It is difficult to start a story, when you are not sure yourself when it really began. Just as I am unable to remember the date and time of my coming to Christ as a young child, so I am equally lost as to a specific date that I started down the road of bulimia.
I wish my story were as “clean cut” as, “I struggled with bulimia, and then when I became a Christian, I finally had victory.” But as I battled my own unique story with bulimia, I found myself wondering if the story I was living could actually be true. Could I really be a Christian and fall into the trap of bulimia? Could I really be a Christian and battle bulimia? Could I really be a Christian and be unable to just stop “doing it”? These questions kept me powerless against my foe and frozen in fear for the five years I walked that dark and lonely road.
My battle with bulimia began far before the first time I came out of the bathroom having purged. Whether it was from the images of Hollywood, commercials, magazine or movie covers, I remember as a little girl knowing I never looked like that. Having been raised in a strong, Christian home, my wonderful parents always taught me and modeled for me what true beauty was. And, beyond all that head knowledge, I loved Jesus. I knew He was my King since I had asked Him to be at six years old.
But I didn’t realize till later to what extent body image and people pleasing battled for first place in my heart. So when the thought entered my mind to purge at the age of 21, I simply thought of it as a nice tool to have to keep thin, especially as I now was dating an amazing guy (who would later become my husband). But the “nice tool” slowly sharpened into a weapon that would try to take my life.
And take from me it did. It took from me my first year of marriage to the most godly, loving man of my dreams. It took from me the time and energy that I should have had for family and friends. It took from me times of fellowship over food. It took from me time spent with my first baby. It may have even taken the life that I miscarried.
The promise of bulimia to be the answer to my desire for a quick and easy fix to get and stay thin, ended up delivering only death. Death to energy, death to family and friends, death to joy and peace, and, I wondered with horror, maybe even death to my own Christian walk. Ashamed and embarrassed, as I saw it taking over my life, I tried to stop. But it consumed me, and at times, I found myself purging for the fifth time in one day.
Over and over again I made attempts to “just stop it.” It became my mission to prove that I really was a Christian by “stopping it.” But my efforts to beat it failed. After four years of fruitless attempts, I found myself one night at 2:00am, before my husband left for his deployment to Iraq, whispering and weeping to him, “Jesus doesn’t help me!” I had never even talked to him about my struggle. But I knew he knew. I was so afraid to speak those words because I was so afraid it meant I was not a Christian.
Nine months later, during the year my husband was away in Iraq, the Lord delivered me. It was not a deliverance story I would have asked for. But what He showed me is that He delivers His daughters from bulimia. Whether here in this life, or in the life to come, He brings full and final freedom. And, while the moment of how He brought me from death to life is another story for another time, the truth that set me free was Jesus. My view of grace was too thin. Through those five years He showed me just how rich and how wide and how deep His love is. And on my last purge it was as if the Lion roared, “thus far, and no farther!” That moment was the beginning of my freedom.
Yes, there were other battles to fight and other hills to climb, but bulimia no longer consumed me. I had exchanged the sucking leech of death for the spring of Jesus’ love and grace. His deliverance came when I saw that I needed Him to save me again and again. Not in the sense of needing Him to die for me over and over again. But rather I needed to live and breathe the gospel. I thought I had outgrown it when I was a little girl of six. But the battle cry of victory was won as He opened my eyes to see that I, a believing bulimic, needed the gospel. I had nothing to prove. I had turned the equation Jesus + Nothing = Everything, into Jesus + Defeating my bulimia = Everything. I had to embrace Jesus and His love and His grace, as I was face deep in the ugly trenches of sin.
The root of freedom is Christ. Christ, who won it all for us. Christ, who lived a life perfect for us. Christ, who enjoyed food perfectly for us. Christ, who fellowshipped with others over a meal perfectly for us. Christ, who ate mindfully and considerately for us. Christ, who ate in such a way as to bring glory to His Father. Christ, who fueled His body so that he might serve in the greatest capacity.
Because of Christ, I was free to be freed. Freed from others’ suspecting glances. Freed from pleasing others with what I did or did not put on my plate. Freed to love others by enjoying Christ in front of them. Freed from what others thought of my body.
Where we are on our walks in freedom is not what makes us fit for heaven or for Jesus. The fact that we all must fight, the fact that we all must cry “I believe; help my unbelief,” that is what levels us at the cross. I pray that as we push towards greater and greater freedom, that we would rejoice in our Deliverer, the One who stands as our perfect righteousness. I pray we could seize opportunities that would challenge, stretch, and grow us.
My very first step beyond bulimia was through the health coaching that Dashing Dish provides. It was the beginning of bringing beauty and richness back into so many areas of my life. In Christ, we have all we need. And how I pray we would not become consumed by our petty performances to measure up, but rather that we would lift our gaze to our great deliverer, crying, “Great is YOUR Faithfulness!”