As I began jotting down what I ate in my food journal, I found myself writing down the same five foods: cashews, raisins, popcorn, protein bars, and apples. They were my safe foods. I shifted uncomfortably that first time my counselor looked at this list. I knew it shouted major food phobias, especially in the carbohydrate department. She wanted me to work with a nutritionist in addition to her counseling sessions. I was excited to do so out of sheer interest as well as from the mindset that “knowledge is power.” Maybe if I really knew the ins-and-outs of nutrition, implementing a bulimia-free lifestyle would be easier.
So the next week I found myself driving to a hospital to meet with a nutritionist. My insurance did not cover the counseling, and my parents were anxious to pay for it. Though my counselor recommended that I continue to meet with the nutritionist alongside her counseling, I told my mom it was just a “one time deal,” as I did not want them to continue paying for both services. Therefore, I tried to glean as much as I could from my one stint at the hospital. Haddie and I entered her little office together. She asked why I had come to see her, and my cheeks stung as I told her I was going to counseling for bulimia, all the while bouncing Haddie on my knee. She talked a lot about having a healthy balance, what a balanced meal looked like, and how carbs are not the enemy. It all sounded good and simple. And I couldn’t think of why I was not able to embrace such healthy eating practices. I left with my arms full of photocopies of nutritional information but with my heart empty of hope.
A month into counseling I was shocked to find myself purging even more than I did on a “normal” week. For some reason, “it” was getting worse. And the worse it got, the more I dreaded going to counseling. Not only was it hard to tell my counselor how many times I had purged, but even more so, it crushed me to see my mom’s hopeful look, as I returned from yet another counseling session. I wanted to stop for them. I wanted to hug my mom and say, “It’s ok, mom! It’s getting better! Not much longer, mom.” But regardless, I was purging more than ever.
Although it makes me sick to my stomach to write the following, it was during this time I turned my hurt on Aletheia by abusing her emotionally. I can only think of two times I did this, but they will be memories that I will live with forever, like a mouth that never recovers after taking two gulps of scalding coffee. Rejecting her love when it was offered. Screaming at her for some petty sin. Seeing her hurt, confused face somehow brought evil relief to my graceless soul. Looking back now, it is so clear what I was blind to then. I had outrun the gospel. And in doing so, I had outrun grace. I had outrun God’s grace and in so doing gave Aletheia the stiff shoulder that I had also, unknowingly, given to God. I did not allow myself to receive God’s continuing grace because I was not good enough yet.
Yes, He had gotten me into the faith by nothing that I had done! But fixing this bulimic problem was up to me. I had gotten myself into this mess, and I had to get myself out. And as I was not daily falling on my knees asking, receiving, and rejoicing in His grace, there was little grace to extend to Aletheia. I had put my “works-of-righteousness umbrella” up to keep me from His steady shower of grace until I had parted ways with bulimia. I was not going to drag the Holy Spirit into the mess I had made. Yes, I could pray a faint, “Jesus, help me!” But it really was a cry of frustration at my own inability to rid myself of my ever-present, nasty horse fly. Though I did not see it this way in the moment, I believed I started my relationship with Jesus by faith, but I alone had to deal with this unfinished business of bulimia. And my sweet, little, dancing, ever-singing girl of the curly hair, had to daily live in the consequences of my weak theology of the Holy Spirit.
I was bewitched, having begun by the Spirit, I now sought to be perfected by the flesh (Galatians 3:1-3). This is incredibly ironic, as I had fallen in love with the Reformed doctrines as a twelve-year-old girl. You see, once I started engaging bulimia in conversation, I saw myself as strong and in control – strong enough to stop purging whenever I wanted, strong enough to put the final nail in the coffin of bulimia, strong enough to bring about my deliverance. There was a strange sense of security for me at the time to have something to contribute, something to point to…”You see this? That is what I did. That is how I did it.” Which again is really crazy, as I always loved the Doctrines of Grace from a very young age. I received my Two Volume Works by Jonathan Edwards for my 12th birthday, at my request and absolute delight. And while I could say without a blink of an eye that I had NOTHING to do with my becoming a Christian, I went on to live during those five years of bulimia as if “staying in” as a Christian was up to me … and it was only by ridding myself of bulimia. If I could beat bulimia on my own, I could prove my Christian authenticity. Yes, Jesus paid my entry fee for the race, but I had left the cross far behind me at the starting line.
My life had become graceless. I would not allow myself to see God’s cup of grace for me as overflowing, and so I had none to spill over onto others. Praise God, during my time at counseling, my mom handed me a copy of Give Them Grace, by Elise Fitzpatrick. It was a parenting book. This book was the beginning of taking me back to grace and to the gospel. I am so excited to share this part of my story with you! I cannot wait to walk with you, my readers, through the beauty of the gospel for a second time, being dazzled by the beauty of the gospel again as a long-time believer.
But before I get ahead of myself, there a few other stories I must tell – stories that continued to bring me to the end of myself, to sink me lower into the fathoms of the ocean, wondering whether or not there really was an ocean floor. But, let me tell you, my friends, there was a floor and it was a rock, The Rock, The Rock of Ages.