Tag Archives: anorexia

I Am Redeemed

Have you ever had a chance encounter with someone from the past who takes you back to a long-ago place in your life? Sometimes it’s a good place with happy memories, but other times it’s a really uncomfortable place that you would rather be forever left in the past. I had that experience yesterday.

On Sundays, my husband and I serve in the “Next Step” reception at our church, where we greet guests who stop by to talk with someone about a prompting that God has placed in their hearts.  Yesterday, a lady approached me during the Next Step reception, and although she seemed somewhat familiar, I didn’t recognize her at first. Thankfully my husband remembered how we knew her, from many years back – maybe 15 years ago. We chatted, and out of blue she said, “You look so much better.”

Although I was surprised by that, I thanked her, and we continued to talk. While I tried to see if she had any questions about our church, she said again – and again – five times at least: “Really, you look much, much better.”

Ordinarily you’d think a person would really enjoy comments like that. As if I had some kind of makeover – perhaps a great new hairstyle, a new wardrobe, or some “work done.” But I knew what she meant, and I was uncomfortable. Every time she repeated, “you look so much better,” in my mind I was hearing “…cause you used to look so bad.”

Of course she didn’t mean it this way, and I don’t remember how aware she was of my situation 15 years ago. Maybe she remembered me as having some kind of illness. Whatever she remembered, she was right, whether she had said it explicitly or not – I used to look really bad. Sick. Painfully thin. Standing at death’s door.

Honestly I don’t know why her comments drew out such awkwardness in me. I’ve spoken and written openly about my past struggle with anorexia. Truly I am beyond grateful and thrilled that God has brought me into freedom. Perhaps I look better on the outside, but more importantly, the Lord has healed me on the inside. Whatever my outward appearance may be, He has brought beauty from ashes just as He promised (Isaiah 61:3).

I tried to be gracious to this lady, but I’ll admit being very, very relieved when she walked away.

Why? I wondered. Why didn’t I just say something that would speak of God’s healing work in my life? I thought about this all day long, and I mentioned it to my husband. “She was just trying to encourage you,” he said. And he was right. I was letting myself focus on the negativity – I was hearing the horrible voice of condemnation. You used to look so bad.  You messed up. You wasted years.

But God is so good. The Holy Spirit gave me the grace to redirect my mind onto all the other messages I heard in church yesterday:

Through the Word shared by our pastor:

“By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16).

“God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His Son into the world, so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:8).

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Through the lesson we taught to our fourth grade class in Sunday School:

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16).

Through the words of the song “Redeemed,” recorded by the group known as Big Daddy Weave:

Seems like all I could see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me “Son,
Stop fighting a fight that’s already been won.”

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I’ll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain, now I’m not who I used to be
I am redeemed, I’m redeemed.

While I’ve reflected on these messages since yesterday, I’ve decided to firmly replant myself in the truth and utilize the shield of faith. When the enemy reminds me of the past, I’ll remind him that I live in this present and eternal reality:

* God loves me. Nothing will ever, ever separate me from His love. He gave His Son that I can be free. There is no need to fear or shrink back or be bound by shame. I am a conqueror through Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1, 31 – 39).

* My hope is in my redemption through Christ. He wipes away my stains and removes my chains. I belong eternally to Him (Titus 2:13 – 14).

The Holy Spirit also whispered “Psalm 107” to my heart…a psalm I often think of as if it were my own story:

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
18 they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.
19 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
20 He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
21 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
22 And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!”

As I re-read Psalm 107 this morning, the Holy Spirit drew my attention to the first two verses:

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from trouble.”

This is my story; this is my song. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!

Yesterday I failed to say so, but today I will –

“…. thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man! For He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul He fills with good things!” (Psalm 107: 8 – 9).

Why “Dimly Burning?”

“Dimly burning,” I know, doesn’t sound entirely optimistic as a name for a blog. You would think I’d rather be identified with more positive descriptors – something that would draw readers in, right?  Typically we’re drawn to things and people that could be described as radiant or dazzling. But dim? Uh, not really.

I write this blog as a way to ponder and express my journey of faith in and with Jesus Christ. Of course my heart’s desire is to let my light shine, through living and writing, so that others would see Him (Matthew 5:14).  But if I’m honest about my story, it should include the highlights and the, well, lowlights.

“Dimly burning” comes from a verse that has been life-changing for me – Isaiah 42:3 – “A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.”

During this season I sometimes recall Christmas memories which aren’t very merry. I doubt I’ll ever forget the horrible sinking feeling I had when a child approached me at a Christmas gathering and inquired: “Why does your face look like a skeleton?” Now that’s a question you just don’t forget! The little girl wasn’t being cruel, just sincerely curious.  I cringe at the pictures of myself during that Christmas because truth be told, I really did look on the verge of death’s door.  And while a battle with anorexia had me barely holding onto life, I was held in shame’s firm grip.

