Life in this Fight

The other day, a friend asked me what prompted my desire to work with eating disorders as a Dietitian (if I ever make it through college, that is!). I paused a moment before answering. Before telling the truth.

I don’t often tell people about my personal struggle with an eating disorder. It makes them uncomfortable and it is hard to explain all the emotions and pain that can be associated with food.

But it is an important part of my life that has shaped who I am and driven my goals for the future. I know I need to talk about it. To share what I’ve learned. To be honest with myself and acknowledge that this battle may never go away.

I tell myself it’s gone. After all, my weight isn’t dropping, I don’t measure salsa or count my carrots, and I don’t keep a meticulous food journal any more.

But it isn’t gone.

Everyday, I battle thoughts and habits of disordered eating. I think about everything that goes into my mouth. One day, I might feel free to eat what I want, but then I lie in bed condemning myself for “over-indulging”. I still categorize foods as “good” or “bad”, acceptable and taboo.

Eating in public stresses me out. People will see and judge what I eat, there will be no control over how things are made, there will be pressure to eat for social’s sake.

Everyday it is a fight. And I’m tempted to be discouraged, to throw up my arms and give up in the face of negative thoughts and the blunt reality of my weakness. I just want it to be over. Once and for all.

But, lately, I’ve come  to realize that may never happen. This fight may be here to stay.

We all have that struggle that, wish as we might, won’t leave. It may be anger, depression, finance trouble, painful relationships, communication problems, and the list goes on. It overwhelms us, binds our thoughts and exhausts our emotions. We experience victories but for there are also moments of defeat.

The truth is — painful as it may seem at times — there is life in the fight.

In the fight there is life.

When I’m tempted to rely on old restrictive habits, I need to exercise my mind to combat wrong thoughts and ideals that lead me to those habits. I can’t be passive — I’ll either cave in or I will meet the challenge head on to be stretched and grow stronger.

Instead of running, let’s embrace the fight. We can even learn to fight with joy.

Another vital thing I’m learning is to never ever fight on your own. Reaching out for the support of family and friends is one of the major pillars of my healing. Most importantly, it’s my faith in Jesus and His power that enables me to stop trusting in food, or exercise, or a thin body to make me happy. He takes away those desires by filling my heart with a desire for Him. He says, “he who believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35) and His Word gives me hope.

The powers of darkness and lies have been broken. So even though my daily battles with food may seem so strong, I won’t be overcome.

I don’t plan to sit back and let this battle knock me down. I plan to face each new day relying the strength of my mighty God, breathing deeply the freedom of truth, and prepare to fight.

And in that fight, I will live.

*read My Nourishing Story for more on my journey

>Beautiful Reflections

>Every girl desires to be called beautiful. This desire, when inserted into the cultural worldview of media and advertisements, emerges as a lust for physical beauty. We are convinced when looking through the world’s mirror that satisfaction, happiness, and success are synonymous with the perfect outward appearance. When this is our focus, we can’t see beyond the glittering, blown up, digitally-altered images presented to us everywhere we go.

I know because I’ve been there. I have cried in front of the bathroom mirror because what I saw fell far short of a beauty ideal. In desperation I have attempted to recreate myself into a new image. I have spent time and effort towards this end and been jealous of other girls who seemed to already be there.

All this time I was looking in the wrong place to fulfill my desire for beauty. I was looking in the mirror of this world for affirmation and acceptance, but as a child of God, this is not where my reflection is found. Rather, I see myself clearest when I look into the Word of God and learn what my Heavenly Father says about me.

He tells me that my body is important because it is His dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). It’s purpose is not to bring glory or power to me, but to serve as a vessel of worship for the glory of its Creator. And where God’s presence dwells, the place He transforms to draw attention to His mercy and grace, is beautiful. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!” (Psalm 84:1).

In His Word, my Father tells me that my desire for beauty transcends the physical. It will never be met by the empty promises of this world because it is deeper, higher, and more enduring. In essence, my longing for beauty is a hunger for Christ because true meaning and life is only ever truly satisfied in Him. Only when I identify with His likeness can I discover the “something more” that I was made for. I was created to be transformed into the glorious beauty of Christ, who on earth was not considered physically attractive and yet was beauty incarnate. He is beauty in me and the closer I am to Him, the clearer I see what true beauty really is.

There is something infinitely special to a girl when her father calls her beautiful. How much greater to be pleasing to the eyes of the Father who made her. “Hear, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear: forget your people and your father’s house and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him” (Psalm 45:10,11). I am learning that the way to beauty is one of total surrender — soul, mind, and body, ideals, hopes, disappointments, frustrations — all of me committed wholly to God’s restoration of beauty within me.

A godly beauty that being filled with the Holy Spirit, does not flaunt itself but in gentleness and quietness draws eyes to Jesus. A “grace-full”ness that recognizes God’s grace to me and seeks to extend that grace to others. A life dedicated to compassion, kindness, humility, and forgiveness, and adorned with love.

I want to attract others to my spirit, not my clothes. My service not my make-up. Christ’s identity, not mine. For one day I will behold Him no longer “in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” and I will know fully what I’ve only glimpsed here: He is the Fairest of them all.

~ Taken from notes from our last Bright Lights meeting on beauty ~

>What to Wear?

