- Sara Mann
I’m thirty three years old and for most of my life I have been a Christian. Although there were times (ages 18-22 weren’t my finest moments, thank the LORD there wasn’t social media then..) that I wasn’t as committed to my faith, my faith never wavered. I’ve always simply believed in God and what the Bible says. When I was twenty-three I recommitted myself to my faith and I’ve been a pretty strong Christian ever since. I would actually describe it as the single most important thing about me, except for when I was Anorexic. Anorexia definitely became my idol and true to the Word, I was knocked down until I realized it.
When I was starting to have a lot of heart problems and weight gain while eating basically nothing and heavily exercising, I knew something was wrong. I decided to go to the doctor. Long story short I was ordered into treatment for Anorexia and Exercise Bulimia. I was honestly pretty hesitant about this. I didn’t want a heart attack and die, but I also didn’t want to change. Eating Disorders, unlike popular belief, are not glamorous. They are very draining, time consuming and painful. I was tired. I wanted to be done with it, but I was deeply afraid of what that would look like. I prayed for guidance in this situation and also for confirmation that treatment was the right decision.
During this time I received a letter from an old friend who had no idea what I was going through. I mean truly, she had ZERO knowledge of my current situation. She lived in a completely different country and I had never shared with her that I had an Eating Disorder. In this letter my friend explained how they put names in a hat and each week they pick a name, don't look at it, pray over this person, write down anything they think they might here from God and then send it to the person. That particular week was ME! They shared what they had done and told me to take it or leave it. I kid you not, this letter was nothing short of a miracle and an answer to prayer. It spoke directly to me and my situation and I knew it was straight from God. I know I know, sounds like I’m completely loco, but trust me…it was from God, there is ZERO doubt in my mind.
In this letter my friend wrote that as she and her husband were praying over me that week they felt that God said the following things….(keep in mind I was literally, just days before, told I was having heart problems, was severely malnutritioned and my organs were beginning to eat themselves because of my starvation...)
"Live, Live, Live! I hear the Lord sing over you, “live!”
“Not the life the world has given you, but the life I died to give you. You live on this side of the cross and there is work I desire to do with you, my child. Your gifting is incredibly unique! You have thought it ordinary, but it is not, it is special. What makes it special is you and I combined; you following my Holy Spirit. Read my word, follow my voice, work with me and live the life I have dreamed for you. You have a creativity that needs to be nourished. Know that I, the Lord, have given it to you, therefore there is more awaiting you in Me. Do not be discouraged! I have more for you than what you see in front of you, and it is glorious!”
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
I felt like He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light. You can give me any leftover legalism that weighs you down and makes you feel guilty. Give it to me and receive the freedom of my love instead. I don’t want you to try to work for my love. You already have it in greater measures than you can comprehend. Come to Me because where I am, there is freedom!” (2 Corinthians 3:17, “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.)
Colossians 2:8, 20-23 – “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, “Don’t handle! Don’t taste! Don’t touch!”? Such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them. These rules may seem wise because they require strong devotion, pious self-denial, and severe bodily discipline. But they provide no help in conquering a person’s evil desires.”
I feel like He said, “When you walk in the freedom that I have purchased for you, abundant life flows, I am able to flow with you and we can do great things together. When you strive or try to work for my approval, you are pushing me away. Put down your work and let me come closer to you. It may seem scary at first, but once you lower your work and ask for my yoke instead, my Presence, love, and freedom will cause you to be renewed. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31) "
After I read this email I basically broke down. This was a direct answer to prayer and I 100% knew what I had to do. I had to put my life on hold, take the scary step and enter treatment. I wanted more for my life. God wanted more for my life. His words promised me I could do this with him and that I can and will walk in freedom. So that is exactly what I did. I stopped working (for the most part), started intensive outpatient and my journey to recovery began.
I wish that this story was like the movies. A girl hears from God, makes the right decision and embarks on a healing journey full of love, joy and beautiful background music. Nope. This journey has had moments of joy but for the most part it has been full of very deep valleys, brutal mountain climbs, struggles and hopelessness.
If I’m being honest, I find myself constantly questioning God. Where are you? Why haven’t you healed me yet? I’m doing what you asked, so why is this so incredibly painful? You promise me freedom and renewal, but I just feel downtrodden and defeated. Do you hear me?
At one point I even started studying the book of Job because I felt like it was relatable. Here I was, a strong Christian, and I felt like my life just got ripped out from under me, leaving me with depression, loneliness, a broken body, anxiety, stress and physical pain.
I constantly meditate on Gods word for comfort, but often I feel forgotten and lost instead. I get annoyed that I don’t have a crystal ball that will tell me it will all be OK and Gods plan is actually working and is good. Does He even have a plan? I grow inpatient with him. His timing is said to be perfect, but it honestly just feels glacial.
I worry that I am too far gone. That my mistakes and my Eating Disorder are unforgivable. That my body is not healable. That I’m living the full consequence that I deserve for such poor choices. I chose to idolize my body and use it to gain control of my life. Now I feel more out of control then ever and wonder if God is even seeing what’s happening.
I see other people living wonderful lives. (I know I know, not everything is what it seems..eye roll...) Blessed with children and wonderful relationships and health and I become bitter and jealous. I serve God at church and in my daily life, so what gives? Where are my blessings? Where is my healing?
