“Getting that toy you want will not make you happy.”
“Yes, it will.”
I found myself a bit taken aback by his response. Not because it was spoken out of defiance or rebellion, but rather, because it wasn’t. My four-year-old spoke out of a deep conviction that the toy would indeed bring him happiness. And he was right. For a while, the toy would bring a smile to his face and lighten his heart.
We all seek happiness. This is the foundation for what Piper calls, “Christian Hedonism”. The problem isn’t that we long to be happy. The problem is we are disillusioned in our happiness. Our delusion is so severe, that we, like my four-year-old, we can say without a shadow of a doubt, “Yes, it will”. Our heart’s desire is the problem. (Sorry, Disney). Jerimiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
I started down the path of my eating disorder because I imagined that it would make me happy. I remember like it was yesterday, that time I emerged from the bathroom, having successfully purged for the first time. It is one of my most vivid memories. And, just like my deceitful heart imagined, I was so happy. I was on cloud nine. And months and months later, when Jeff, my fiancé at the time, asked me to promise to never purge again, I promised. The desire to please him usurped my desire to find happiness in purging. But on the flight back from our honeymoon, I was purging in the airplane bathroom. Why? Because I believed that it would make me happy. Because it did make me happy. And I was ashamed of that.
My problem wasn’t that I wanted to be happy. My problem was where I was finding my happiness. And I knew, deep within my core, that it was a problem. And so, I hid. Just like Eve. For the first couple of years, I hid in shame and guilt, because I did not want to give up my new found happiness. But the last three years, I hid because I could not stop doing the very thing I was becoming to loathe and hate, and yet, still, at the same time, longed to do. I was Smeogle verses Gollum, loving and hating purging at the same time.
I wished someone could have said to me, “Purging will not make you happy.” To which, I could have replied, “Yes, it will.” If I could have said that out loud, it would have brought to the conversation the brutal honesty that I so desperately needed. My heart, and where it was choosing to find happiness, needed to be addressed. Often, during this time, I hid behind the idea that my behavior was “addictive”. And it was, in so many ways. Not only was I addicted to the physical nature of it all, but I was also addicted to the false hope of happiness it seductively promised. Misplaced happiness and habit had become a tangled mess. And Satan loves when these two intertwine. But regardless of how twisted and tangled happiness and habit became, there was still the truth that must be faced. Somewhere deep within that mess, I still found happiness in purging. And there was no getting around it.
If I only could be as honest as my four-year-old, maybe then, I could have gotten somewhere. But throughout my purging years, I was a Jr. High Bible teacher at a Christian School, I sang on the worship team at church, I was a pastor’s wife, and then, an Army Chaplain’s wife. And that type of person does not say that purging makes them happy.
But there was a distinct difference between my four-year-old’s declaration of where he would find his happiness and the happiness I experienced in purging. When I finally was able to tell my mom, who had flown out for my due date with my second baby, that I couldn’t stop, I said so with the greatest of agony and tears. I thought I was enslaved to something I hated. Period. But looking back, I think a large part of my shame was that underlying the shame that I “couldn’t stop”, was the shame that I didn’t want to. There was a part of me that still found happiness and relief in purging. And that was the most shameful thing of all. If I could have identified that shame, maybe I could have wielded better weapons against it. I did not know, at the time, that the battle that I needed to fight was a battle for a greater happiness. For a greater joy. And that battle needed to be fought in the Word of God. But my shame and guilt drove me away from the Word of God, the gospel. I was deceived by the satanic lie that I needed to “come clean” first.
We deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us if we come to the cross either proudly strutting our sin, or trying to take the burden that Christ bore for us, off His shoulders, and onto our own. God does not share His glory with anyone save Jesus. I was scared and ashamed that something other than Jesus made me really, really happy.
I have said before, how my husband says to each of our kiddos before he leaves their room for the night, “There is nothing you can ever do that will make me stop loving you.” Can we choose to believe this about our Heavenly Father? God was big enough to handle my struggle. He was big enough to handle all the raw and ruinous details of my binging and purging. He was big enough to handle that I was wrestling and agonizing over the shame that I was enjoying something more than Himself. He was big enough to handle the 1,000thtime I found myself stretched out over the toilet.
It is so easy for us to shout, “Look, daddy!” when we are doing something we know our father would be proud of. And it is all too easy for us, like Adam and Eve, to hide from our Father’s displeasure. But we have something better than Adam and Eve. And while they received a sign and a promise of something and someone to come who would make things right with their Father once more, we have Jesus who has already satisfied the Father’s wrath and who has reconciled us to God. But in shame, I resisted the gospel, the gospel that saved me when I was little, thinking it was only a box to be checked off in the past, not realizing that my hope, day in and day out, is and shall ever be the gospel of Jesus Christ. And should I have run to Him in that struggle, in that battle, in that mess, I would have tasted the very thing that would begin to pry me away from my self-destructing, misplaced happiness. I would have begun to see the goodness and kindness of a God whose beauty would have loosened my grip and opened my eyes to see that the happiness I clung so desperately to, was nothing but my own vomit.
Where are we choosing to find happiness? This is the battle. I almost died purging, in pursuit of happiness. And, in a moment of God’s intense mercy and grace, He woke me from the stupor of it all. He showed me that purging was not living or dying for. He has reversed that glory for Himself, alone. And with His glory, in miraculous wonder, He has wed our good. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the only happiness worth living and dying for.
“I know you think it will make you happy. But you know what will make you most happy, Kuyper?”
“Obeying mommy and trusting that she loves you so, so much.”