Though I am tempted to rush to write how, in many ways, my final purge was just the beginning of the end, I want to stay rejoicing for this post. It took me a couple days to process what had happened. Horror and beauty so deeply intertwined. But I longed to tell someone of the freedom I knew without a doubt that had been won for me.
I knew the first person I would tell was my mom. We were on one of our many favorite walks, when I told her I was free. I told her there was no question in my mind it was over, but that it had been a horrible deliverance. I can remember her quiet voice asking if I could tell her what happened. And I did. And while I cannot say what went through her mind at that moment, I was certain of one thing. She rejoiced with me. And here’s the thing – did she rejoice because she knew everything from here on out would be easy? Did she rejoice with me because she believed all my idols, temptations, and difficulties had been forever removed? No. And it was precisely the fact that she rejoiced despite knowing all those things that made my joy all the greater. She rejoiced because I was rejoicing. She rejoiced because something had been broken. She rejoiced because our Father had displayed His love to me. This was beautiful to me.
I was not able to tell Jeff any details for weeks. I remember, while pushing our girls in our stroller, telling him over the phone (in Iraq still) that I had been freed, and that I would tell him the details later. And he too, rejoiced.
I make a point of this only because a bit later on I shared with a dear friend that I had been freed, and while that person celebrated the fact that I was free from binging and purging, they were quick to say how long and hard of a road was still ahead of me. While all they said could not have been truer, I was crushed. I immediately felt like a shrunken balloon. I knew it was true, but it was as if a cymbal player had decided to jump in too soon…there was a time for it in the music, but it had jumped the gun.
The perfect example of this is with a child. After struggling over a certain math concept for weeks, they finally comprehend it. And as a parent or teacher, our first reaction would not be, “Well I’m so glad you finally learned that lesson, because the rest of math this year is built upon it, and it is only going to get more complicated.” Be freed to rejoice in the moment. Be freed to rejoice, though you know the journey is not finished, that there are more twists and bumps and turns. Another example is an engagement or pregnancy announced. These are times to rejoice, not to quickly point out the all the new challenges marriage will bring and all the heartache raising up children promises. These examples are not perfect, but the point is that we can rejoice with those who rejoice.
When I shared my joy with my mom and Jeff, I made myself vulnerable. It was as if I handed them a fragile flower that had just been given to me by Jesus. I longed for them to admire the Giver of the flower as well as the flower. It was an invitation to rejoice. It was a gift I was entrusting to them. I shared with them, that my joy could be all the greater. I was not sharing so that they could point out all the potholes in the road ahead. The potholes would come. And preparing for them is a good and wise thing. But there is a time to simply rejoice. Sharing a dazzling sunset, a loud burp, smelling coffee, or tasting a dreamy cheesecake…they each shout out, “Did you see that?!” “Did you hear that?!” “Did you smell that?!” “Did you taste this?!”
Our joy climbs to greater heights when our delights are shared with those we love. Let us love others by rejoicing with their victories, whether they come to us in the form of a five year bondage to bulimia, or in the thrilled exclamations of our children, “Did you see me, mom?!?!” Let us embrace the invitation to rejoice. It is not always easy, it is not always a “good time,” and some will even come with heartache. But let us make the space to rejoice with others, for God’s glory and our good. We must learn to rejoice in the little things if we are going to enjoy the God who rejoices to tell the sun to rise every morning.
For me, a battle had been won. A desire had been changed. A taste bud had been altered. The desire to purge was gone. God had done that. And while even the horrible means by which God had changed my desires would be cause for confusion and turmoil later, for now…. I rejoiced. My binging, my purging in exchange for His righteousness. Never before had Jesus appeared so beautiful to me. He was covered in my puke; He was buried in all my empty wrappers. He stood there before me bearing my sin and my shame. And in exchange, I was covered in His righteousness. And for this reason, I rejoiced.