“Do not gloat over me my enemy, though I have fallen I will get up” (Micah 7:8)
For those of you who know me, you know that I’m not the most graceful person around. I find myself stumbling over non-existent items , breaking un-breakable objects, slipping on non-slippery surfaces, and falling flat on my face without tripping over anything. In fact the first couple lines of the song Falling, by Florence and the Machine describe me well…
“I’ve fallen out of favor and I’ve fallen from grace,
Fallen out of trees and fallen on my face
Fallen out of taxis out of windows too…”
These kind of falls aren’t that bad. Of course, there’s always potential for injury, and they may be a bit humiliating . But, they can’t leave my heart cut in two, putting me in intensive care and waiting for emergency surgery to sew the wound back together. And although, there is healing there is a scar. A scar that reminds me of how far I fell and how far I can fall again if I’m not careful.
When I took my first fall I’m not even sure I realized I was flying towards the ground with an un-stoppable speed. You see, I was born into a Christian family and I became a Christian at a very early age. And from the start, I desired to be the best Christian ever! I went to Church, I went to youth group, I read my Bible, I prayed, I invited friends to Church, I didn’t get mad, I was a peace-maker, while others were takers I was a giver, and of course when I grew up I was going to be a Missionary.
And then I entered High School. Wow! Ok, I’m still doing all the things a good little Christian girl should do. With the exception of the fact that I now know that I’m going to be a spectacular athlete. Maybe in basketball, maybe in track, maybe in both. I’m going to break the records, run the fastest. I am going to be the star. But wait, there’s other girls who are just as good as I am, maybe even better. And not only in athletics, but in academics, popularity, and in looks. I’m not sure I measure up so well against my competition. I need something to make me stand out in the crowd. I don’t want to be average. I’m afraid I’m might be JUST average.
So, here I was standing on the first ledge. I didn’t even know that I had climbed so high. I didn’t even know I was looking over the mountain top into the valley. I was so unaware of where I was heading that the next step took me a little by surprise. Because with that next step I stepped off of the ledge and into a tail-spin. I was falling and falling fast. But thankfully, there was something to stop the fall. I reached out for the branch that was sticking out of the mountain wall. I knew it could hold me, stop my fall, and drive out the fear of being just average.
The minute I grabbed my safety line, the branch, I knew I wasn’t going to be average anymore. I was going to be the best at something. I was going to be so good and so disciplined people would start to take notice. I wouldn’t just blend in anymore. When I started to become obsessed with not eating, the weight I was losing and the weight I wanted to lose, I didn’t have a name for it. I just felt in control. I wasn’t falling anymore. I felt better than ever, on top of the world. I had such self-discipline it was amazing. I was good at this, anorexia, my salvation, the disease that was suddenly filling the void within my soul.
What I was doing, of course, was in secret, but people noticed I was thinner. Man, the comments were the best. “You look like you’ve lost weight?” “Have you been sick? You look thinner.” Awesome! It was working. I was doing the perfect job at starving myself. (Needless to say, any athletic dream I had was out the window. I didn’t have the energy or the desire anymore to participate in sports. A dream given up, but it’s not until later we realize that what we give up costs way more than what we think is bringing us pleasure).
But then, for some reason the branch began to shake, my safety net didn’t feel so safe anymore. I heard it crack and I knew it wouldn’t be long before it would break and I would be falling again. Sure enough, the void was back, the anorexia wasn’t satisfying me anymore. It was hard work. I was tired of being so self-disciplined and with that I felt my body quickly falling to meet the ground.
I needed another branch. There has to be another branch. There is another branch. I just have to reach for it and it will stop me from falling. Bulimia, the disgusting, ugly, spinning out of control branch of bulimia. How embarrassing ! How could I grab onto this branch. I hate it. But, I need it. It’s filling the gap I so desperately want closed! Does it make me feel good about myself? No way? Do I feel like I’m in control? No way? But, I keep doing it because if I stop I’ll start falling again and I don’t want to hit bottom and die. But, I do want to die, because death would bring freedom from the falling. Death would bring release from the thoughts and the obsession. Death would bring healing. Maybe I do want to jump off this branch and hit bottom? I’m going to die from the eating disorder anyway, why not do it now? Get it over with!?
