Sometimes Fear Tells the Truth

I found myself sitting in a  busy Starbucks, overflowing with new students from all around the world who were just exploring the uncanny world of “coffee dates.”  It’s like this unofficial rule that before you can hang out with anyone, boy or girl, you first have to go to coffee with that person where you have awkward conversation revolving around topics like how you got to Bethel, what your biggest dreams are, and Africa.

As I eavesdropped and people watched, as I so gloriously love doing, I was quickly brought back to my first few weeks here in Redding.  It was a nightmare.  My housing fell through two days before arriving, my beloved Volkswagen Beetle decided to take a little expensive nap (the transmission died), and I had lost $500 due to what one could call a housing scam.  The day I arrived, I remember walking to this same Starbucks in the Redding heat wondering if I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.  A lot of my first year was spent walking (because RIP VW Bug) to either Starbucks or the Prayer Chapel where I would lay in silence as thoughts of fear and defeat swung at me.

I had no idea why I was here.  I had only recently learned of Bethel just the year before and I couldn’t fathom how I was going to make it out of first year alive.

Throughout that year, I began understanding the differences between what fear spoke and what truth spoke.  Whenever I would begin spiraling down that path of worthlessness and confusion, I began taking those thoughts captive and saying, “I will not partner with fear.”

That phrase became a sort of a walking stick for me.  I would learn on it when I needed strength and use it to combat anything that tried to attack.

So, fast forward and now here I am.  Sitting in the same Starbucks listening to the new and fresh students share similar stories of their journey here.  Honestly, I was eavesdropping more than I normally would and I wondered why I was avoiding what I was there to do.

I had gone to do some writing and research for a book that I am helping someone write.  Every time I would go to write, thoughts would begin flooding me,

You’re a joke.

You’re not even a writer.

You’re completely out of place.

You’re going to fail so badly and she will regret asking you to do this.

I sat in front of my laptop, tears beginning to fill my eyes as I allowed fear to give me a brief history lesson on my past.  Just five years ago I had wanted nothing to do with the church and I spent all my time partying and entrenched in bulimia.  What made me think I was qualified to be sitting next to someone whom I have so much respect for and be helping writing a book on health and wellness?

I wiped the tears from my eyes and did a quick look over around Starbucks to see if anyone had noticed.  It was then that I realized that I had just allowed myself to become a victim to fear without even realizing it.  I sat for a moment as I began gathering my thoughts and couldn’t help but laugh (to myself. I didn’t laugh out loud because people would surely talk about me).  I recited my go-to phrase in my head, “I will not partner with fear” only to quickly hear God say back “Partner with the promise.”

You see,  fear was right about something because the truth is that I’m not qualified on my own to be doing anything great with my life.  If God was fair, I would be living a sad and hopeless life as a punishment for sin. But God isn’t fair.  In fact, he’s so unfair that despite spending years of my life running away from him, He chased after me with uninhibited passion.  When he finally caught up to me, He didn’t send me to time out.  He cleansed me and looked me in the eyes and said, “Now, where were we? Let’s make your dreams come true.”

Sometimes the enemy will use what seems like the truth against you.  But God is the ultimate truth.

Don’t partner with fear.  Partner with the Promise.

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A Conversation with my 13 Year Old Self

As most of you already know, I’ve been in recovery and free from bulimia for almost two years now. Prior to that, I spent well over ten years abusing my body day in and day out and I’ve since been on a journey as I discover all the ways my body still has to heal from the past.  I recently was able to go see a Dr. regarding some issues I was having.  For the last year, I’ve been unable to lose weight despite all my efforts.  I even got a group of girls together last summer and created a 30 day fitness challenge.  Being the competitive person I am, I was sure to never once miss one of my six-days-a-week hour workouts and I never indulged in any cravings aside from my “Sunday Funday” meal once a week.  I even would workout twice a day just to try to take it to a new level.  How much weight did I lose? Zero. Along with not being able to lose weight, I also have been exhausted, overly sensitive, and nervous and yet unable to sleep.

