Soulful Sunday: My Journey Back to the Arms of God

Even the strongest of us have moments when the burdens of life seem too great. It’s then that the Lord whispers to our hearts “come to me all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”-Matthew 11:28

For me, my missing piece in my decision to pursue recovery and stay committed was God. As I continue to grow in my faith more and more every day and am answering to my calling and coming into my destiny, I feel it is important to share more of my story and relationship with God. How did I discover that God was the thing I needed to recover and beat this powerful disorder that was far greater than I? How did I come to the realization that God was the missing piece to the puzzle of my recovery, the piece that would complete my picture? It took years of pulling away and dissociation and hopelessness to get me to that point.

In the beginning stages of the anorexia, I was able to maintain my close relationship with God. It was He who I first told I was starving myself. I would go to Him in prayer seeking guidance and help at each meal and strength to get through the days. He was my confidante. It was five years into the illness that I started to drift away. Anorexia’s strength and confidence in being in charge was growing and pushing God out. I now turned to anorexia instead of God for my comfort and protection. My eating disorder became my higher power. I would still bow my head in prayer at church and the dinner table but found my mind drifting off to ways to avoid eating the food on my plate and how my stomach looked sitting down. I lost any connection to God. I, at this point, began to make the correlation between becoming a Christian and the anorexia. The eating disorder developed shortly after I accepted Jesus into my heart. I connected it as a punishment. I thought my life was supposed to get better, but I ended up with more struggles and pain than I could even imagine. I was extremely frustrated and saw it as a perfect reason to keep God at a distance.

The more I pulled away from God, the easier it was to get angry at Him and doubt his eternal love. The anorexia had me focusing on the belief that God had a vengeful, hateful side that only I was deserving of seeing. I was convinced that God was taking note of all my mistakes, all my lies, all my failures and using them to punish me through the anorexia. I was a disappointment to Him, an unworthy child and needed to be reprimanded. I was the exception to him being an all loving, always forgiving God. My behaviors did not warrant His grace. Not only did anorexia tell me that but I was also told that by someone whose job it was to preach the word of the Lord. If he says it and what I believe to be my trustworthy friend anorexia says it, how can it not be true?

By the time the eating disorder reached its peak, I stopped praying all together. I didn’t even bother to fake it. I stopped going to church. The reason for celebrating Christmas was Santa Clause and Easter was the Easter Bunny. I refused to acknowledge His existence and was filled with rage when others would try to speak to me about it. It drove a huge wedge between my parents and me as they kept trying to encourage me to hand everything over to God and asking for His help.

February 15, 2012

I am infuriated with my parents. I keep getting told to put everything in God’s hands. I don’t want God’s love. I don’t want His care or protection. God can’t hold me. God can’t wipe my tears away. God can’t give me advice. My so called Heavenly Father is blatantly disregarding me. He is ignoring a child’s cries for help and not supporting them and not paying attention to my needs. At the age of 12, I was pleading with Him to relieve me of this pain by sending me to heaven. I begged God to end my life so I could live in peace, but He didn’t listen. Where was this almighty God when I was struggling the most? Is He by my side comforting me? No. Is He helping me to complete all my meals and take care of myself? No. Is He easing my pain? No. I am suffering more and have dealt with more struggles since I “became a Christian.” Talk about the irony of that situation. Why would I want to turn to something for help that has only made my life a living hell?

Even in my early stages of recovery, I hated God. I was finally dethroning the anorexia and nothing was getting better. I felt worse than ever, and I blamed God for it. He was no help at all. I was going to have to do this solely on my own. That plan failed miserably, bringing me severely close to another time in treatment. By this time, I didn’t have another stay in me. I couldn’t endure the process anymore. I was spent. Out of sheer exhaustion and with no other options, I finally just threw my hands in the air and turned to the one thing I pushed away the furthest; God.

I was in my apartment struggling to get myself to eat dinner at 2 am, sobbing into a deconstructed sandwich my rituals destroyed sitting in front of me and hearing anorexia’s voice yelling in my mind. I had a doctor’s appointment that next day and knew if I did not reach my weight goal, I would be forced into the hospital. I had no choice but to eat this meal if I wanted to stay out of treatment. The anorexia wanted nothing to do with it, and made it very well known. I was at my breaking point, tears dripping onto my plate as I sat there uncontrollably crying, just wanting silence, screaming out loud for the anorexia to be quiet, gripping my skin trying to rip it off and just wanting it all to end, wanting my life to be over. At that point I just began praying. I had no idea what I wanted to say or what I would get out of it, but I was desperate for some peace and serenity at the moment. I needed some way to get through that meal. It is in the darkest times that God’s light shines through. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to look up and see Him there, arms outstretched to pick us up.

It was on that October day that I was reunited with God, my Savior. I have come to realize he was there the whole time. He never left. I was the one to abandon him. I did not turn to Him because I had come to believe it would have been pointless. I was not worthy enough for His support and for Him to answer my prayers. Instead, I looked to another source of understanding, wisdom, and comfort-anorexia. It promised these things to me but failed to deliver. Its inability to follow through lead me back to the One who could fulfill His promises, the One who would never give me more than I could handle and leave me to fend for myself.  God could give me everything I wanted in the anorexia and then some. I realized that through the anorexia in my life, He did not intentionally want to hurt me. It was placed in my life for a great purpose. It was there for me to come into my destiny. Becoming a Christian doesn’t come with a promise of a perfect life. There will be tremendous trials and the enemy attacking even more. But I know it will all be worth it. Just like in recovery, the process and journey will be the most difficult thing you will ever do but the end result will without a doubt be worth it and more.

A full content life for me meant that by saying good bye to anorexia I said hello to God. I allowed him to fill that vacant chair in my life left behind by anorexia. His presence allowed for self love and acceptance. I used to believe that you could recover without God and tried to prove that to everyone with failed results. Perhaps you can, but for me, it was not possible. I would not be alive today if it was not for God, and I am eternally grateful for His mercy and for allowing me to survive. Anorexia put me in a hell and God opened the gates for me to escape. In my time, longer than people hoped I know, I took advantage of that exit placed right in front of me. I walked out of hell and into the life of joy and hope that exists with God by your side. He never hated me. He never wanted me unhappy. He was giving me a gift by not answering my prayers to end my life. He has and will always love me and forgive me no matter what I do. It is amazing when you discover the thing that you pushed away for so long and stubbornly denied is everything that you ever needed. This life is a blessing, and I wake up every day more and more excited to see what God has in store for me next. Each passing day, the purpose for my pain is being revealed, and I am developing into the person God created me to be. God is taking me on a miraculous trip, and I have many more miles to go and sites to see. This is only the beginning of the journey…

Love, light, and bravery, J.L.