So I began stumbling down this dark path, numb and despondent me, groping along as if blind. And somewhere around the age of 12 or 13, I began to have an aversion to eating. Greasy hamburgers made my stomach turn, and when placed in front of me, I begrudgingly ate a few small bites, and then threw it up.
I was so dislocated from everyone else. They were all enjoying the meal together and talking and laughing but it was like I was on the outside of a dark glass, looking in, unable to join in, this depressed bubble impermeable. I did not like mealtime–I spent my time closed off in the bathroom–isolated, all alone. Paranoia consumed me. When anyone made a comment about how little or how much I ate, the paranoia wrestled me to the ground and strangled me. I suffocated under the weight of this monster. I couldn’t breathe.
The only comfort to me was the only thing familiar–me–just the way I’d always been. The little girl me was scared and didn’t want to change, didn’t want hips, extra fat, things I didn’t recognize–I was losing me. Maybe I was trying to control a life that felt a little like it was on a runaway train. Maybe this was the way I reacted to the negative things said about me–I self-inflicted pain.
I scratched at the wounds and let them bleed out.
No one had to teach me to throw up; I just had an innate response to emptiness.
Maybe I thought if I hugged the cold round bowl enough and let everything force its way out, I could force-empty myself of the pain. But the more I did, the further I sunk into misery and numbness. As the days went by, I ate less and less.
My mother took me to the doctor to figure out what was wrong…why did I lie on my bed all the time and read? Why didn’t I go outside and play like other kids my age? Why did I drag around, listless, no energy? The doctor said there was nothing wrong–suggested vitamins and a well-balanced diet.
Sliding down the hallway doorpost, 14, I was a slumped mess and tears pouring, a girl completely lost and alone. My father had taken a job as a pastor, moved us to a new state where the girls were mean and didn’t like new-comers and pushed me down a flight of stairs. Every day at school they hounded me hard, wrote cruel poems about me, laid them on my desk, snickered as I read, my face flaming hot. They tried to make me ashamed of who I was, hated me and wanted me to hate myself too.
My only solace was the dark sanctuary and seeking God in music at the piano where a young man too old for me would come in and stand behind, bend down, breathe on my neck, lips close to my ear as I played–wherever I went, he would always find me.
My parents were at the church almost every day working and most of the time my sister was there with me–but I was so lonely for relationship and the safety of home. This day I was there by myself, in a heap in the floor, the wet hot liquid boiling over, no friends, and I huddled and rocked back and forth, home silent and dark.
And dark were the places I went to in my mind.
I lie there in the lukewarm tub, holding the razor and thinking hard on how nice it would be to end it all, the blade to my wrist, Satan hovering, his grip tight.
Then a knock came to the door.
Someone had come to my rescue.
My Father had come to check on me–wanted to know if I was okay. The Holy Spirit had prompted him that something was wrong and to see about me. I got out of the tub and eventually came out of the bathroom.
My parents talked and prayed with me, confronted me about what they felt was going on with me. I was balled so tight with a mix of hurt, abuse, despair and depression, and I broke open and began to shake uncontrollably. My father brought juice to calm me down and my mother looked me right in the eye and prayed against Satan’s tight control over me.
I can’t really explain what happened, but in that moment I was healed. Satan left because God was in the midst. His presence was powerful to save and I was so thankful my parents loved me enough to intervene for me like that. Love drives away all fear.
I still had emotions and habits that tended toward anorexia–but I felt the freedom of what it feels like to recover and get better day by day. I began to laugh and smile. I continued to exercise, and I also ate. My parents encouraged me and kept me accountable.
There were times, even years down the road, of short relapse and I would lie in bed, after only eating grapes that day, happy with my caving-in stomach and the feeling of hunger and the control I exercised over it.
But God’s truth prevailed in my life.
Today, I still sometimes look at myself in the mirror, and I don’t like the girl that I see. The years of self-abuse left its mark on me and the abuse and taunting from others, they cut deep wounds that needed stitching and I see threads of hate woven throughout my life still. I am hard on myself. I judge myself harshly according to society’s strict marginal laws beauty falls within. Our culture with its shallow view of beauty, with air-brushed models in swimsuits, hands us a standard to strive toward that doesn’t even exist. It’s an illusion and my human mind spins to keep up. It’s a mirage and my sight is distorted.
God’s grid and His definition of beauty are different. There is no specific margin for height, width, number on the scale, or size of clothing with God.
And so, as I grow from girl to woman, and more babies come, and hips spread to give life, skin stretches and sags, I place my identity and my beauty in His hands, and I draw from that deep, deep well of His love and acceptance.
And as I begin to walk out this love and acceptance, it isn’t something that happens overnight, but as with all of life, it is by process that I learn this, extending to the marrow of me–I begin to figure out, as one of my commenters reminded me:
“Your adornment (is) the interior disposition of the heart, consisting in the imperishable quality of a gentle and peaceful spirit, so precious in the sight of God” 1 Peter 3:4….
The Message says it this way: “What matters is not your outer appearance–the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes–but your inner disposition. Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in. The holy women of old were beautiful before God that way, and were good, loyal wives to their husbands.” 1 Peter 3:4, The Message
This is what God says about my beauty, about this frail, human body:
“Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God–you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration–what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, the days of my life prepared before I’d even lived one day. Your thoughts–how rare–how beautiful! God, I’ll never comprehend them! I couldn’t even begin to count them–anymore than I could count the sand of the sea. Oh, let me rise in the morning and live always with you! ” Psalms 139:13-18, The Message
“She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction in on her tongue. Proverbs 31:25,26, NIV
“Charm can mislead and beauty soon fades. The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the Fear-of-God.” Proverbs 31:30, The Message
God, I want real beauty. I want to be a servant with worn spots of motherhood on me. Let me wear the work apron in place of fine jewels and instead of being obsessed with lashes lavished with makeup, let me have eyes that are a place of found grace when my kids have fallen into sin, not lingerie-store pushed up and out, but a soft breast for little ones to fall asleep on, and not a perfect hour-glass figure, but a wife and mother that prays on the hour for You to come love them through me, and not a mother who checks herself in the mirror, mumbling insults in front of little ears, but a mother and wife that whispers in the ears of those she loves the beauty that a God-made heart holds….
If you want to read the first part of this story, you can go here to Nacole’s blog…