I Need to be healthier. Smarter choices. No more fast food. No one really notices.
I Need to be thinner. Obsessive calorie counting. More time at the gym. Getting lots of compliments now.
I Need to be the skinniest girl in the room. Dangerous restriction. Join a second gym so no one knows how much I am working out. Girls are begging for my secrets, and guys that have never paid attention to me are vying for my attention.
Why am I still so fat? Skipping days between eating – no meals, just an apple or a bowl of oatmeal if my stomach is growing so loudly constantly that I’m afraid someone will find out. Train for a marathon to divert suspicion. Friends and family are really worried. Compliments have been replaced by concern.
Everyone tells me I’m skinny now, but I don’t believe them, and I can’t stop. I no longer control what I eat or when I eat, but those thoughts control me. The gym is my only “safe place” to talk to people – but just surface level. Nothing too deep.
In the short span of two years, that was the evolvement of my downward spiral into the threatening world of anorexia and obsessive over-exercise. But that wasn’t even the scariest part.
For the first time in my life, I was choosing to live alone. My way.
God was left in a cloud of dust behind me with all the calories I was burning.
Now, I still went to church. In fact, I even taught children’s Sunday school and led worship with the praise team. Serving ensured that my appearance of being a Christian stayed intact…and that I never had to sit in a Bible study session with people that might actually ask me tough questions or try to hold me accountable to something I didn’t want to let go.
But despite where my feet were planted, my heart was somewhere far, far away with a death grip on a completely unworthy purpose.
Thankfully, my story doesn’t end as it should, with grieving parents and an early grave.
On April 14, 2005, I fell on a training run. It’s a long story I don’t have time for here, but on a day I should have died, I was reminded why I am alive instead. God met me there when I deserved Him the least. I truly experienced Romans 5:8 in the realest way.
Let me see if I can snapshot the climb out of the selfish spiral I had created.
I need help. I admitted I had a problem. God not only rescued me, but my family rushed to my side to support me. Eating was a serious struggle. I had to re-introduce food into my body like I was an infant. It was truly humbling.
Peace is worth fighting for. Every bite was a battle. I felt as if I was undoing my years of “hard work” to perfection. But peace existed in my Perfecter that I never found in perfection.
Choose His way over my way. I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. My mind was so warped of what “healthy” meant that I rid my house of mirrors. It was hard to look at myself and not take steps back. But I knew how God felt about me despite how I felt about myself.
Together is always better. I thought the best thing I could achieve was the perfect body. I was so stuck on myself that I delusioned myself to believe my selfish pursuit was worth the ache of loneliness. Not only was my family instrumental in my healing, I found my husband in the midst of my recovery.
My past doesn’t define my future. God doesn’t choose who to use based on how qualified we are. He uses whoever’s heart is willing. He fills in the gaps of every missing piece with each step forward in obedience to Him.
A worthy purpose brings deep meaning to the simple. Our bodies aren’t prizes to look at; they are tools for God to use. Having my first son showed me what a woman’s body is capable of. Through prayer, I began God to teach me that daily, even in something as simple as my body, He can bring purpose, if I simply choose submission to Him over my own stubbornness.
Beauty from ashes…without question.
Beauty from ashes is a ministry called Myers Cross Training, which allows me to help transform women’s lives from the inside out. God didn’t just give fitness back to me; He made it a way for me to witness for Him.
Beauty from ashes is a clothing line called Cross Training Couture. Within our staff, we joke that God speaks to me in tank tops, but that’s actually pretty true. Our goal is to provide visual reminders for the modest-minded, fashion-loving, fitness female who loves Jesus first.
Beauty from ashes is She Works His Way, a ministry that pours into the lives of working women, encouraging them to pursue God first, to prioritize serving their families, and to serve God in the capacity He has called them with excellence.
But most of all, beauty from ashes is a husband who loved me in the unknown and the incredible lives of two amazing little boys, and a little girl growing inside me I can’t wait to meet.
Only God’s redemption could take that past and create a family that medicine can’t explain and growing ministries I have no credibility to oversee.
Trust me, sister. I’ve lived both ways, and there are three things of which I am sure:
His way is prevailing.
His path is peaceful.
His purpose is powerful.
To read more of Michelle’s story, check out her book, The Look that Kills: An Anorexic’s Addiction to Control.