A new year. The time where people take inventory of their lives and make resolutions in order to bring about change. It’s the time I stop and marvel at all God has done in the last year, and evaluate what I hope He will change in the coming year. And I say, “what I hope God will change” because renewing my resolve never works. Focusing on the external behavior never changes the internal. I don’t need more self-will or determination to change my life, I need God to change the desires of my heart, and in turn change my behavior.
I don’t need another resolution, I need the power of God.
In doing this yearly inventory, there is one area that has been highlighted. An area that God won’t let me remain in control of any longer. To be honest I don’t control it, it controls me. It is the messy, complicated, tangled issue of food, diet, and identity.
For almost 14 years now I have struggled with my weight and body image. Afraid of becoming fat, and desiring to be dangerously thin, I started restricting calories the summer before my sophomore year of high school. This was the beginning of finding my identity in my physical appearance; food being where I turn for escape, comfort, and reward; and a mental obsession with calories and working out. The cycles of extreme restriction, leading to binging and overindulgence (with a period of purging involved) began here.
It’s a prison the Devil has you build for yourself with one lie after another that seem impossible to let go of. Once you find your identity in your external appearance, it’s difficult to let go and believe there is more to you. It’s a monster that has been managed in the past, but never destroyed and removed from my life. This year God has said, “It’s time.”
I can remember the first time I heard the lie. I was 15, standing in the bathroom of my soon to be old house, cleaning out drawers. I had grabbed a box containing 3 bottles of child’s perfume. While I held it in my hands, debating whether or not it was a “keep” or “toss” item, I heard the Devil whisper to me. “Being thin is unhealthy, and God doesn’t want you to be unhealthy, so you can’t trust Him with this area of your life.” And I believed him. God is not trustworthy. His definition of “good” isn’t my definition of “good,” so I can’t trust Him. I thought it was a small decision I was making, but in reality it was the Devil’s tool to bring about years of self-condemnation, self-loathing, feelings of consistent failure, and ultimately self-destruction.
What started off as “harmless” dieting turned into an all-consuming war inside. Thoughts of what I eat, when I will eat, how much I ate, when I will work out, how much I will work out absorbed my mind space. The highs that come with reaching a goal, and the extreme lows when eating what some would consider a normal amount. A perpetual state of exhaustion due to caloric deficit was masked by a coffee addiction. Maybe you can relate. You start the day with a clean slate and fresh start resolving to “get control over your diet.” By the afternoon, food is so enticing you think you’ll reward yourself with a small snack for getting through the day hungry. With a worn-down will you overindulge. Once it’s on your lips you can’t seem to control yourself. The cycle is never ending. Warring with yourself over a natural need God designed. Constantly condemning yourself for meeting that need in an extremely unhealthy way. (Sugar calls first, and I always answer). Consistently making plans for new eating habits and exercise, only to change your mind the next day. A new resolve to change and trust God with your diet, only to turn to the brownies when life seems too overwhelming and you need an escape. Counting calories has become second nature. Sound familiar? I am enslaved to this food fixation and identity in my body.
“If mirrors make me happier than Christ, then I’m an atheist. It’s fact or fiction.” –Jackie Hill-Perry
One look in the mirror on a bad day changes my entire mood and attitude. Likewise, on a good day my entire mood is elevated. God doesn’t want me swayed by the ever changing and passing things of this world. I don’t want to be swayed by them. My body will be changing and transforming for the rest of my life. If my hope is in my body and appearance, I am an easy target for the Enemy. All He has to do is get me to believe I look ugly that day.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?” –Isaiah 58:6
I believe God has called me to fast to break this stronghold off my life. Not a day goes by I don’t think about my body, diet, and plans in regards to changing those. I am enslaved and I need freedom. Not a new diet plan and healthy view of myself. I need a new heart.
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” –Ezekiel 36:26a
While I am fasting I have noticed my thoughts drifting to dreaming about food. And not about eating a meal with others, but dreaming about when I will be able to indulge alone and enjoy my addiction. Binging on chocolates, peanut butter sandwiches, and cookies…alone. Being able to eat what I want, when I want, how much I want while no one is watching. Startled by the regularity and natural way these thoughts and desires fill my head, I realized how strong this has a hold on me. It is holding onto me, but I am also holding onto it. Recently I wrote:
An eating disorder is an unhealthy way of using food to cope with psychological stress.