>Sunday mornings can be very chaotic in our home. With five showers, five breakfasts, a confusing interchange of teeth brushing, hair drying and shoe scavenging, it is a mini miracle every time we all manage to be in the van by 7:40, showered, combed, and shod.

Every minute counts. That’s why this past Sunday morning I felt extremely frustrated with myself as I stood motionless in my pajamas for a full five minutes, paralyzed before my closet door.

Sometimes knowing what to wear can be a real dilemma. When I emerged from my room quite a while later (and only because if I waited any longer I would have to go to church with a wet head), my floor was strewn with evidence of my inward indecision. Getting dressed requires much more mental energy than I possess at 6:45 in the morning.

This Sunday, I wondered if I needed to get my priorities straight when I contemplated skipping my devotions in order to have more prep time. After all, I was getting ready to go to church right? I would be reading my Bible during the service – couldn’t my quiet time be excused?

Andrew Murray observed, “In all our efforts at practicing Christianity, the temptation is to give more time and interest to the outward means than to the inward reality.” Scripture mentions very little about adorning the outward self but gives specific instructions for clothing the “hidden man of the heart”:

Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:11-17).

Most of us would be laugh at the idea of going out in our pajamas, slippers, and bed hair. Why then aren’t we concerned about facing the world ill-equipped? We can’t assume we are prepared for the trials of the day if we have not been first properly clothed. We need the daily cleansing because meekness, mercy, and humility are not natural to us; without constant renewal, we easily fall back into our assertive, vindictive, and proud ways. That is why we are told to “put on” these things – they require a conscious dressing of our spirits.

We can stand the evil day when we come before the Lord and His Word with a willing heart and ask Him to imprint His character on our hearts – to cleanse our unrighteous thoughts and motives and to fill us with His humility, mercy, and meekness.

It is after all His face we should be looking for in the mirror. “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” (Romans 13:14)

I am resolved to be vigilant about clothing my inward self. It may require spending less time doing my hair so that I can spend more time in the Word. It may require going to bed earlier so I can wake up earlier. But I am willing to deny some luxuries for this earthly temple that in the little sacrifices, I might gain that “which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter 3:3, 4). “Wherever you go and whatever you do, at home or abroad, do all with a desire for union with Christ, in imitation of His character and disposition. Desire nothing as much as that which exercises and increases the spirit and life of Christ in your soul so that you are changed into the same character and spirit of Jesus.” (Andrew Murray)

>Tearing Down the Idols

>Every girl has at some point in her life sat before a mirror with a skeptical eye and asked her echoing reflection the question, “Am I beautiful?” Three short, seemingly simple words, and yet on them hang a myriad of hopes, fears, and doubts. The desire to be considered beautiful is shared by every girl, young lady, and woman alike and while perhaps untainted in their onset, our perceptions of “beauty” are almost inevitably skewed by the conflicting messages around us.

Our culture is obsessed with appearance and girls are bombarded with messages that convince them that their personal value depends on how they measure up on the “pretty” scale. The unfortunate fact is however that no one ever measures up. The ideals of “beauty” that are presented to us by the media and fashion retailers are themselves only touched up computerized images. But however phony, these images imprint themselves on the minds of young ladies who unconsciously believe the lies and as a result feel dissatisfied and unhappy in the person God created them to be.

I know because I’ve been there. I have struggled in vain to measure up to what I believed to be the standard of beauty. I have spent hours in front of the mirror trying in vain to copy the flawless hairstyle of the heroine in a movie. I have even harbored envy in my heart towards girls who appeared to have no flaws in their appearance.

Praise the Lord that there is glorious truth in Christ that is able to shatter the idols of our world and tear down the false preceptions of our culture! In Him and Him alone can the meaning of true beauty be found and only by His grace can it be attained.

The image of beauty that the Bible gives is in stark contrast to the one that the world offers. Psalm 29:2 says, “Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” The presence of the Lord, in all His holiness and purity, is the source of true beauty given to a heart that is consecrated to worshiping Him. So it is when our hearts are kneeling before the throne of the Almighty, when we are delighting in Him and giving Him praise that we become partakers of His beauty, His holiness.

We are told that it is by our physical appearance that we have value, but Proverbs 31:30 says, “Favour [is] deceitful, and beauty [is] vain: [but] a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.” What really matters is not whether my dress is in the latest fashion or my hair is picture-perfect; what really matters is a godly fear of the Lord, a recognition and awe of his mighty sovereignty and a love that overflows into worship. A woman with those qualifications is truly beautiful.

I am not at all saying any attention to our physical appearance or any desire to be pretty is wrong. I will continue to enjoy pretty clothes and experimenting with new hairstyles. But I want to purpose to have goals bigger than acheiving physical beauty, to replace the cultural idols with Biblical models, to be pressing on towards a higher, more meaningful beauty. I want people to look at me and not say “Oh there’s a pretty girl” but rather “There is a girl who knows Jesus Christ;” I want others to witness beauty of Christ shining through me, however faint the glimmer.

And if these goals too seem impossible to attain, be comforted, dear one, because we don’t climb upward our own. “If a soul has any beauty, it is because Christ has endowed that soul with His own, for in ourselves we are deformed and defiled! There is no beauty in any of us but what our Lord has worked in us.” ~ Charles Spurgeon