Eating disorders thrive on secrets. If you struggle with one, perhaps I can guess yours.
Your eating disorder is not just about food, but feelings. It’s not just about your stomach, but your heart. It’s not just about your diet, but about much bigger questions:
Who am I?
How can I be accepted?
Who can I trust?
What is life all about?
Your issues run deeper than size. You’re wrestling with desires and questions that are too big to name, let alone face. You’re afraid. Maybe you starve those fears. Maybe you swallow them. Maybe you pound them out at the gym or purge them in the bathroom. Whatever the shape of your struggle, there is hope. There is a future. There is a God who is wooing “you out of distress into a broad place” (Job 36:16). I should know. Your story is my story.
One voice has always whispered more loudly to me than the rest. “Fat,” it said. “You’re fat.”
Fat is not a dress size. It’s not how I look in the mirror. Fat is my unsatisfied hunger. Fat is my fears, my shame, and my mistakes. Fat is me — too shameful, too messy, too much.
To Kill My Hunger
Until age thirteen, I knew who I was and where I belonged. Almost overnight, things started to change. My grandfather died. I switched schools. My body was out of control like a tanker, spilling flesh and hormones. In search of answers, I even started going to church.
The God I heard about was real and personal, but we were never properly introduced. My brand of Christianity had space for God, but not for Jesus. It talked more about sin and rules, but less about grace. It paid lip service to Jesus’s work on my behalf. But in practice, I had to prove my own worth.
So I worked hard and won prizes. I was determined to be smart and pretty and, most of all, “good.” But nothing — clothes or friends or money — was ever enough. I was filled with unnamed hungers and I didn’t know where to put them. But I did know this: they were too much.
I was too much — like red wine spilled on white carpet. So, I resolved: I will become like stainless steel. I will kill my desires before they kill me. I will quash my hungers and I will fix myself. I will be thin.
Outer Life, Inner Death
The Bible says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Proverbs 14:12). This is a great description of an eating disorder. It names you and it brands you. It seems to offer life — then it kills you.
As a teenager I received anorexia treatment, but it was limited. I gained weight, but on the inside I felt just as messy as before. My name was now “shame” and it burned within me. I resolved to make a new one — this time through religion.
I threw myself into full-time church work, enrolled in Bible college, and married a trainee minister. From the outside, I looked like a great Christian. But the truths of the Bible were drowned out by louder voices. “You’re nothing,” they said. “You’re not enough.”
Overwhelmed by the prospect of a new town and a new calling — “minister’s wife!” — I stopped eating again, and my weight began to drop. I was dying, and it seemed like nothing and no one could save me. We’re sorry, experts told us, but your problems are too much.
A New Hunger
It took the death of my beloved grandmother to pierce the madness. I was too weak to travel to her funeral. Something in me finally broke. I cried out to the God I had tried to flee, “I’ve exhausted my own resources. But if you want me, you can have what’s left.”
I waited for thunder or blinding light. There was only stillness. My eyes fell upon the Bible in front of me and I opened it. The passage I saw describes Jesus, standing in the throne room of heaven:
The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. (Revelation 1:14–16)
For as long as I could remember, I had been far too intense. Yet here was someone more passionate than I am. Here was a vision that caught my breath. Radiant, terrible, beautiful. Irresistible.
My fingers trembled as I turned the pages to Revelation 5. I encountered Jesus again, this time as a lion — then a bleeding lamb. He’s the embodiment of strength and glory — also of frailty and pain. He’s Jesus as Lord, the conquering Lion. And he’s Jesus as Lamb, sacrificed and broken — for me. A lamb who met me in my brokenness. A lion who vanquished all my foes. The God who turned his face toward me and said, “You’re mine. I’ve bought you. And that’s enough.”
A New Name
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