Friends, family, and strangers, I must be honest with you. The past two weeks have been a struggle. I have been fighting my battle daily with self-esteem, attacks on body image, overall self-loathing, and fear. And I realized I must face something: I have always had low self-image, it has always been easy for me to hate myself, and I've had irrational fears since my little blonde head was only knee-high. So, of course, with this blog, I thought: how can I talk to these people and encourage them in their battles when I am faltering in my own? But "to give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift," right? (Prefontaine quote because I am a running nerd!) So here I am, still licking my wounds, typing away so that the gift of forthcoming freedom is ours to be had.
Weakness actually works in our favor. Weakness takes us off of our pedestals. Weakness creates empathy. Weakness makes us stop and realize there are some things we can't do alone. If you haven't realized that yet, perhaps it's time ...
If you've read any of my posts, you know the Reason for the hope I have in all things. There are just some things you can't fake and you can't take away. For example, I am a mother; you can't fake certain things when you are a mother. You can't fake your love because a storehouse from heaven, full of love, fell upon you the second you learned that you were harboring an eternal soul. You give out this love freely, without thinking, without second-guessing. You tell others of this love, both directly and indirectly, every day. The same happens when you have experienced God's grace, deliverance, and love. I can't help but talk about it... :)
Let's look at the darkness for a minute, to see how the light chases it away (metaphorically, unless you want to turn your lights on and off - that's cool, too).
When I lived by myself in an apartment by Gundersen-Lutheran in La Crosse, I was very lonely. I had my son Julien with me, and I enjoyed every second I had with him, but I lacked any healthy adult relationship. I had such a set routine it was ridiculous: run in the morning, take Julien to daycare, go to class, go to work, go back to class, go back to work, get Julien home, get him to bed, do a 2nd workout, eat the tiniest bit possible, go to bed, repeat. Sometimes when Julien visited his dad, the loneliness was so overwhelming that I found myself crying in his room. When I left his room, I would fidget for awhile - people who close themselves in don't know how to appropriately contact others to hang out. I felt like I'd be a burden. Because of this, sometimes I would eat a lot of food that I would NEVER let myself eat normally, and then panic out of guilt, and make myself throw up. (Don't read on if you have a woozy stomach.) I would watch the toilet fill up with everything I just ate; I knew every bit of content and in what order I ate it. I would puzzle at how my stomach had mixed it up so quickly. Gag, gag, gag, splash. I would feel a certain satisfaction when I felt my stomach emptying, my esophagus burning, my hand full of chunks of food, my body crying for water. Again, again, again, until nothing was coming up but saliva, and abdominal muscles burned from the effort.
I was mutilating myself for having a weak moment and eating too much food. I was mutilating myself for never being good enough at what I did. I was mutilating myself out of self-created loneliness. I was trying to find some satisfaction in taking control because I was WEAK. I didn't want to be WEAK, I wanted to be STRONG.
Almost every single time I made myself throw up, from the time I was 14 to the time I was 23, I would look myself in the mirror when I was done. I would get really, really close to the mirror and look at my own eyes. I would stare and say to that stranger-girl: "This is not who you are. You are better than this. This isn't you. You don't have to do this again." And then I'd cry because I was ashamed. No matter what I did, I was ashamed.
The year I lived at that aforementioned apartment in 2007-8, I had a recurring vision of myself. At this point, I was so weak in my battle against eating disorders. I wanted deliverance. I wanted freedom. I wanted to eat dinner with my son without counting calories and comparing if he or I ate more. I wanted to not care what my body looked like. And I kept getting this vision of myself in holy anger and terror, throwing a scale out of my bedroom window and watching it smash into smithereens. Then I would take a sledgehammer and smash my full-length mirror over and over and over. At the end of these efforts, I would fall to my knees and cry out to God with tears pouring down my face. That ended the vision.
Just a few months ago, I was at Bible study. My friend Dannielle had something for us all to do. She had been taught an activity before, and she was going to lead it. We each had to close our eyes and let the Holy Spirit just talk to us as she told us questions to ask Him. I know this may sound pretty "out there" to those of you who aren't Christians, don't pray, etc., but trust me - it was beautiful. OK - so she had us ask questions to the Lord. One of the last questions was, "What is your favorite moment with me?" So, in my head and heart, I asked the Holy Spirit, "What is your favorite moment with me?" And that vision came back to me - the one where I was smashing scales and mirrors! It fell upon me like a ton of bricks and I started bawling in front of this group as I retold the whole story. Other people were reminded of times when they were kids, or a brief moment in the past that seemed happy, but I was given that painful, weak time! I just kept asking, "Why is that Your favorite, God?" But I knew the answer...it was then that I truly surrendered my whole life, recognizing that without Him, I wasn't strong enough to overcome eating disorders or any other area of weakness.
When we give up our weaknesses to God, we are provided with strength that far surpasses our own. And sometimes that weakness stays because it is then that we turn our eyes to the One who is greatest. I realized this before even reading the following verses, but I think it's so cool that the Bible affirms this:
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it [a spiritual tormenter] away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." -2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Perhaps this makes sense to you, perhaps it doesn't. But we can't give up on the things that torment us. We can't put power in the wrong hands. We can't do it all on our own. Heck, I've seen so many people vent personal, private information in their facebook statuses! We're all crying out for help in some way!
Whatever your weakness, whatever your struggle, whatever your battle, don't ever believe that it is too much for you to overcome. Say a prayer, I dare you. Know that there is overwhelming love and grace - I can feel it for you as I type, like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.