Fighting regret is a daily battle for me. Yesterday, I was listening to The Sports Medicine Broadcast, Episode 566, “Eating Disorders: Current Research”. While the content was excellent, regret for the battles I had fought against eating disorders, tugged at my heart. And it was hard to not stay in that place for the rest of the day. A place of regrets and “if only’s”.
One of my favorite memories as a teenager were my long walks through my parent’s property. I walked in utter bliss and praise. I would make photocopies of hymns and take those pieces of paper with me on my hikes through the farmland, fields, and woods. And I would sing loud and unashamed, often with tears, my heart overflowing with joy and worship to my Creator and Savior. But one day, in a moment, all this changed.
On one of my hikes through the woods, I came across, what I thought was an injured doe. It was Fall and surprised by the fact that my footsteps, crunching loudly over the fallen leaves, had not awakened the large animal, I assumed it must have been shot, and then curled itself up beside a large stone to die. When only about twenty feet away, my heart sunk, as I noticed it had a long tail and curved ears. It wasn’t a doe, but a sleeping cougar, it’s belly clearly rising and falling. In my frantic mind, I repeated over and over, “Oh God, please help me,”. The closest house was my own, which was just about a mile away. I looked left towards a barbed wire fence that I hoped I would be able to reach and from there a small cliff, which tumbled down into the road. As I made my way towards the fence line, I never looked back. If the cougar woke up and was coming towards me, it was something I did not wish to see. I tore my favorite Chicago Bulls wind jacket, as well as my pants while stuffing myself through the barbed-wire fence. Once I reached the road, I sprinted all the way home, never stopping until I was safe inside. (No one really believed me, what I saw, that is. But, months later, our friends and farmers who worked our land, spied a large cougar on its hind legs, knawing at a carcass with which they were planning on baiting coyotes. )
That one hike in the woods forever changed every other single walk I’ve taken since on my dad’s ranch. My surroundings had not changed, but I had changed. I still saw the same things, heard the same sounds, smelled the same smells. But the walks lost their innocence. They lost their blissful nature. I knew something was out there. Something that terrified me. And that something, that memory, has now followed me on every walk since. I’m always thinking of where I might run, where I might hide, how quickly I could call someone, and who I should call, and how I would describe to them which part of the ranch I was located. The beauty and glory of the land never changed. It was me. I met danger, and its memory could not be erased. Certainly, my most fearful days were the months that followed my encounter, but even now, as I walk my dad’s property, it is a memory that always lingers.
This reminds me so much of my journey with nutrition and exercise. When I was younger, I had nothing but simple pleasure and enjoyment in both areas of my life. But as I began to abuse both, a shadow fell across them. Purging looked to me as harmless as a sleeping doe, when in reality, it was a sleeping cougar. When I stopped purging, I thought I had escaped the cougar through a barbed-wire fence, not realizing the scars would never fully fade.
I wish I could go back, and not take that path which led me to the cougar. I wish I could go back and not take that path which led me to an eating disorder. But, I did take that path. And, the fact that I took that path as a believer, meant that God was sovereign and at work for my good, even during that time. But, at the time, as I walked farther and farther down that path, I began to think it was a road where there was no grace. I believed I had to turn around on my own and get back to the path of grace that I had left, the moment I purged for the first time. And only once I was back on the right track, could I inhale His mercy and forgiveness.
I believe that in all things, God is sovereign. I believe that whatever may befall us, that He is good. And I believe that God will not let one of His beloved children fall away into utter and eternal destruction and that He will do whatever it takes to keep His children. I believe that His purposes will not and cannot fail. While I am not sure what part my eating disorder plays in these truths, I do know, that He is working it together for my good and His glory.
In the presence of my enemy, I was tempted to believe that I had walked too far from grace and that my only hope was to get things back to the way things were. But our hope never lies in us fixing things. My hope did not lie back at the place where I veered off the path. Our hope is in the One, who walked a path with no regrets, with perfect, joyous obedience to His Father. Jesus has turned our regrets to rejoicing. And because of Him, though I could not see it at the time, there, standing next to the cougar was and will always be Jesus, preparing a table before me, in the presence of my enemies; anointing my head with oil; overflowing my cup. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” ~Psalm 23