“God is bigger than the boogie man. He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV…and He’s watching out for you and me.” – Junior Asparagus, Veggie Tales
This little vegetable – armless yet somehow able to hold things – had it right all along. God is pretty big – actually really big. And He watches us jealously, guiding our lives with His sovereign hand.
This is a truth confirmed in scripture so many times – Psalm 121, Psalm 139, Romans 8:28 – and about a gazillion other places! We don’t’ simply endure sufferings because God forgot about us or got caught up in running the rest of the universe. In His grace, he lets us undergo challenges to teach us, mold us, save us, free us, use us and literally whatever else He desires. The beauty of this is that sometimes we don’t know why things happen – and we may never know! But we can rest in the truth that He is bigger than our struggles, attentively delighting in us, holding our hand while we stumble through the path He laid out for us.
This revelation dawned on me the other day as I was once again engaging in the melodrama of lamenting the loss of my once-so-thin body. Why did I get stuck with the one disorder that is brutally obvious? I mean, if this thing gets out of hand, everyone will know. If this remarkable rate of weight gain continues, I’ll adopt a whole new wardrobe, gait, and, well, shape! But that’s the beauty of it.
The Lord gave me this disorder because the repercussions force me to face the issue head on. Bulimia – disordered eating in general – simply masks deeper pain and bondage. My precious therapist (literally this woman is the best) told me she’s never dealt with an eating disorder patient who hasn’t also suffered from depression, most also accompanied by the anxiety-OCD duo. And I am no exception.
Food became one element of my life I could control. By manipulating my intake and exercise, I could attempt to fill a desperate void, the source of which remains still unclear. Food became forbidden, morally labelled, slowly tightening its grip on my mind as days of calorie-counting and restriction engraved a dangerous pathway of food-related thoughts into my suffering brain. Biochemical insufficiencies compounded and the forbidden fruits (and by fruits I pretty much mean everything but) I had slashed from my diet became irresistably compelling. Will-power could only hold out for so long and the binges began – few at first, but increasing in intensity and frequency.
Food was no longer a source of fuel, but a powerful component of my ability, or lack thereof, to control my body. Somehow, the bingeing cycle perpetuated a view of food as not only a manner of slimming down, but also a method to stuff my emotion. I underwent months of therapy before the Lord began to peel back the layers of lies and ignorance that shielded my habit. Once I began eating a sufficient diet, the problems faded from the biochemical into the emotional and psychological. I was trapped – am trapped – in a bondage to food that I am convinced maintains a terrifying grip on so many others.
In a life rife with mercurial relationships, unforeseen circumstances, and mysterious happenings in our own bodies, food was a dependable coping mechanism. It tastes the same and has the same sedative effect. Always. And the immediate effects of overeating, abusing food by attributing to it drug-like qualities of temporarily curbing intense emotion, are difficult to see day in and day out. But day in and day out, my body felt the effects. Literally. Clothes became unwearable. Exhaustion became a daily battle. I have pen marks on my t-shirt sleeves from nodding off in every class mid-note-taking. This obsession, the addiction, and the chronic tiredness it creates has robbed me of mornings of productivity in my internship, running dates with friends, integrity in maintaining commitments, and an endless slew of other valuable experiences.
Sweet Jesus, thanks for allowing me to gain weight. If the effects of this disorder weren’t so troublesome, the habit would undoubtedly continue without addressing the issue. But in His grace, He’s let me experience the consequences of my actions. Most days, I simply feel like I’m making negative progress – one step forward and one step back then I trip and tumble like thirty six more. But the beauty of grace is that it makes life not only unclear and difficult to face, but also engenders trust.
About a gazillion mantras have rotated through my mind and pen as I temporary tat them on my left wrist. One of them is “Jesus is better.” He so is. No amount of food could stuff the anger, sadness, confusion or other unidentifiable emotions that ran my life for so long. No edible entity can fill the void I created in my heart by placing my identity in the perfection of performance and not the grandeur of grace.
To the many who struggle as I do, using food for a purpose for which it was never intended, Jesus is better. I have made a lot of baby steps and taken a lot of tumbles backward, and am still in the midst of recovery, but Jesus is better. My will-power continually fails, my silly crash diet efforts are actually hilarious at this point, and my flesh will fail – does fail. But the Lord is my strength, my portion forever.