“This is the body of Christ broken for you,” said the layperson, as I tore off a piece of bread from the communion loaf. I took a few steps to the side, “This is the blood of Christ shed for you.” I dipped the piece of bread into the cup then put it in my mouth as I walked away. “Surely the body and blood of Christ has calories,” my 13 year old, very eating disordered brain reasoned. I held the bread dipped in grape juice in my mouth until I walked back around to my seat, where I promptly spit it out into a tissue; feeling only slightly guilty.
I grew up going to church; the same little Methodist church in which my mom was raised and where her entire family attended (still attends) church. I liked the ritualistic, methodical nature of it all but I didn’t understand the deeper meaning. While I believed in God I didn’t care to dig much deeper than the surface. I didn’t read my Bible, in fact I didn’t have the slightest clue where the books where located much beyond Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy… five books. I could easily locate the first five books and Psalms because it was somewhere smack dab in the middle. While I believed in God and believed Jesus died for my sins, I was not finding my worth in Christ but in food, losing weight, and being thin.
A few weeks ago I was talking to my husband about my faith and why I am so silent and unwilling to openly share my beliefs. I rarely write about them on this blog and I don’t openly share them on social media very often either. I was afraid. I feared judgment by others for my outward showing of faith because I lived most of my life in a less than Christian manner. Quite honestly I feared the meme that sometimes circulates on social media would be what people thought about me:
Only my “wild” live-for-yourself days weren’t in high school but in college. In many ways I put on airs; in front of large groups of people I was this demure, sweet girl from the middle of Amish country nowhere Ohio while secretly going to parties, and going beyond what any true Christian girl would with boys. My dad walked out on my 17th birthday and instead of finding comfort in God and looking toward my heavenly Father I turned toward earthly comforts–most often found in the growling of my stomach and the attention of men. I felt abandoned, unloved, and unworthy of being loved by my dad so I found it where I could. When I went to college this pattern of beliefs and behavior was amplified by a culture where drunkenness and intense sexuality was widely accepted and eating disorders ran rampant. Instead of really searching to find a church home, despite one of my closest friends always inviting me to her church and praying for me constantly, I found my own path to the bottom of alcohol bottles in place of food. I exercised a lot because I knew that a thinner but still muscular physique would be attractive and I could feel wanted.
My brain suffered from my lifestyle. As I’ve stated in other posts I lack memories from my 16 years in the eating disorder because my brain was starving. My brain was starving, sleep deprived, and drunk. I made a lot of mistakes and sometimes went to Catholic Mass with friends to feel better about what I had done before going back out on Saturday night and doing it again. In reality my relationship with God was almost nonexistent because I was so angry with God for what had happened to my family. I was a good faker about how I believed and loved God but in reality acted in any way but faithful. My body became my enemy, despite the knowledge that my body is a temple for God, and the weapon of choice for God’s enemy to turn me against Him. The war waged on with the eating disorder but instead of battling the eating disorder and trying to get better I was battling God.
After college I did what I used to do so well and ran from Michigan down to Savannah, GA where I was living with a man I met through a friend in the Army. He, like me, was an Army officer and gave me so much attention it was easy to continue using my body as a weapon against God. I continued in the eating disorder and continued to be sexually immoral. He was a believer, but a believer like me–on the surface level. It was easier and more fun to indulge in a lifestyle against the Bible than to follow as God commanded and save sex for marriage. Before too long I realized his attention for me was a drive for control and he wanted to control me, my actions, and my career by advising me not to be the best officer so my career could tank and I could get out. I got out, out of that relationship and moved to another state.
Enter my husband. My husband who wasn’t just a surface level Christian but a true believer in the Bible and teachings of Christ. TJ invited me to go to church with him and I did. I started to go to church again and actually listen to the teachings. I started to read my Bible like I never had before and started to realize the eating disorder was a weapon against myself and God but I wasn’t ready or able to stop it just yet. I also realized that my actions over the previous four-and-a-half years could be forgiven. I prayed for forgiveness for my actions often but never really forgave myself. My past was a big, dirty, shameful secret. A secret I shared with my husband before we got engaged and married but a shameful secret nonetheless. I had treated my body poorly not only by starving it, purging food, and overexercising but by how I had allowed it to be something for the Devil to use to turn me against God and the teachings of the Bible that I had held true until I was 19 years old and in college.
Finally, a few weeks ago, after TJ and I had this conversation about my fear of sharing faith I realized my prayers for forgiveness had been heard. My sins during that time in college when I was a very lost, very ill sheep from God’s flock had been forgiven long time ago when I first asked and I didn’t need to hold it against myself anymore. My forgiveness isn’t greater than God’s forgiveness. I’m healthy now. My body and brain are healthy and God was one of the biggest proponents for getting me through the eating disorder. My faith grew stronger over the last two years and that means the secrets that continued to plague my mind and make me feel unworthy of being able to share my faith needed to be shared. I might have grown up believing in God but I got lost along the way and turned my body into a weapon to wage war against myself and God. I’m not perfect, I never was and never will be.
Striving for perfection nearly killed me and did kill my faith in the process for a few years. My body isn’t a weapon but an instrument through which God uses me to spread His love and message of forgiveness. I believe God has forgiven me for using my body against Him and for mistreating it for so many years. I kept from my body the physical and spiritual nourishment needed for my survival. I had forgiven myself for struggling with the eating disorder long ago; realizing it played a part in turning me away from God but He has since used it for His greater glory as well as the good of myself and others. However, I had not truly forgiven myself for my sexual immorality until a few weeks ago. It was a grudge I held against myself in silent shame and it was hindering me from outwardly sharing my love for Christ and my faith. Judgment from others may come because people may not have forgotten my actions in college, but I know the greater truth: God has forgiven me.
“The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving even though we have rebelled against Him.”
My past holds no power over me now because I keep no secrets. Everything I’ve done, experienced, and survived make up my story that God uses to show is unconditional love for His people.
With Body Love,