Where are you God?
Through this entire trial and tribulation, although I have questioned God and his goodness many times, I still remain faithful. I have no choice! When I find myself straying from his word and the hope I find in it, I become depressed and hopeless. When I draw near to him and his Word I feel renewed hope and strength to keep going.
It is difficult to find the blessings when life has hit you like a brick, but they are there. God is constantly still answering my prayers and guiding me through this trial. Its just not as grandiose and immediate as I would like. His promises still stand true whether I have received all of them yet or not. It is by His loving grace that I have a second chance at life and it's crucial that I remember this. When I look at the day to day there are many small wins that keep me moving towards the freedom He promised me. When I choose to dwell on him and His promises my mind is renewed, my energy is regained and my hope increases. When I dwell on my pain, weight and earthly body, I become frustrated and dark.
I am reminded over and over again of all the things that I do not know throughout recovery, but here is what I do know. God is good. God is in control. God loves me. God promises to give me life in Him. God has a plan. I do not know his plan. (annoying!) With God there is hope. Without Him there is hopelessness. God promised me freedom. He did not promise it would be in my timing. His Word gives me encouragement. God promises healing. He did not promise I will weigh what I want. God will fight for me. He does not look at me with shame. He is proud of me. He will use me if I allow it. I can turn to His Word for advice when I feel overwhelmed. He is not punishing me, He is refining me. I can stand firm knowing He IS fighting for me.
Faith is a tricky thing. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I have a lot of hope, but am I confident in it? How can I have assurance in what I do not see? It would be easy to assume I must have blind faith then, right? Wrong. God has done enough for me in my life to be sure He is there. He’s answered enough prayers, showered me with enough blessings and brought me out of my darkest days. I may not see Him literally, but I see Him all the time.
Most of the times it is in little ways. It is in ways that may not make my life physically or materialistically easier, but they give my soul peace. It's opening my devotional and having it read exactly what I needed that day. It's praying for a sign that my body is still healing and within days be given that sign to confirm where I am in the process. It's laying in bed, wanting everything to just end and receiving that text from a person at the right moment letting me know they are praying for me and that I am strong and can do this. It's giving my anxiety up to God about finding a dress for a wedding that fits my recovering body and then having a woman sit next to me at a Broadway show, exactly my size, sharing where she got her dress and going to that store the next day, finding the dress and it fits! It is being ordered into treatment by doctors, praying to God confused and scared, receiving the email at the beginning of this blog within five days of the order and then entering treatment four days after that. Some may say these are coincidences. I know better. This is God helping me. This is Him working with me and guiding me. This is Him giving me only what I can handle and helping me through it along the way.
I want to have control over my recovery. I want to know how long this will take. When will my body go back to normal? What is the right next step? Who can I trust? What can I do to make this go faster? Is what I'm doing the right thing for my body? At this point, if there is one thing I know 100% about recovery, it's that I am NOT in control. My body is doing whatever the he$$ it wants. My brain has pathways that are so deep-rooted I have to fight to regain back control of them. The timeline of recovery...what timeline? Every time I set a date that I think I should be recovered by, I find myself sitting there, on that date, not recovered, in a body I still hate, wondering what in the WORLD is going on??? Since I feel, and am, so completely out of control of this situation I HAVE to give it up to the only one who says they are in control, my heavenly Father. I'd rather have faith that He knows what the heck is going on then sit here in tears, day after day feeling hopeless and lost.
There is a song that I have pretty much played on repeat during my recovery. It's called, "It Is Well," by Bethel Music. It describes my thoughts to the “T” and reminds me that while I’m overcoming a mountain, if my eyes are fixed on HIM, I know it is well with my soul. I have meditated on the following lyrics so many times when I have felt lost and hopeless. They always renew my perspective that I can trust him. That I am ok. This is ok. It is well.
“Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see.
And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea .
Through it all
Through it all
My eyes are on you
And through it all
Through it all
It is well.
And through it all
Through it all
My eyes are on you.
And it is well
it is well.
So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name.
It is well with my soul.”
Sometimes God feels close to me. Other times He feels very far away. When He feels far I know it’s not because He has gone anywhere, but because I have grown weary. I’m not confident in my hope. I’ve wavered in my assurance. When He feels close it's because my eyes are fixed on Him and I am renewing my hope with His Word, His promises and His love. Without God I would never have come this far in my recovery. Many people have dropped off with their support, but He has NEVER, not even once, abandoned me when I've reached out to Him. He is always there to listen to my hurt and fears. His Word is always there to give me reassurance and hope. Looking back at the letter that confirmed my entry into treatment I can say 100% that God HAS renewed my strength. Every day, I get up and try again. God HAS given me rest when I give my anxiety to Him. Every day I get closer and closer to the freedom He has promised me. I know there is something glorious waiting for me on the other side of this. Why? Because I have faith that though outwardly I feel like I am wasting away, inwardly I am being renewed day by day. These light and momentary troubles are achieving an eternal glory for me that FAR outweighs it all. So I fix my eyes on Him, because everything I see right now is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (1)
- Sara -
1- This is my own paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Also, the verse that inspired this blog :) and small fact - I have it tattooed on my foot!