And so I jump, and I’m falling again. Why can’t I just find peace? Why can’t I just find the satisfaction I’m looking for? If God is such a loving God why am I struggling so much. I hate myself, in fact, I hate all people, and I hate God the most. Life isn’t fair and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it. Why won’t he just step in and change things. Wait! Maybe I don’t want to hit bottom. No! Not yet, I don’t want to give up. Tomorrow I’ll change. Tomorrow it’s going to be different. I need another branch and I’ll change. I promise I’ll change!
The other branch must be from the same tree as the other branches. The bulimia didn’t go away. I just started mixing it with anorexia. I wouldn’t eat ANYTHING for 4 days and on the 5th day I’d binge and get rid of it, then I wouldn’t eat anything for 2 days, and on the 3rd day I’d binge and get rid of it. It got to the point that I wouldn’t eat anything, fruit, a popsicle, a chip, nothing! And, if I did I would immediately throw it up. Gross! Gross! Disgusting! It’s humiliating just writing about it. I’m one big screw-up, failure, waste of life. Why haven’t I died from this yet!? God, if you’re real please let me die! I can’t handle this life anymore.
Get of the branch! Get off the branch! There’s no more satisfaction in anorexia or bulimia. I need something else, not something else to fill the void, but something else to escape from the eating disorder. I need to find relief from it, from the thoughts, from the obsession, from the depression. There has to be another branch. There’s always another branch and another branch and another branch. There’s always something to fill that void. And there will always be something else needed to fill the void if it’s not filled with the only One who can bring complete satisfaction and sew up the gap, leaving it longing no more.
Alcohol abuse. Escape. A few hours. No thoughts. No thoughts. Peace. Fake Peace. But peace, if only for a few hours. I don’t have to think about food, I don’t have to think about weight, I don’t have to think. Period. I don’t have to think. Except the high wears off and when the high wears off it takes me lower than where I once was. So, I need more, but it wears off again and takes me deeper into the valley. I can’t even see the mountain top anymore. The Summit is gone from my view. Is there even a Summit? I’m not sure. I’m in deep. I’m in a cycle that has no end. I’m spinning . I don’t want to spin. But, I don’t want to stop spinning. But, I do want to stop spinning. How do I stop spinning? Death. Death will make it stop. I want death. I’m stepping off the branch.
I step off the branch. I hit rock-bottom. But, I’m not dead. I want to be dead. I don’t want to be dead. I need help. “God are you there? I need help. I mean I really need help. Jesus, I need you. I need Your help. Can you help me? Will you help me?” I think I hear something. I do hear his voice. His Sheep know his voice and they listen to Him! (John 10:27)
“Child, child you are mine. I love you. You are priceless. (1 Cor. 6:20) You are worth something! You are special! You’ve always been special. Stop seeking to fill the void! Stop putting your identity in fleeting things. Put your identity in me. You are mine. I am yours. You are complete in me. You don’t need anything to make you stand out, to make you above average. I created you. I created you with my very hand, you are my masterpiece. You are perfection. (Psalm 139) Stop trying to change that.
Child fill the void with me. You have freedom from every addiction, from every sin, from every trap that wants to ensnarl you. My death gave you freedom. Claim it. Claim it daily. Pick up your cross. You have the choice. Never believe that you are without choice. Put off your old self and choose to put on my armor. It will help you stand strong against Satan’s Schemes. (Eph. 6:13) My death set you free so you could be free. It can’t get any easier than that. I gave you freedom so you could be free. (Titus 2:14) Now, child, stop looking down! Look up. Look up! I am the lifter of your head. (Psalm 3:3) I am your salvation. You need nothing more. Look up! I am the True Vine, the Strong Vine you are the branch. (John 15:5) Look up! Stand in my freedom! Walk in my freedom!
I can hold you safely. I won’t let you fall. Although, you can choose to fall, but if you stay in Me, you will not fall. Look up. Though you have fallen you will get up! Don’t be ashamed of where you have been. Though you were filthy you are now clean. White as snow. Washed by my blood. (Isaiah 1:18) The past. Gone. Forgiven. Forgotten. But, don’t forget it. Don’t forget that is wasn’t glamorous, it wasn’t fulfilling. Don’t forget! Because I don’t want you to go back there.
