I Was in Bondage
I was the girl that looked like she had it all together. I was the girl with A’s lacing her school transcript. I was the girl that ate healthy and exercised. I was the girl that didn’t do drugs or drink alcohol.
I also was the girl that binged on food when no one was looking. The girl that threw up said food in the toilet or shower when her roommates went to sleep. I was the girl that tormented herself with hateful self-talk, laxative abuse, and compulsive exercise.
You see I had this whole thing figured out. Put on my façade to get through the day, then binge and purge myself into oblivion when I got home.
Any emotion I felt that day which often cycled between stress, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and guilt, would build up until I couldn’t tolerate the burden any longer. I had found my solution to this heavy weight. When no one was looking, I would turn to the “good-girl” drug, an eating disorder, to numb it all. The stress, the anxiety, depression, hopelessness, and guilt would melt away with each flush of the toilet or spray of the shower. Only it was mere seconds of relief, the guilt and shame of hiding this dirty secret expanded as I struggled with the post-purge stomach bloat. The hopelessness of feeling controlled by bulimia sunk me into a deep depression. The stress and anxiety of choosing bulimia over studying caused panic to riddle my body. My mind was in a fog, the high had worn off, I couldn’t think clearly. My body hurt, my mind ached, my soul cried out for healing.
Now at this point, you would expect me to tell you this beautiful testimony of how I found God at this rock-bottom portion of my life. How I had never heard of God and the Gospel before, and through divine intervention I came to know the wonderful work of Jesus on the cross and how the grace of God envelops me.
That would have been a nice story. The catch is, I grew up in a Christian home. I knew this God. I went to church. I even suffered the awkwardness of high school youth group. But at this point in my life, I was at university. I was busy – busy studying and busying throwing up. God had no place in my life. I identified with being His follower, but my daily life was not a reflection of it.
I thought my accomplishments and hard work was enough to heal me. I thought if I just read another book or saw a counselor, I could free myself from this bondage.
One night, I cried out to this God I heard about, but had little relationship with. I cried out for immediate healing. Just about six years later, I write this blog post to you. Four of those years involved multiple counselors, an intensive outpatient treatment program, and lots of books. But healing definitely was not immediate, and oftentimes, that is the case with eating disorders. Because the eating disorder is a symptom of a much deeper, root issue – a broken relationship with God. The books, the counselors, the treatment program didn’t heal me – they were utilized by God to guide me toward healing. In fact, I did not heal me. God healed me. He pulled me out of darkness and into his marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9 NIV).
I Am Free
A broken relationship with God. That’s how I left off on my last post. The eating disorder isolated me, it left me empty and reckless – left to my own selfishness. I wanted the perfect body, the cleanest diet, and a personality that turned heads. Instead, I was battling cycles of bingeing and purging, a yo-yo-diet, and social anxiety.
I yearned for the strong godly relationship I, ironically, envied in other ladies my age. They seemed to just “get it.” They figured out this whole Christian life thing, I was standing in their overshadowing dust.
Then I met a very strong woman. A pastor’s wife and a pastor herself. She was dainty in stature, but blunt in personality. In our first session together she stated to her what was obvious, “Megan, you need to find freedom in Christ.”
She inspired me right then and there. I even called Ben, “Guess what? I’m going to be free in Christ!”
I skipped all the way home – our apartment was right across the church parking lot.
I opened my Bible to start this freedom thing and immediately felt lost. So I ran back across the parking lot.
“Excuse me, How do I find this freedom you speak of?”
Through weekly Friday coffee dates, she patiently guided me, encouraging me to start at the Gospels with the intent of learning about this Jesus.
It was kind of like dating, I read about what Jesus did, what He said, and who He hung out with. I needed to know more about this guy before I found freedom in Him.
To be honest, nothing monumental happened, instantaneously at least. The heavens didn’t open up as a choir of heavenly hosts celebrated my miraculous 180 turn from the eating disorder. In fact, the change was so minute I didn’t even recognize it myself.
It was slow and gradual, reading the Gospels turned into reading Paul’s epistles, which turned into memorizing books of the Bible then pursuing my ministerial credentials.
Although more reading led to more questions, I noticed that when I shifted the focus off of me and onto the person of Christ, I felt awkwardly free.
By awkward, I mean that eating disorders are inherently selfish. They are messy with immediate self-gratification. So essentially, I was feeding (pun intended) my selfish nature by putting my struggle with an eating disorder on a pedestal. It consumed me, but I knew nothing apart from constantly criticizing my body, obsessing over calories, and being entrenched in daily cycles of over-eating then purging. So feeling free and genuinely acting free felt quite uncomfortable after years in the comfort zone of bondage.
Granted, I did relapse often during that time. But the slow change in focus from inward to upward resulted in more time between episodes. A day between episodes became a week, then two, then a month, now it’s been so long I don’t even remember.
So where am I now? I Am Free. Well, still awkwardly free. I still struggle with body image and confidence. Choosing to look upward instead of inward is a constant tug-of-war between my bent sinful nature and my heavenly focus. But I would take awkwardly free instead of captive in bondage anyday!
I Will Be Fruitful
John 15: 1-2: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
Let’s hone in on “….he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
The word “prune” has two connotations. One, is the noun version, a dried plum. Funny story, in fourth grade I went on a field trip. The adult in charge of our group brought prunes as part of her lunch. She offered us some. I liked them so much I kept sneaking handfuls of prunes when she wasn’t looking. I ended up eating at least ten of them. She eventually looked at the bag and realized it was empty. “Megan! Did you eat the rest of the bag?”
“Yes, they were so good.”
She cautioned, “You might be needing to go to the bathroom soon.” And sure enough I did.
So not that kind of prune.
Obviously, the true connotation uses “prune” as a verb. This means to trim by cutting away dead branches to increase fruitfulness and growth.
While I’m no gardener, I can relate this to haircuts. I only get my hair cut twice a year and usually I know it’s time for a haircut when my hair stops growing. I can tell when the ends of my hair are unhealthy and therefore the length is at a standstill. When I get a trim, I ask the hairdresser to remove all the unhealthy ends. By ridding myself of the unhealthy ends, my hair as a consequence is shorter, but over the next three months it dramatically grows by increasing in length.
I, sometimes, wish that God’s pruning was easy and painless like a haircut.
Sometimes pruning involves revealing the “dead branches” that we didn’t know exist in our lives.
Sometimes pruning involves struggling through difficult situations.
Sometimes pruning involves simply being still when you have the itch to run.
Did you catch what God does to the branches that aren’t fruitful? He cuts off that branch! So pruning is an indication that you are producing fruit but are capable of so much more.
Then check out verse 3, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you.”
At first, this verse seems to be out of place, it feels like it doesn’t belong between verse 2 and 4.
Instead read it like a reassurance. Unlike a haircut, the pruning process is difficult, challenging, and lengthy. But guess what? You are already clean because of the Gospel, the Good News. You are already enough for God, the Gardener. The pruning is not a means of cleaning you. You are already cleansed by the work of Jesus on the cross. Instead, the pruning process is a vehicle allowing you to reach your heavenly potential.
How motivating! Who we are is enough for God, the Gardener. Like a parent, in love, he disciplines and guides us so we are fruitful to carry out his work here on Earth.
You were created with intention for a purpose. So allow the pruning process to encompass you, resting in the assurance that you are already fruitful and are being pruned to reach your maximum fruitfulness.