For a long time I didn’t know how to relate to God in the midst of my eating disorder.
I’d had a strong relationship with God since I was a little girl, something I didn’t find on my own. He had drawn me to himself.
My eating disorder began nine years ago.
For many years I grappled with the question of my guilt in the situation. There are so many messages out there about an eating disorder being a mental disorder, about it being a coping mechanism for a situation that I couldn’t handle, that I had shown strength by fighting, etc, etc, etc. At different moments one or another of those answers has helped me and encouraged me.
But also for a long time I felt so, so guilty. I remember making choices not to eat. I remember going against my better judgment. I remember being told, “I was playing with fire” and simply not caring. How was I expected not to blame myself when I clearly had screwed up?
Little by little, I had to learn to let go. To stop blaming myself regardless of how much I had made a mistake or not. Feeling guilty and blaming myself over and over again was only feeding the negative thought patterns rather than helping me move forward.
My therapist often challenged me, “You need to talk to yourself internally with the same love and care you talk to the little kids you used to nanny.” I would spit back an answer, “They don’t know better and I do.” I didn’t know how to have mercy on myself, be understanding towards the challenges I had faced, or how to stop being angry with myself for my culpability (however great or small it might be).
Somehow I seemed to think that if I could really truly blame myself. If I could convince myself and everyone in my life who knew that it was all my fault it would somehow make it better. In a large part, I think that desire was fueled by an avoidance of accepting the other factors at play in the development of my eating disorder. It is hard to accept what was hurting so deeply inside that it was easier to feel piercing hunger than face that emotional pain.
Over the summer, after my therapist couldn’t continue to see me I had to turn to God. What had begun a few months earlier with my meeting with a spiritual mentor and her encouragement to “see myself as God sees me” turned into a full-blown need to rely on God. I needed him. I couldn’t do it on my own. I found myself on my knees begging for his strength.
The months that have followed have been a journey of letting God into my life. He has gently and insistently asked me to let him into those parts of me that are wounded. I have gone over them in therapy, acknowledged the hurt, permitted myself to feel the emotions… but now God wants to touch those parts of me.
“Are we willing to have our capacity to receive from God expanded?” -Bob Schuchts, Be Healed
I have been reading the book, Be Healed. I spend a lot of time on my knees asking God to help me trust him, help me to allow him into the experiences I have had and to heal them. And I have begged for the grace to trust that he can and will heal the hurt I have experienced.
Yet, all the while, in the back of my mind has remained the doubt. Do I see this eating disorder as sin? When I give in and relapse how can I dare to present myself before God? How can I talk to God when I know I am not doing all I can do? And little by little I am learning to see myself as he sees me.
Last week I found an answer in prayer. God is not looking at the past or trying to point a finger about what I am or am not culpable for. On the contrary, I can see the opportunities when I am strong enough to choose as opportunities to love him. It is not about looking at the past as sin or not sin, guilt or not guilt… It is not about beating myself up when I fail now… It is about turning the moments when I am strong enough to make the right decision into acts of love.
The nuance is slight… but the perspective change is huge. My recovery can be an act of love. And when I am not strong enough, it is not because I don’t love. I am weak. I am frail. I need God. So I praise him through the moments I find the necessarily strength to love him through my weakness or through my progress.
“Do you know what it feels like to be healed by Jesus; pierced to your depths by his gaze; deeply touched by his kindness; comforted by his authority; and relieved of your longstanding affliction by his powerful anointing? … My heart raced with fear, wondering whether I would lose control if I allowed Jesus to heal the deeper places of my heart. Can you relate to any of these experiences?” -Bob Schuchts, Be Healed