Recovery Is Like A Chinese Bamboo Tree.
A couple of weeks ago I was at church and after the service I ended up in a conversation with one of my fellow youth leaders. This youth leader is not your typical 20 something that wants to hang and inspire the younger crowd. He is a 40 something incredibly wise and Godly man who has been through more then a person should in a life time. I had recently missed church because I wasn’t feeling too hot from some side effects of a new medication I had started that will help my pancreas get its act together, so he pulled me aside to inquire as to how I was doing.
I began to share with him what was currently going on with my health, but then went a little further and described how lately I have been feeling discouraged and weary. The recovery process is very long and it feels as if I have been doing everything right, yet nothing seems to be noticeably changing. I still have ED thoughts that bring me down. I can’t seem to go out in public with out an intense amount of shame. My weight, while according to my dietician is creeping down at literally a glacial pace, doesn’t feel like it’s budging. I continue to swell every single day, every time I eat. I am eating well. I’m strong in my time with God and faith in His plan for me. I’m exercising normally, yet I feel like nothing is happening.
He quietly listened and then he said, “Sara, have you ever heard of the Chinese Bamboo Tree?”
I’m sitting there thinking, “No…and what does this have to do with my terrible life??” haha!
He went on to tell me about this Chinese Bamboo Tree….
“In the Far East, there is a tree called the Chinese bamboo tree. This remarkable tree is different from most trees in that it doesn’t grow in the usual fashion. While most trees grow steadily over a period of years, the Chinese bamboo tree doesn’t break through the ground for the first four years. Then, in the fifth year, an amazing thing happens – the tree begins to grow at an astonishing rate. In fact, in a period of just five weeks, a Chinese bamboo tree can grow to a height of 90 feet. It’s almost as if you can actually see the tree growing before your very eyes.” (1)
He went on to tell me that everything I’m doing is not for nothing. I have been planted for a reason. I am watering and fertilizing my heart and mind and soul so that I can sprout into the person that God has designed me to be. Not everything has instantaneous results. Some things take time, but the payoff is unbelievable! This time I am in that feels stagnant is most likely not stagnant at all and he was sure that God was working beneath it all for my good. He encouraged me to continue to eat. The nutrients is healing the organs in ways that I cannot see. He encouraged me to continue to use my coping skills. These skills are rewiring my brain to think in a way that I cannot see. He encouraged me to continue to pray and have a strong faith in my creator because sometimes His plans for me are something that right now I cannot see. He encouraged me to continue to root my identity in God and not in my physical appearance because that identity matters way more then what I see. He encouraged me to trust the process of my recovery. Just because today I cannot see everything that is changing and working and growing doesn’t mean it isn’t there. I am putting the work in now and yes, it’s frustrating and discouraging, BUT wow, when it’s time, my body will be healed, the weight will recalibrate, my mind will be strong, my character will be refined and I will be like a 90 foot bamboo tree saying, “LOOK AT ME NOW!!!”
When a long period of time goes by in which I feel like I’m doing everything right and yet nothing changes I find it so easy for me to fall into a place of doubt and discouragement. I doubt the process. I doubt that God hears my prayers and will heal me. I doubt that I will ever feel good or be free again. This doubt often leads me to discouragement which leads to relapse and digging up all the seeds I planted from the beginning forcing me to start the process over and over again. I have these moments where I think, “Dang, it’s been two years…my body isn’t back to normal yet…this process must not work right…” and then I resort back to old ED behaviors because I’m desperate for the quick fix or the fastest pay off. Every time however I realize that it literally never works. So, I get back to watering the seed that I planted two year ago and continue to wait.
For me, recovery takes an enormous amount of faith and patience. Faith in God and faith in the process. According to Hebrews 11:1, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” I know what I hope for but wow is it hard to feel sure about what I don’t see! This process is very long and at times it seems like nothing is happening or the changes are so small it’s easy to wonder if it’s even worth it. I’ve consistently read blogs or instagram posts from people who are recovered that say it is right when you think nothing will ever change, you choose not to quit and instead push your hardest to hang in there and then you have the breakthrough.
I often feel like a Bamboo tree. (That’s something I never thought I would write haha) But in all seriousness, I really do! I planted my recovery seed two years ago. I put it in the ground and said lets do this. Right now I am in that four year period where if you look at it it's like hmmmm, are you going to turn into a tree or what? Since I planted that seed I have nurtured that seed by re-feeding my body and allowing it time and rest to heal, taking care of my body through light exercise and movement, working closely with a therapist to challenge my eating disorder, working closely with a dietitian to eat well and challenge diet culture, staying constant and steadfast in my faith in who my God is, who I am in him and his power to heal me and restore my broken heart, identity and soul. I have weathered many seasons of frustration and joy and accomplishment as well as fear, pain, doubt and celebration. All while my seed has remained buried under ground, waiting for the time when it will all come together, sprout up, and I can scream from the top of top that I did it! I’m recovered! These years are not wasted. Although they feel long and slow and stagnant, I’m certain they are achieving exactly what they are suppose to be achieving for me.
This brings me back to my favorite verse of all time, the inspiration behind my blog title and the truth I meditate on daily, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Thought outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.” Often it is the unseen that matters. It is the unseen that is achieving something greater!
Right now I feel like I am in the middle of those years where I’ve been planted and I’m doing all the work, but I haven’t sprouted yet. Seasons keep passing me by, and I sit here waiting for my season to come. Until it does I will continue to nurture and water the seed of recovery I planted two years ago. I will remain faithful in the God I put my trust in to heal me. I will continue to eat and take care of my body and challenge every last drop of deceit that ED wants to squeeze out of me. I will do my best to trust the process and stay the course, because, when it is my time, all of this nurturing and watering will all come together to a wonderful and beautiful life of being recovered.
- Sara -
p.s. For all my music lovers our there. My sister, Geege, (always my source of amazing worship songs) shared a song with me last week! It's called Seasons by Hillsong and it is amazing! I now would like to share it with you :) I hope it brings you encouragement and hope like it has for me. The lyrics are below!
Seasons - Hillsong
Like the frost on a rose
Winter comes for us all
Oh how nature acquaints us
With the nature of patience
Like a seed in the snow
I’ve been buried to grow
For Your promise is loyal
From seed to sequoia
Though the winter is long even richer
The harvest it brings
Though my waiting prolongs even greater
Your promise for me like a seed
I believe that my season will come
Lord I think of Your love
Like the low winter sun
As I gaze I am blinded
In the light of Your brightness
Like a fire to the snow
I’m renewed in Your warmth
Melt the ice of this wild soul
Till the barren is beautiful
I can see the promise
I can see the future
You’re the God of seasons
I’m just in the winter
If all I know of harvest
Is that it’s worth my patience
Then if You’re not done working
God I’m not done waiting
You can see my promise
Even in the winter
Cause You’re the God of greatness
Even in a manger
For all I know of seasons
Is that You take Your time
You could have saved us in a second
Instead You sent a child
And when I finally see my tree
Still I believe there’s a season to come
Like a seed You were sown
For the sake of us all
From Bethlehem’s soil
Grew Calvary’s sequoia
p.p.s.- I really encourage you to reach out to people when you are suffering. I opened up to someone I trusted and God used him to speak truth and encouragement into my life that Sunday morning. Thank you, you know who are :)