“You really need to write about this, Shauna,” a dear friend and fellow blogging mother gently insisted as we chatted amidst the chaos of a dozen daughters learning to make strawberry jam. The topic of our conversation? How God delivered me from my battle with bulimia. It was the answer to my prayer for direction about what to blog next. “People really need to hear your story,” she stressed.
So here it is, the story of how the Lord faithfully freed me from the deepest, most desperate stronghold of idolatry in my life. It has been a long road, traveled over twenty-five years. In many ways, His work in me was gradual, like growth. Most days, I could see no measurable change. Other times, it seemed as if I grew a foot in a day. Those marked defining moments when God confronted me with truth that required doing something radically different, and all of a sudden, I was taller. Freer.
Our experiences and habitual sins may be unique, but God’s truth, His answer for hurting humans, is universal. In that respect, what I have to share isn’t only for those who struggle with an eating disorder or addiction or know someone who does. It’s for us all.
In case you aren’t familiar with this part of my story, I’ll start with a little history.
Food became a comfort early in life. It was always there for me to fill a void. It’s how my “foster” grandparents, whose home became a childhood haven, expressed love and made everything better. It is what my mother micro-controlled in her life and ours. I can’t remember a time when I did not love food!
Consequently, in my pre-teen years, I was pudgy and awkward and saw myself as inadequate. My nickname in seventh grade was “happy, happy, hippo.” I desperately wanted to be one of the “in crowd,” but never was. Decisions I made as a freshman in high school piled shame onto my feelings of worthlessness. By the time I was a sophomore and had persuaded my parents to let me switch from private Christian school to public, I was convinced that the key to popularity, which I equated with love and acceptance, was being thin and beautiful.
Continuing in foolish behaviors, my skin increasingly felt like a prison. I ate to make myself feel better, but the minute a binge ended, the self-hatred and shame returned even stronger. That’s when my disorder manifested. I HAD to get rid of everything I consumed. I compulsively exercised. I binged and purged and lost weight. I made the drill team at my new school, and people noticed me, most especially the guys. Food was my drug. I had to have it, but when intense panic would grip me at the thought of gaining an ounce, I had to get rid of it any way I could. To gain weight was to lose my lovability.
My size and the perceived love and acceptance of others became my god. They defined me and my place in the world.
When I moved to Houston with my parents after graduating from high school, I thought it was my saving grace. A fresh start. I could be a new person. But everywhere I went, everything I did, there I was. When I left home to attend a university in Texas, my addiction followed me. I saw myself as worthless. The more my life spiraled out of control, the more dire my addiction and desperation became.
The End of Sin Is Death
“For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).
By my third year in college, the compulsivity of my binging and purging reached the point that I no longer could wait for certain opportune times to hide my problem. My roommates were suspicious. Rather than stop or risk confrontation, I switched from vomiting to laxatives. Handfuls at a time. Home alone one morning before class, I fainted while in the shower because I had taken so many laxatives the night before. When I awoke, I was tangled in the plastic liner with the water pouring down on me. I was terrified. I came face-to-face with what lay at the end of my path: death.
I knew in that first defining moment that I could not continue without irreversible consequences. It scared me enough to stop physically, but the mental, spiritual, and emotional bondage remained. I still micromanaged everything I ate, exercised compulsively, and defined myself and my world according to how I felt in my body at any given time. My well-being and relationships were still at the mercy of the mirror.
But God is faithful. He continued to pursue me. He made me whole, as Jesus did for many (and still does), saying, “Your faith has made you well.” Whole. In the Greek, it is “to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to save a suffering one; to preserve one who is in danger of destruction” (Strong’s G4982, www.blueletterbible.org).
That’s what He did for me. It wasn’t enough that He would save me from physical destruction; He preserved me in order to save me from spiritual and emotional destruction, too.
Join me for more of His rescue Thursday?
Lord, thank You for the many ways you preserve us to save us from destruction as we become more wholly Yours.