One of my earliest memories is when I was four and realized that I was bigger than my five-year-old brother. I didn’t realize then that my brother was (and is still) very small for a guy. He is also a great person whom I have always admired and wanted to be like. He was very good; and while I wasn’t bad, it always seemed that he was better. I was compared to him quite a bit; and in turn, I compared myself to him for most of my life.
My mother moved out when I was young and left my brother and me behind. Within a couple of years, my parents were divorced. My brother and I were separated; he went to live with my dad, and I went with Mom. I felt rejected by my dad, and 10 years passed before I found out that he had wanted me, too.
My life seemed to spiral downhill when I was a teenager. I felt that if my own mother and father could reject me, then there must be something wrong with me. I did what I could to “fix” what I felt was wrong in my life by being “good”, working hard and trying to make myself pretty enough to be accepted; but I felt out of control. I took the one thing I thought I could control and ended up abusing it in the form of an eating disorder. By the time I left for college, I weighed what I had in middle school. Within a few months though, I gained the typical “Freshman Fifteen”, and got my weight got back up to where it should have been. I considered the weight thing a “little problem” in my past, and tried to go about life as usual.
Despite coming from a dysfunctional home, going to church throughout my life afforded me a strong foundation of Biblical Truth; and I held tightly to the relationship that I began with Jesus when I was a small child. I loved God and had a desire to please Him. I pretended things were great because I thought that Christians were supposed to be happy all the time. I hid my feelings, afraid to let anyone know that I was struggling. I didn’t know who I was in Christ, I didn’t love myself, and I didn’t understand even a fraction of the depth of God’s love for me.
One weekend during my third semester in college, my life changed forever. I had a friend who was bold enough to confront me about my eating disorder. He saw right through the lies I was telling him and myself. He made me realize that my “little problem” in the past wasn’t little and wasn’t in the past. And it was sin. I knew that I had to take steps to get past it. I went to see a counselor on campus, and over the past 16 years have made many steps towards being set free.
My road to freedom hasn’t been a quick one, though. I initially quit making the unhealthy choices, but I still had an unhealthy mindset. I thought that if I pretended it wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have to experience the pain it took to face it all and put it behind me. There were many steps in my healing process, and in my mid-20’s I realized that I was still bound by a lot of the bitterness and negative thought patterns from the past. It was painful to evaluate the past and discover why I felt the way that I did, but I had a few friends and mentors who counseled, encouraged, and prayed with me. I began to experience a joy and freedom I had never known before. God has done so much inside of me as I’ve allowed Him to peel back the layers and really set me free from all that I tried to ignore for so long. My journey has been a process of giving over control of each part of my life to God: the One source of stability and the only One who truly can have control over everything.
During my journey to forgive, and in times of stress or pain, I have been tempted to deal with things the way that I used to. But God’s grace has prevented me from acting on those urges in over 16 years!
Encouragement for Others
Don’t try to do it alone. Confide in a friend, see a counselor, give it over to the Lord and accept accountability. God wants to take what has bound you up and set you free. He loves you and wants you to live an abundant life of health, peace and freedom. He wants to give you “beauty for ashes, joy instead of mourning, praise instead of despair” (Isaiah 61:3a). If I can overcome it, so can you! Choose Life.