In high school, I opened the door to life with an eating disorder. With all its empty promises to bring me into a place of beauty, satisfaction and worth–and its merciless routines and obsessions that were such a burden. Even in the good times, they hung like a cloud over my life and always led me back to the same place no matter how hard I tried—feeling restless, unfulfilled and alone. I had to keep working so hard to stay ahead, as I was always just one step away from failure.
In my struggle to overcome the anorexia and bulimia, I tried to “stop doing this” and to “not do that”. I tried so hard to get away from it all–but the more I tried, the more I found myself helplessly falling back into it all over again. It was a cruel taskmaster that lured me with promises to comfort me, to be my friend and to help me become the person I wanted to be. Once I reached out for the comfort it promised, it always turned on me. When it seemed too late to turn back, I would realize that I had yet again fallen into a trap. I would feel tricked, defeated and disillusioned with myself. Overcome with self-loathing and shame, I would continue down the road as a way of punishing myself. It was a cycle that I went through over and over and over again.
Becoming a Christian did not give me instant victory. I held onto the promise in this verse: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” II Corinthians 5:17
At times I doubted that it was really true for me. I tried everything and worked so hard. I knew I did not want to live as a slave to the eating disorder but I just could not seem to break free. There were times when I just had no hope. But one night, for some reason, something clicked when my eyes fell on this verse:
You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
It seemed so clear to me that in all my striving and struggling to get free I had been almost entirely focused on “putting off” my old self. Trying to “not do” all those things that I knew were wrong with the eating disorder. I would go along and be doing pretty well and then–would fall again. It felt like I was starting all over. Sometimes I hardly had the hope and the strength to try again.
But God gave me something to lead me through the door to freedom.
Not only did I need to turn away from the eating disorder, but I also needed to become new and set my heart and my actions toward becoming and living as a new creation in Christ : “to be made new in the attitude of your minds” and “to put on the new self.” When I set my mind on being made new and threw myself in putting on the new self, clothing myself in Christ, it seemed like a huge void in me began to be filled. I felt the ravenous hunger and the pervasive “aloneness” —both hallmarks of an eating disorder–being satisfied, filled, fading into the background of a life that was worth living. I was no longer driven by the demands of an eating disorder–no longer a victim to its every whim, no longer working so hard to maintain control.
I have found this truth—putting off and putting on—to be incredibly freeing when faced with “slaying dragons” in my personal life…overcoming sins, habits, addictions. As I sought to find God’s purpose for my life and how I could love, support and help others while growing to know Him more—I found that he kept opening doors. I always had the choice to step through toward freedom or to turn back to the false comfort of my “old friend.”
Sometimes it seemed—and still does seem—scary to be made new and go new places with God. I sometimes was worried by what I would have to give up. Giving up control can be so hard. [afraid to let go is a post which describes this]
For anyone struggling with any kind of sin, habit, addiction or harmful lifestyle–there is hope. God offers a way through it and out the other side. His word is full of wisdom and power—dive into it, take hold of it and you will be amazed at what God will do in you. Let loose of the control you think you need to maintain and trust that He wants what is better than what you can imagine for your life. You may not know where He’s leading, but trust Him enough to at least pray the prayer: “Lord make me willing.” Believe me, you can trust Him even though you may not be able to see where He’s leading. It’s okay: Just take the first step.
Pray for doors to step through, for people to help and support you and for the courage to take each step along the way. I have taken those steps and call out to you to let you know it’s so worth it. Life is good when you put on the new life that God offers you.
“I sought the Lord, and He answered me; delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Psalm 34:4,5
You turned my wailing into dancing; You removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks for ever. Psalm 30:11,12