Emotionally it’s been draining especially when old thinking patterns from my past have been haunting me so I was very relieved when I was able to see a Dr. and learn that I am not crazy, but there is just leftover healing that needs to take place in my body.  As he was listing off what he was finding (inflamed gallbladder and liver, under active thyroid, fatigued adrenals, tired pituitary gland), I was brought back to the seventh grade when my PE teacher made me watch a documentary about eating disorders after I broke down in the school hallway over a picture I saw of myself. The documentary told the story of a young girl who wanted to lose weight and became anorexic.  After years of struggling, she finally recovered but was now living with the aftermath of the disorder and was dealing with a variety of health issues.  I remember watching it and since the disorder had already found a root in my heart, instead of helping me it only made me jealous that she was able to successfully starve herself and I was not.

Fast forward 15 years later, I am that girl in the documentary.  The years in between now and then were not nearly as glamorous as the disease had promised me it would be but instead filled with tears, hospital visits, and a tired soul. I drove away from the Dr. thinking about that 13 year old girl who just wanted to be skinny. Just wanted to be loved.   I wondered how my life would be different if I had never gone down that path. Would I be more successful? Would my dreams of singing have actually come to pass? While I don’t believe in living in regret because God has a beautiful way of redeeming and crafting together our pasts with our futures, I do wish there were some things I could have said to that little girl.

1. Skinny doesn’t equal happy. It’s so hard for us women in today’s society to actually separate the terms “skinny” and “happy” because we are flooded with messages everywhere from TV commercials to instagram to pinterest that equate happiness with thinness.  The truth is, skinny girls still get their hearts broken. They still have bills to pay, jobs they don’t love, pets that die, and friends that betray them.  They don’t get a free pass on the circumstances life presents them just because they can rock a pair of tiny New Religion jeans.  Happiness is self-created and it begins within your heart. 

2. Beauty is not a pant size. Nobody even knows what skinny is.  Everyone has a different definition of what skinny and beauty is. Open any magazine and on one page they are praising a celebrity for all the weight she’s lost; then on the next they are praising an entirely different girl for her “take me as I am and i’m not a size 0” attitude! You cannot and will not win in this game because beauty is a heart posture and not a pant size.

3.  This road will break your family’s heart.  I can’t quite put into words the looks on your little sister’s faces when they see you for the first time since you went into rehab for bulimia.  It’s a look of confusion, excitement, and sadness all at the same time.  They won’t be able to understand why you abuse yourself and you won’t be able to provide an answer because it’s become so much bigger than you had expected.  It’s beyond what you know to control. It will cause strife between you and your parents and your siblings.  Ask for help. It’s okay.

4.  Eating disorders are not glamorous.  They lie to you from the very beginning by making you think that the attention you will gain from it will be fun and exciting.  Magazines throw out accusations of eating disorders towards your favorite pop stars and actresses like it’s a trophy or prized possession.  Trust me when I say that it’s a trophy that you wished you never had to fight to get.  It comes with countless nights alone in the bathroom, lying to the people you love, and it may cost you your dreams.  It’s not glamorous. It’s destructive.

5. It’s never too late.  No matter how engrossed in this disorder you may feel, you are never too far gone.  I know that I just made point number 4 sound extremely depressing and dark (which it is, don’t get me wrong) it is however never without hope.  Your own self abuse cannot separate you from what Christ did on the cross which already gave you your freedom.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

As I sit here and think about the little girl who was and the girl that has become, I know that there is so much more that I would say to her but nothing more important than the simple word “Grace.” If you or someone you love is battling with an eating disorder (or any addiction), grace is the most valuable gift to give to yourself or to them. Grace to fail. Grace to succeed. Grace to be.  That’s what I am choosing to give myself as I continue this healing journey.  I hope you do the same.

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