You allowed your heart to become a heart of stone. And with each fall, and each branch that couldn’t hold you it broke. Broke into pieces. I’m grafting it back together. It will leave you with a scar. The scar will serve as your reminder of how far you fell, of how far you’re capable of falling, and how far you do not want to fall again. You are fragile now, but with each step in freedom you will become stronger, and the stronger you get the more careful you must be. When you are on the top, when you’ve reached the summit, that is when you must especially be on guard because from the summit comes the farthest fall. But I have faith in you and I love you more than you can imagine. That is why ” I lifted you out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; and I set your feet on a rock and gave you a firm place to stand.” (Psalm 40:2) I rescued you because I delighted in you.” (Psalm 18:19) You delight in me? Yes, I delight in you!
This is the past. My Past. The past that tried to embezzle my future. The past that has the potential to steal my present if I don’t “stand firm” (Galations 5:1) and take my “thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) How do I keep from falling again?
I started to slip not because I started to do the wrong things, but because I stopped doing the right things. I didn’t have time for God. My focus was on me and I started placing my identity in places that could never complete me.
Thankfully, only through Christ, was I able to find freedom from a lifestyle of addictions and disorders. When I first was set free from this destructive lifestyle, my mom and I would speak to youth groups, Jr. high and high school students, etc. and warn them of the dangers of eating disorders and the effect it can have on the rest of the family. When I started getting caught up in sin, I was so selfish. It didn’t cross my mind that what I was doing had the potential to take its toll on those around me. Sin doesn’t just affect one person.
The other thing about sin is that satan makes it look so glamorous and so tempting. We begin to think we can’t live without it and at the same time he diminishes the consequences. He doesn’t want us to think that a couple days of counting calories and getting on the scale could turn into a deadly eating disorder. He doesn’t want us to think that one drink could lead to alcoholism. One drag to a controlling and overwhelming addiction. But then, the minute we give into that sin, the minute we take hold of it and fulfill the temptation, he rips us to shreds. “Are you kidding me? You just did that? You call yourself a Christian? You love the Lord? I beg to differ! If you love Him so much you’d never do what you just did! You know, He won’t love you anymore! He can’t love you anymore! You’ve gone too far this time. You’ve crossed that sacred line and there’s no getting back!” The lies he feeds us. The deception he breeds. And sadly, we believe him.
But, we don’t have to. We don’t have to believe that we don’t have a choice. That we’re in too deep. That there’s no getting out. No stopping the cycle. I’ve learned it’s my choice to follow Christ’s voice. It’s my choice to walk in freedom. This is a daily decision. An hourly decision. A minute by minute decision.
There eventually came I time when I stopped talking about my past. I stopped speaking at youth groups and schools. I’m not sure why? Maybe because those struggles feel like a lifetime ago. Or maybe because those struggles still try to rear their ugly heads. Maybe because I want people to know who I am today and not think of me in regards to my past. Maybe because over the last few years I’ve slipped. I’ve let go of the Vine and grabbed onto branches, once again, that can’t hold me. Some of them have been the same branches that were in my past. Branches I swore I’d never go back to. And then there’s different branches. Branches I knew, for a fact, I would never hang onto, only to find myself dangling on the limb, waiting for the snap.
And maybe, I stopped talking about my past because I was afraid that I might be talking one way but walking in the opposite direction. No one likes a hypocrite. And I never want to proclaim freedom if I’m choosing to dwell in the pit. But the fact is, I do KNOW there IS FREEDOM from EVERY addiction, from every sin. The minute Christ died on the cross He broke the chains. He set the captive free. If I struggle today, it’s a choice. It’s a conscious decision to walk back into the cell, shut the door, and live in captivity. I apologize to those who know me and who have heard me proclaim my love for Christ but have seen me walk in my own way.
I am thankful for God’s ever- flowing forgiveness, mercy , grace, and faithfulness even in my unfaithfulness. I’m thankful that His love endures for me even when I let go of the Vine. I’m thankful that He is the God of never-ending chances. I am thankful that He provided a way for Freedom in this life and life-eternal.
See the place called Golgotha
Remembering His crown of Thorns
The undaunted slow motion of His crucifixion
the Temple curtain
See where I am now
Remembering what it cost
Just one thing I’ve learned
One thing learned while I was lost
Just one thing Brother, Sister
Pick up your Cross