I was running and running and I couldn’t stop. Every time I stepped on the treadmill it seemed eerily similar to my life: Running as fast as I could, and yet staying in the same place. Running towards nothing.
The second semester of my junior year I lost myself. That’s when I began the running. I ran toward perfection. I ran toward control. I ran toward my eating disorder. I was living in my own prison, running from wall to wall, and I couldn’t escape. I prayed endlessly, but with empty intentions. I prayed for weight gain when I knew deep down I would not follow through. I prayed for normal eating when I knew I wanted to maintain control. How dangerous it was to risk my life for perfection. How dangerous it was to run away from God.
My world was predictable, and therefore, safe. I wanted to keep everything perfect so that I could be perfect. But I was looking for stability in a broken world tied to circumstances. I tried so desperately to let the fleeting satisfactions of the world fill a void in my heart that only God could. I was searching for control, approval, and reassurance in a world that couldn’t provide it, and running away from a God that could.
On June 29, 2015 God intervened and finally answered the countless prayers that I had prayed for months. Despite my sadness, tiredness, and lack of interest in anything, I decided to go to the chapel. That day I wrote these words in my journal as I sat in the quiet room alone with God and gave everything up to Him. From that day forward my life has been forever changed.
If only I had known how much those words would really mean. On that day, the Holy Spirit struck me and I had a glimpse of reality amidst the disordered, chaotic thoughts. I saw myself for what I was – weak, broken, lost. Running towards nothing. I realized that I no longer had to do this. I did not have to adhere to my food regimens and weight control attempts. I thought that would be my life. I would eat perfectly and maintain meticulous control over my days. But God had other plans for me. He took me out of deep waters and brought me to shore. He showed me that I could no longer fight this battle alone. I was so afraid to abandon the eating regimens that had provided me stability when all other areas of my life were out of control and chaotic; but I realized that God is stable despite the world’s instability. I needed Him, and He needed me to allow Him to take this burden.
The verse that gave me the most comfort during my season of recovery was psalm 23. I read this passage daily and found so much beauty, strength, and hope in God’s words:
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
As I walked through my darkest valley, God was with me. He had led me to the chapel the day that I began recovering. He whispered words of affirmation and hope as I fought each day to regain my health. When thoughts of fear entered my mind, God made me rest and find peace in Him. When my eating disorder thoughts whispered in my ear, God yelled words of affirmation.
I realized that I could not control my life no matter how hard I tried. I was simply not that powerful. But my God is. I was finally willing to accept the love and strength that He had been inviting me to receive for months. I was finally willing to abandon the unstable things of this world and let Him take over control. I was finally willing to let go of my own plans for my life and trust that His are infinitely better. I was finally willing to stop running and start walking at His pace.
In order to recover, I had to first forgive myself. I had to forgive myself for damaging my body, hurting my family and friends, and potentially harming my health for the rest of my life. But I remembered that God had already forgiven me. He forgave me before I even asked for forgiveness. He forgave my selfishness, my abandonment, my running from Him, and my attempts to be more powerful than Him. While I ran every aspect of my life without God, He had been right there waiting for me to run into His arms again. His grace allowed me to find my own. And that grace allowed me to recover.
For so long I had been so hungry. I felt physical hunger. But more so, I felt spiritual hunger. I felt a yearning deep down to my core for peace, acceptance, forgiveness, and love. I realized that for so long I had looked to the things of the world to fill me up, but they only left me hungry. No 100 on a test, no tiny clothing size, no perfect student dietitian review, no number on the scale, no friendship, no calorie goal – nothing could fill me up in the way that I longed for. So I turned to the God who could. Once I learned to accept God’s unconditional peace, acceptance, forgiveness, and love I finally felt the fullness I had been craving. Once I stopped flirting with the temporary pleasures of the world and started abiding in the goodness of my God, I began to work for something more than a perfect diet. The things that once provided temporary fullness and then left me hungry no longer had a place in my life. I was living for eternal purposes – following God’s plan for me, healing my body, glorifying Him through my story, and using my newfound understanding to counsel others struggling with eating disorders.
When I found myself again, I found joy. Through God’s love and grace, I broke through the chains of my own prison and am now living in complete freedom. This isn’t to say that each day is perfect; but now I choose daily to take up my cross and follow Jesus. This is the life God intended for me to live. God used my weaknesses to show me how much I needed Him. I was not made to live ashamed. I was not made to live afraid. I was not made to live alone. He used my battles to strengthen me in preparation to use my gifts, talents, and life for their intended purposes. The toughest trial of my life was simply a gateway to help me fulfill dreams I never even knew I had, and to experience a life that I never knew I was capable of living.
Through this entire experience, I have learned so many lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. God does not put us through trials without reason; He has a greater purpose that we discover as we lean on Him to carry us through our season of suffering. I learned that I should never underestimate my God – He can take on so much more than what I ask or allow Him to. He taught me that if I fully, heavily, strongly, and confidently rely on Him, he could help me overcome the irrational rules I made for myself that fed my eating disorder. He has taught me that I am strong and worthy of health. He showed me that I could do hard things. And most importantly, He taught me to stop running alone and to start walking with Him.