One of my most shameful moments in eating disorder recovery was learning that I’d rather risk the death of my daughter than to risk being fat. In summer of 2014 I had a heavy feeling that I was about to lose something very dear and precious to me. I became convinced that I was going to lose my daughter, and I had mentally worked on preparing myself to surrender her to the Lord should he ask for her to come home. The thought of losing her was devastating, yet deep in my heart I trusted that if God wanted her home, then I knew she would be safe. When I went into anorexia recovery later that fall, I realized how completely wrong I was. The thing I was about to lose, the thing that was so dear and precious to me that God was about to take away, was my eating disorder.
I was so petrified that I would have rather Him taken my daughter. The shame I felt in understanding this truth living in my heart was so heavy I could barely stand.
When I confessed this to my therapist, Tamara, I expected her to recoil and affirm that I was indeed a horrible, selfish mother. Instead Tamara shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, that makes sense. If your daughter dies, you know where she’s going, right?” Heaven, I agreed. “But, to lose your eating disorder is to risk becoming fat, and there’s shame in that because we live in a culture where it isn’t okay to be fat. To stay here and live in larger body sounds like suffering.”
Boom. To live a life of suffering shame in a larger body, which is what my eating disorder was telling me would happen, was far scarier and much more of a sacrifice than knowing my daughter would be safe in the arms of Jesus.
Growing up as a Christian, I understood the season of Lent to be about sacrificing something for 40 days to simulate a fraction of the suffering Jesus felt when he spent 40 days in the desert repeatedly tempted by the devil. We usually “gave up” stuff that we loved or found ourselves “indulging.” In my family all the way into my own adulthood, the sacrifice was often some kind of food–chocolate, sugar, chips, etc. Even into my adult years, I watched friends giving up cheese, Fritos, beer, chocolate, cake, coffee. Food was and still is often a go-to sacrifice to suffer without for 40 days, resisting and suffering through the temptations to cheat. And boy did I feel guilty when I did, as do many of my friends when they post pictures of themselves enjoying pizza and beer with the caption “Sorry, Jesus. Maybe next year.” Really, Lent was more like going on a mini-diet, a religious regimen to work on healthier habits and lose some pounds under the guise of getting closer to Jesus.
Rarely did I ever feel closer to Jesus giving up food, and I am going to be bold in assuming most people don’t. Lent has become more of a New Year’s Resolution Reboot to give up the culprit foods we think are contributing to the inability to lose the weight we set out to lose back in January. And when we “cheat,” giving into the temptation of whatever food we sacrificed, not only do we feel guilty about eating the food but now we get the double whammy of failing Jesus.
Two years ago, I changed tactics. I asked Jesus what he wanted me to sacrifice for Him. What did he want from me during Lent so that we could be closer? “All I want is you.” That’s the response that whispered to my heart over and over again. That’s all Jesus ever wants… from me, from you, from all of us. He just wants to be close to us.
After realizing losing my daughter would be easier than losing my eating disorder, every plate of food became a little altar of sacrifice, and my prayer was (usually through clenched teeth and child-like sass-itude ): “Dear God, I am eating this plate of food for you. I am scared to death that it will make me fat, but I am trusting you to nourish me and make me healthy. Thank you for loving me and holding my hand through this. Amen.” This was a stressful, hard, suffering practice for months, but with every meal I felt better, freer, and more trusting of my body and of God. God’s intention wasn’t to make me fat, but to make me healthy and strong for the work he needs me to do.
If you want to be closer to Jesus, try giving up the diet mentality for Lent, and give control of your body to God. If you hate your body right now and are in the throes of trying to change it, then letting go of control and lifting up your body as-is into the hands of God without leaning on diets and scales and food rules is suffering. Because you’re risking staying in or growing into (what you believe is) a fat body, and culture shames people who are fat. Make sure you understand what I am saying–it’s risky, not inevitable. Resisting the temptation to count calories, restrict “demonized” foods, check fat and sugar contents, eat Paleo or Whole 30 “compliant” requires full reliance on God and trust that the body he has created for you is the best body for you. This whole notion is a hell of a lot harder than giving up chocolate, but the focus is more meaningful and productive in achieving closeness with Jesus. And you can still eat chocolate!
To trust God with our bodies is risky… oh but what a risk worth taking if it snuggles us closer to Jesus. And all He wants is you.
Related post: “Dear God, please don’t make me fat”