Hey everyone! Welcome to another installment of my weekly series, Freedom Friday. I apologize for its absence last week. It was a particularly busy and stressful week. As these posts take quite a bit of time and prayer to complete I just didn’t feel I could put into it what was necessary during my crazy week. Thank you for being gracious and patient with me!
This Freedom Friday feature is my favorite post of the week, and also, in my opinion, the most important thing I write every week. This is my attempt to look deeper at the emotional issues that have kept me in bondage to food for so many years and what I can do to break the chains and experience true and lasting freedom.
I love sharing about what I am doing with my nutrition and fitness and those are two very important components to any weight-loss success. However, I strongly feel that when you focus solely on those things alone, you are more than likely just treating the symptoms. I know for some their issues with food run only as deep as liking food too much. For me, though, I admit that I am a full-fledged addict with a lifelong pattern of relating to food in unhealthy, physically and emotionally harmful ways. In this series, my intention is to confront those mental, emotional and spiritual stumbling blocks head on. You may wish to go back and read these posts from the beginning and you can do that right here.
For the past month or so I have been giving you a bit of background and a glimpse of some past circumstances in my life that I feel have contributed to the way I am today. I am not seeking to blame others or even blame my circumstances. I fully admit that I made every decision to put every bit of food into my mouth that lead me to this point.
I do think it is important, though, to dig deeper and find out WHY it is that I do the things that I do, and why it is this particular vice that I struggle with the most. My goal is to learn to identify those things, give voice to them, allow myself to feel them rather than trying to eat them away and hopefully I will see these emotional eating habits diminish over time.
I’ve shared about some of my history with some of my family, particularly my father, and also shared how I came to know Christ in college and how that eventually led me to being able to forgive my father, which is where I left off with my story. I want to continue that story here today.
While in college, I finally forgave my parents for the things that had happened growing up. Finally releasing the burden of anger, resentment and bitterness that had built up in my heart after many years of tumultuous relationships and difficult circumstances was so incredibly freeing.
But you know what else it was? It was incredibly scary. I had made an intentional decision to let my guard down and forgive and seek restoration and healing. For the first time that I could remember, I became vulnerable with my dad and really sought his forgiveness of me.
You see, I’ve talked a bit about some of the things that happened growing up but I’m not sure that I’ve been entirely fair. My father is not a horrible person. He is a very strong, proud man. He was an incredible provider and worked so hard for his family (still does!). He has so many redeeming and amazing qualities and I don’t know what I would do without him. And I was a royal pain-in-the-rear to him for many, many years (he’d probably say I still am!).
I could tell you stories, that would curl your hair, of some of the things that I did growing up to cause my family grief and pain. I did a lot of it intentionally to get noticed. It’s sad really, but it seems that’s all I ever wanted was to be noticed. My dad worked so much and I never really felt worthy of his attention. It was not very long before I went looking for attention elsewhere.
And so the cycle began. The cycle of looking for love in all the wrong places. The cycle of giving myself away to whoever would have me, only to end up hating myself for it later. The cycle of self-abuse, self-destruction, self-hatred. Do you notice a pattern here?
I was entirely self-focused. I was so caught up in my own misery and feeling sorry for myself that I was literally self-destructing. By the time my high school career was over, I felt like a dog running away with it’s tail between it’s legs. I was so ashamed of what I had become but I had no idea how to break free from it. In the process of all of that I inflicted some very real damage on my family.
Thankfully, mercifully, God intervened in HUGE and magnificent way in my life. I know that God is a God of miracles because I am here to tell you that I am one. I was so far gone, but even then I was not too far for Him. I am still just humbled and amazed thinking about the great work He has done in my life.
Because of this truly divine intervention, as I shared previously, I was able to forgive my father. Unfortunately, though, he could not and would not forgive me. And I could not forgive myself. And so, I kept eating and eating and trying to stuff that shame away.