Will I ever be satisfied? The flesh is ravenous. An insatiable appetite that is never satisfied. It has to be put to death. The problem isn’t in my stomach, it’s in my heart. Something deep in my heart is looking for joy, peace, freedom, pleasure, escape. I was created for a much better existence. And the only thing that can satisfy my heart is Jesus. But I keep feeding my flesh.
I am so sick of my body ruling over me. I am so sick of my appearance controlling how I feel. Jesus I need freedom. I am trapped inside the prison cell of my own body. Hiding underneath, I am in there somewhere. I need freedom from the obsession and the worry and the guilt and the shame. Oh so much shame attached to what I eat.
“It’s gonna be ok Tesia. I will make a way. But you have to follow Me. Let go. Let go of control. Let go of the desire to be thin. Let go.”
How do I let go?
“Are you more than your body? What is housed by your body? Is there not more living in there? Are you not more valuable, and is there not more to you than your body? Do people visit a house to see the house? Or the owner who inhabits the house?”
I am not my house. I clean my house. I take care of my house. My house reflects who I am in personality and style, but I am not my house. In the same way, I am not my body. I try to eat right. I exercise. I take care of my body and it reflects who I am, but I am not my body.
—to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands, of (a person, the mind, etc.); give full contentment to
—to put an end to (a desire, want, need, etc.) by sufficient or ample provision
—to give assurance to; convince
—to answer sufficiently, as an objection
—to solve or dispel, as a doubt
—to discharge fully (a debt, obligation, etc.)
—to make reparation to or for
—to pay (a creditor)
He wants to satisfy my heart. Satisfy completely the deepest longings of my soul. He wants to be the ultimate source of all my satisfaction. The Devil has me hoodwinked into believing that chocolate will satisfy my longing for a better life. My soul cries out for peace and joy. A candy bar won’t fix that. Being thin and looking good won’t fix that. Only Jesus can.
Over the last months I’ve begun to open up to other women about my struggles with food, body image, and identity. I’ve realized this issue is rampant. It’s not only me. I’m not the only one who struggles with turning to food for comfort and condemning my body for its appearance. In fact, I don’t know a woman who doesn’t, or hasn’t struggled in the past. But I’m not looking for another diet and rules to follow when I’m triggered. I want a heart change. An operation and surgery only God can do. I want complete demolition and destruction of this yoke of bondage. I want freedom. I want my desires to change. I want to be so hungry and satisfied in Jesus that food is a blessing, not a coping strategy. I want heaven on earth.
“It is for freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” –Galatians 5:1
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” –John 8:36
If every word of the bible is true, I am going to stand firm on the promises; on the truth of God’s word. I will not allow the Devil to have his way in this area of my life anymore. Surrender. Complete and total surrender is what God requires. Letting go of my body, and what I think I want, for what He has planned for me. Freedom and ultimate satisfaction in Christ and Christ alone.
And while that sounds so simple, I’m realizing dying to self is a painful process. But the pain is worth the purification. Pain passes, purity of faith and character last. Suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character. Hearts are revealed when circumstances are touched. Do I fully trust God for provision when my job is taken away? Is my hope in Him alone when my food is taken away? Not even food, what about just sugar? Or what about relationships? TV? Social media? Where do you turn for comfort, and what is your response to its absence in your life? In noticing my thoughts, emotions, and desires in the midst of lacking food, I have to ask myself: Is my hope really found in Christ alone?
“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” –Jeremiah 2:13
If I am filling up on the things of this world, I am not leaving room for God to satisfy. I am full of nothing, of emptiness. Of something that has the appearance of satisfaction; I am filled, but left hungry. Like a broken cistern, I am left drained and unsatisfied. Unable to hold living water.
Today I choose to not go unsatisfied anymore. I believe God’s definition of good is much better than my own. I choose to feast on the bread of life, the One true satisfaction. Christ and Christ alone. Man was made to rule over his own body, not the other way around. Victory is on its way.
“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be fully SATISFIED as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.” –Psalm 63:3-5