Honestly I don’t have many clear memories of that time of my life, except for moments of severe mercy and moments of simple grace. The child’s curiosity prompted one of those severe-mercy-moments because it shocked me into the hard truth that I refused to see in the mirror.

“Dimly burning,” on the other hand, takes me back to a moment of simple grace. It was a Sunday, and my pastor at the time, Dr. Joe Brown, was preaching a sermon on the prophecy of the Messiah in Isaiah 42:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth… Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

Dr. Brown had a lit candle on the platform, and from where I sat in the large sanctuary, it looked like a tiny flame. But Dr. Brown asked for the house lights to be lowered, and in the midst of darkness, the little light shone persistently. Unmistakably. As I watched the flame, my heart leapt with hope. Yes, my life was a picture of a candle dimly – barely – burning, but because God’s Son had come to live in my heart, I suddenly realized that the flame of His Spirit would never be snuffed out. The Holy Spirit whispered to me, “I believe in you. I will not leave you. I will keep shining in your darkness.” It was a moment of pure and simple grace. Truly I felt deserving to be extinguished. My fear and shame and failures were so painfully obvious. Many struggles can be hidden but not anorexia. And yet, the Lord spoke undeserved love and forgiveness into my life.  And He promised a future and a hope. The Light of the Nations would re-kindle a spark of strength within my soul.

About the promised Messiah in Isaiah 42:3, Martin Luther said, “He does not cast away, nor crush, nor condemn the wounded in conscience, those who are terrified in view of their sins; the weak in faith and practice, but watches over and cherishes them, makes them whole, and affectionately embraces them.”

Watches over. Cherishes. Makes them whole. Affectionately embraces.

This is what He did for me. And He still does.

That painful Christmas was years ago. While an eating disorder is not my struggle anymore, there are times when I still hunger for hope. My sense of His mercy runs thin. The enemy would be well pleased for guilt, shame, and regret to smother my flame.

This morning in church, we read from John 1, and I remembered….

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (verses 1 – 5, 14).

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This week comes the culmination of our Christmas celebration. All because the Word became flesh. May we never get over the why and the way of His coming.

Matthew reminds us in the twelfth chapter of his gospel. Jesus healed numbers of broken people in the large crowd that followed him, but He“warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:‘Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.” (Matthew 12: 15 – 21).

Jesus could have come to our world in the company of blaring trumpets. But as Matthew Henry puts it, He came “without noise.” That is, without pomp and circumstance. Without a royal entrance.  Sure, there were the earthly sounds of a barn and a baby. But we recognize Christmas as a “silent night” because of the hushed humility of His birth. And then when Jesus as He ministered to the people, the Word shows us that He did not come to boast but to bind up the broken-hearted.

For You cause my lamp to be lighted and to shine; the Lord my God illumines my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This Christmas, I pray that your hearts – be they broken or blinded, doubting or dim – draw near to the Light. He can illumine a spark of faith within you that, with the Breath of His Spirit, ignites into a flame of hope.

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Grade or Grace?

The Grace Card

My daughter came home from school today with a “Fifth Grade Blue Card.” Every student starts the week with 10 points and receives a reward if he or she can maintain 10 points through the week. If a student’s total is less than a perfect 10, there is a code on the card to tell parents why points were deducted. For instance, “NFD” stands for “not following directions” and “IB-R” means “inappropriate behavior in recess.”

As she pulled her card out of her folder, I thought I saw the word “Grace” in the heading. The stem of the letter “d” in “Grade” is faded, so it looks like a “c” instead.

And it struck me how very slight is the difference between “Grade” and “Grace.”

I spent many years trying to make the grade, so to speak. Trying to prove that I was worthy, likeable, and good. Seems that my life, for a time, was a picture of a see-saw between honor and rejection. In high school, I made straight A’s and honor rolls but was told that I wasn’t accepted into the honor society because of “LLP” – “lacking leadership potential.” (Okay, so it wasn’t put in code like that, but I took it upon myself as a label, and it’s taken a long time to remove the mental residue). And in college, the academic awards didn’t ease the sting of being rejected by my chosen sorority.

After years of this kind of longing for approval and being turned away, I began to reject the person in the mirror. The weight of my worth was measured by the scale. I couldn’t control what people thought of me, but I could control what I ate (or didn’t eat). To my hungry soul, anorexia was a twisted achievement.

The Fifth Grade Blue Card took me back there today. In my long journey of recovery, the stem of the “d” gradually faded away. As my eating disorder progressively became dangerous, God stripped away all of the ways that I had tried to make the grade. Now I just needed to survive. This became a process of learning to receive life and abandoning all efforts to achieve life. In this discovery lies the difference between Grade and Grace.

And grace in Christ is full and free. No measuring up. No rejection. No “NGE” (not good enough)code. There are no hints of check-marks or infractions.  Grace satisfies the hungry soul with Christ’s hope, acceptance, and peace.

When you are tired of achieving, try receiving instead. God will give you the eyes to see “Grace.”