Ephesians 3:17-21 “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lords holy people to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. 19 and to know with this love that surpasses all knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of fullness of God.”
God seems to be speaking to me about fullness lately. First it was fullness of Grace and now it is fullness of love. How can I know what it is like to be full of grace and love, when I don’t quite know how to allow my belly to be full?
The feeling of fullness that settles in my belly after a meal or snack is uncomfortable and fraught with anxiety. I am learning to tolerate the fullness, but have yet to rediscover the simple pleasure of fullness, and joy of eating. After I eat I often find the need to pray, write, read, watch brainless television, or paint, all with a pillow on my lap to obscure any view of my full belly until the discomfort abates. It is a unique, yet blissful occasion when I can sit and really enjoy a meal or a food without fear and anxiety snatching the moment from me. I am grateful for those moments of freedom from the hum of the eating disorder as it fades into the background like innocuous elevator music. I am hopeful that The Lord is giving me a glimpse into a future of freedom from the eating disorder that he desires for me.
It is equally hard for me to sit in the fullness of being loved by God, family, and friends. As with my food, I guardedly allow myself to receive love to nourish my soul. I am often uncomfortable feeling the fullness of love, but I no longer I wriggle and squirm (as much) in the presence of those who love me, unable to “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,” and how His love transcends through the amazing people he has placed in my life. Doubt is always hiding in the shadows of my past causing me to wonder why, or how can “they” love me? It is difficult to be “rooted and established in love,” when as a child the only thing consistent about this thing called love was the justified fear of it being uprooted. It is through God and his people that I am hopeful that I will soon “know with this love that surpasses all knowledge – that you (I) may be filled to the measure of fullness of God.”
I am becoming more and more aware of how my eating disorder and the fear of feeling physically satiated is deeply connected to the fear of feeling emotionally and spiritually full of love. For now, fear of feeling full and surrendering my food and my weight continues to tug at me; asking me who am I without my lifelong companion of anorexia or purging. Even as I make progress in sitting with the discomfort, I can succumb to the urge to empty myself of the life-giving nutrients my body needs. Both the restriction and purging distracts me from the possibility that I am capable of loving deeply and being loved deeply. It acts as a “reason” for someone to be careful with me or excuses someone for bailing on me.
These nutrients which I give my body, per my dietician, are still not adequate to sustain the level of training I put my body through day after day. She continues to use words like cannibalize, muscle wasting, and deteriorating as she reads my charts.
I feel like I am standing in the sea with waves lapping at my feet when suddenly I am hit by a rogue powerful wave that knocks me down and sucks the air out of my lungs when she asks me to consider a residential program for athletes with eating disorders in St. Louis. I am visibly shaken. It as though any progress I have made is swept away just like the waves pull the sand back into the depth of the ocean.
I take a long slow jagged breath as I process all she has just asked of me. And like any good addict, I argue with her that I am not “that” sick because I am no longer emaciated. Never mind that the one thing I tell my students is “you don’t have to look sick to be very sick.” I feel physically strong, and emotionally stable even with the hum of the eating disorder playing in my head. And yes, I am exhausted by the constant battle of turning down the volume so I can be present in my life, but I am doing the hard work. I am present and I am slowly, but confidently finding my identity in Christ and not the eating disorder.
She is not convinced and has the calculations to prove that while maintaining my weight, I am, indeed, slowly damaging it. She decides it is time for her to consult with my therapist. I reluctantly agree. I am convinced my therapist will see my dietician as being overly dramatic; An alarmist! My therapist knows me and knows my growth.
Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” I pray this verse over and over. I hope it is my answer to “now what?” As I feel like a child being discussed, yet left out of the discussion, as the two conclude that I should consider the residential treatment program. I feel like both are trying to rush me through recovery, but I feel like it is somehow rushing God’s timing.
I am blindsided with this news as I sit on the couch in my therapist’s office. I look down as she speaks, feeling the salty sting of the tears pooling in my eyes. I was sure she would be on my side of this debate, and I guess she is on my side. I am just too overwhelmed to see it.
I sit in silence trying to process all that is said. Two weeks ago, I was considering taking a break from treatment for the summer, and now she wants me to consider six weeks away from my family, in residential treatment in Missouri. “What the fuck did my dietician say to you?” I wanted to ask, but didn’t. I feel like I went in for a routine physical, only to be told I had cancer and I need treatment or else…Or else what?
“Just think about it. You don’t need to make a decision today.” She says. Tears are now rolling freely from my eyes. “What can I do? How can I help you? I am sorry this is so hard.” Her voice is gentle and I know she feels my pain. I stare at her feet as she gives me some choices that feel more like ultimatums. “Go and get over this hump, or don’t go and stop training.” I hear; “If you don’t go and continue to train, I am done with you.” I fear both my dietician and therapist abandoning me if I make the wrong decision.
Suddenly I am five years old again with my mother giving me the choice of being grounded, which meant hours of verbal abuse, or beaten with the yard stick (leaving welts on my legs). I took the beating because it was quick and to the point.
This is the perils of being a grown woman with an eating disorder and it sucks. I am not a child, but I feel like one. I imagine myself pleading “Ok, ok! I promise I will try harder. I will devour my meal plan, and do anything you ask just please, please don’t send me away!”
Lord, I whisper under my breath, “I feel so stuck! What do I next? How can I leave my family? What? How? Who? Why? Fuck!” The questions swirl and tug on me like a rip tide carrying me away. God simply answers “Be Still” So, I sit in stillness, not sure if he has calmed this unexpected storm, or his child. I am just grateful for the calm as my mind slows to the rhythm of my breath. “You will be okay, and you aren’t going anywhere. I will not abandon you and your team will not either.”
I pray with my pastor. He asks me why I thought God had allowed this storm to rise. I believe he allowed this storm to rage simply so that He could calm storm raging in me. My mind was swirling, but as he said “be still.” my spirit came to rest. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere and neither was my treatment team. I had a voice and Jesus had my back.