While my heart was full with a joy and happiness that I had not experienced for years, there was still so much confusion in my heart and mind. I still had to eat. The particular fears that had been with me for the past five years still swirled about me. They had not suddenly vanished. I was clueless as to where I was to begin to get back to “normal” eating. Whatever that was. Food had taken on far more meaning than merely fuel for my body, or a means of sheer enjoyment. It had become a dear friend. It held my hand in my lonely hours. I cannot count how many times I stayed home from Sunday mornings, church activities, and get-togethers o I could get some quality time with food.
I was not blind to the fact that I was exchanging something precious for what would just end up becoming a heaping pile of puke. Beautiful friendships, sweet encouragement in Christ, the opportunity to be a blessing, and the opportunities to allow others to be a blessing to me had all been exchanged for food. Food promised happiness as I anticipated stuffing my face with all sugary delights. Food brought the heights of a sugar high. And the release of food brought peace and calm to my racing heart. After a purge, I felt like I could be with others again. I felt relaxed and happy…for a time, that is, until the cravings would slowly creep up on me as a thief in the night.
This is such a perfect picture of the exchange we make when we choose something over Jesus. I’ve heard sin described as being a declaration of saying that something is more desirable than Jesus. And while I take full responsibility for every time I stuck my finger down my throat, I also acknowledge at the same time that I did not know its power when I first enlisted in bulimia’s service. I did not know I would give bulimia another cord to bind my hands with every purge I committed. In fact, this view of sin would go through my mind every time I purged. I would be leaning over, heaving, and at the same time look up at the kitchen wall and read, “You are choosing this over Jesus.” I knew this was true. And it killed my joy again and again.
It had started out with a supposed “innocent” thought of an easy way to take care of excess calories in record time. But what had initially been an “efficient option” had become an experience that I began to crave. Bulimia’s song became more and more attractive, the very act became self-soothing, until I could no longer remember what food was meant to be, or supposed to be, or what “full” meant, or what it meant to enjoy food with others.
So, going back to my inability to go back to “normal eating.” Beyond the emotional component that food had taken on in my life, there were also physical issues that I had no idea how to handle. My biggest fear by far was my stomach. I wish I would have weighed one of those garbage bags of vomit. They were heavy. The volume of food I was able to down was no joke. So the whole, “Eat till you are full” mentality was not something I could relate to anymore. I had absolutely no ability to know what that felt like. I feared I had stretched my stomach far beyond what its normal capacity should have been. At the time I was too ashamed to tell anyone about this fear. So my next logical thought was that I would just try to eat normal portions of things, and ignore any confused and messed up signal that my stomach was giving me. And so while, as a whole, I desired to eat “normal” portions, there were times when I found myself surpassing a certain self-imposed limit. And in the event that I thought I had eaten more than I should have, I logically grabbed the next security blanket that I could find to “pay the price” for my indulgences. And this came in the form of exercise. Ever since I was a kid (I remember almost every day at recess in 2nd grade choosing to just run around the track) I had loved being active. And because of this, it made it easy to hide my reasons for exercising. I always knew when I was exercising for the mere joy of it and when I felt compelled to do it out of punishment. Thankfully this did not become an overwhelming habit and rather just an occasional tool I had in my back pocket in case things “got out of hand.” But because it was something that I would do on occasion, it made me more secretive about when I simply exercised for my own pleasure, out of fear that someone might think I was exercising as another form of purging. I always felt bad if I had to mention that I had gone on a run or lifted weights. Consequently, even the God-given joy of exercising was tainted with fear of what others might think, and, at times, threatened to be another form of purging.
But in all the blaze of confusion, I knew one thing. Jesus had eaten perfectly for me. He had enjoyed it perfectly. He had broken bread with others perfectly. Every morsel of food that He put in His mouth on this earth had been an act of perfect worship. I longed for the Holy Spirit to be my Comforter, not food. And I longed to live as a beloved daughter and not a slave in my Abba Father’s house. The Trinity took on a new light for me. They were immeasurably and eternally happy in each other. I no longer carried the weight and supposed ability to make them happy. I was their son (actually daughter, but you get the picture), dripping in the blood of the perfect son, indwelled by the Holy Spirit, and adopted by the Father. There was nothing I could ever do that would ever make them stop loving me. And so when the morning after my deliverance I was unable to eat an entire packet of oatmeal (out of the fear of too many carbs/calories), I knew full well that there was more ground to cover, that there was more grace to experience, and more mercy to receive, and more lies to refute, and more battles to fight.
Yes, the battle has been won, but our fight is not over. Not till our final breath. We will fight. We will fight in His strength, and in His power, experiencing His grace and forgiveness, standing in His righteousness. We fight because He has won. Our victories and failures, be they in the form of being unable to eat a packet of oatmeal, or an angry word to our children, or an impatient thought towards a stranger, do not change our standing before the Throne of God. We need not question whether we are in the battle, as long as we fight.
Our Victor is already seated at the right hand of God in glory. He has sat down. It is finished…Come, Lord Jesus!
One thought on “Aubrey’s Story #21: Bulimia and Early Struggles”
So many good reminders. Thank you, Aubrey!