, there is a gap between the cause and effect. I’m still in the process of bridging it.
But she did look back, and I love her for that, because it was so human. So she was turned to a pillar of salt. So it goes. People aren’t supposed to look back. I’m certainly not going to do it anymore. (Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five)So today I am telling a story that is not yet over. I am back in treatment again and struggling with this daily. If you want to call me messed up, go ahead. If you think I’m beautiful, you can say that too. Both are accurate. I’m a beautiful mess, perhaps. Sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.
A year’s worth of tears is flowing down my cheeks because I am finally feeling my emotions. I am looking people in the eyes and loving them for who God made them to be. I am beginning to observe the world around me and take it for what it is. I receive a long and comforting hug from Alyssa Romisher in the dining room of the Renfrew Center after once again struggling to finish my meal, failing, and being asked to drink two Ensure supplements. “I know you’re trying really hard, and I’m proud of you. It will get easier; I promise. I love you.”
It is worth it. It’s a fight. It’s exhausting, but it is a fight I believe in. I cannot believe, anymore, in the fight between body and soul. If I do it will kill me. If I do, I will have taken the easy way out. I know for a fact sickness is easier. But health is more interesting. (Marya Hornbacher, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, p. 280)And I am so humbled.
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married. (Isaiah 62:4)