I loved God and I knew He loved me but I carried around an enormous burden of guilt for the things I had done during my high school years. Even thinking about it now is such a struggle. Though I know I am forgiven of it, I still sometimes pick it back up, chain myself back to it and live in the guilt and shame of it. I know it’s not who I am anymore and I know it was once-and-for-all dealt with on the cross. But I may as well have a huge scarlet letter plastered across my chest with the way I pick that thing back up and carry it around with me. I feel like it is all anyone can see when they look at me.
And indeed it is, because instead of facing my stuff, I stuffed my face. Instead of dealing with that guilt and shame, I carried it around with me like a well-loved pet. It never even crossed my mind that it would be possible for me to be free from it. And frankly, I’m not sure I wanted to be free from it.
That may make absolutely no sense to some of you, but in some way I think I felt like it was my penance. I deserved to feel that way about myself because after all, look what I had done. It was my cross to bear. What was done was done and I could never take it back. And the shame only grew greater as my waistline grew. It was like subconsciously I wanted to LITERALLY wear that shame until it really was all people could see.
And let me tell you, as a morbidly obese woman, most of the time, at least at first impression, it IS all people see. With one look, or even an audible scoff, or an avoidance of the eyes, they tell me exactly what I know to be true. I am deserving of that shame. They see exactly what I know to be true-that I am fat, ugly, lazy, a slob, stupid, less than, unworthy.
Of course, we all know none of that is true. As a Christian, I know my worth is found in Christ. At the moment of my salvation I was a hopelessly lost soul completely overwhelmed by the sin of promiscuity. He picked me up out of that and gave me a new life and a new identity. He loved me right then and there, right where I was, BEFORE I had changed anything!!!
He didn’t tell me to clean up my act and then He would accept me. He had no expectations. When I looked at Him (of course, I am speaking figuratively here), all I could see was love. I knew no condemnation.
Except, of course, for the condemnation I felt for myself. I felt like I had squandered so much-and truth be told, I had. When I went home and apologized and sought my father’s forgiveness, and didn’t receive it, it was only confirmation to me that I deserved the condemnation. I had hurt my father and I deserved to hurt in return.
No one could hurt me worse than I could hurt myself,however. And that’s exactly what I did. I simply traded one vice (sleeping around) for another (gluttony). With every blasted bite, with every week-long binge, with every added pound, I heaped condemnation on my head.
That is NOT what Christ died for!!! He didn’t defeat sin and death so that I could live a defeated life!
Thankfully, finally, 16 years later, by nothing but the grace of God, I am beginning to crawl out from under that heap of condemnation. I am beginning to let go of the guilt and the shame that are not mine to carry. I am taking off my scarlet letter, and I refuse to be clothed in it again. And finally, FINALLY, I am starting to experience true freedom through forgiveness. Forgiveness of my father, yes. But perhaps more important, I am starting to forgive myself.
I certainly don’t have it mastered by any means. I surely have a long road of healing ahead of me. But I am so grateful for the work God is doing in me and how far I have come. I am grateful that He is opening my heart and allowing me to grieve the innocence I lost as a young girl. It has not been easy by any means. But I gotta tell you, it is SO worth every painful step. Because every step I take in truth is one step further away from what I once was.
Last night I was at an outreach ministry group that I am a part of. One of the other people who belongs to the group was sharing some of the things she had been experiencing lately and she said something so profound. She said, “I wouldn’t appreciate the Sundays without experiencing the Fridays.”
I think it’s incredibly ironic, yet poignant, that I am writing a post like this on Good Friday. Easter Sunday means nothing without Good Friday. Without Good Friday, it would be just another Sunday. I wouldn’t appreciate the Sundays if I didn’t endure the Fridays. She was SO right.
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means comparing my experiences to what Christ endured on the cross, but what my friend said was so true. If I didn’t know the pain of shame and guilt, I am quite sure I would not understand the beauty of freedom and healing and restoration. So while it has been hard and I know it WILL BE hard, I also acknowledge that it will be worth every painful step to see the beauty that Christ will reveal in me as I find lasting freedom in Him. So today, I choose to be thankful for my Fridays. They make the Sundays that much sweeter.