“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.” John 4:34
As a teenager, I struggled with an eating disorder for the last few years of high school. But the first semester of my freshman year at college I managed to get my eating somewhat under control. Living in a totally new environment, meeting new friends, and having new experiences distracted me from my obsession with food. With the ample amount of walking between classes and life in a dorm room with no kitchen, the few extra pounds I had given too much attention to for the past couple of years had melted away, along with the dark cloud that had always seemed to follow me to and from every meal.
But as the holiday season approached, the extended visit home with the lifelong family Christmas traditions, frankly scared me. The biggest challenge of all loomed ahead: my parents’ Christmas open house.
This annual tradition had grown from a gathering of my parents and their friends and their children, to families with their children’s “significant others,” and now grandchildren, as well. This gathering centered around food, and my mother’s food was famous. (One year a young adult guest asked my mother for a “doggie bag.” The rest of the guests, while not agreeing as to the propriety of the request, agreed wholeheartedly to the sentiment.) Home baked Christmas cookies, including “seven-layer bars” (Just picture seven of the most delicious and fattening ingredients piled up and cut into bars.), spiral cut ham and turkey for finger sandwiches, some of the most exquisite appetizers, including my very favorites – mayonnaise and parmesan cheese spread over bread and broiled until golden brown (Nope, no calories there.) – all these delights, not to mention the colorful ginger-ale-rainbow-sherbet punch, made the idea of surviving the evening binge-free seem like an impossibility. I prayed for God’s help but anticipated an evening of either abject failure or being miserable with deprivation as I watched everyone else eating what I wanted to stuff myself with.
As the food was being laid out on the long dining room table, the first of the guests began to arrive. One of them was Claire, a former high school classmate that I hadn’t seen since graduation. I had been home just once for fall break, and had only seen my friend Laurie. Having “rediscovered” Jesus (getting plugged into a fellowship of other Christian girls in my dorm) I’d had so much to share with Laurie that later I was afraid I had “talked her ear off.” And since she hadn’t cried out, “What must I do to be saved?!” I had concluded that my attempt at “witnessing” had been unfruitful.
I welcomed Claire and offered her something to drink. We got a couple of diet Cokes from the bar and sat on the couch to catch up on each others’ lives. To my surprise, Claire started asking me about my faith; it seemed she had talked with Laurie, who had told her I had a lot to share. I began to tell her about some of my experiences, but as more guests arrived, the noise level increased accordingly. When it got to the point of being frustrating, Claire and I went upstairs to my room to continue the conversation.
As Jesus said, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks,” (Luke 6:45) and I felt my joy tumbling out with my words. I told her how we’ve all sinned, and how when I realized Jesus loved me enough to die for me, paying the penalty for my sin, it set me free to stop wallowing in guilt and live the “abundant life” He had created me for. (I did not tell her about my eating issues – baby steps…) Every time I thought perhaps I was babbling on too much, Claire would ask another question, and off I’d go again. Occasionally she would say, “Yes, Laurie was telling me about that!” I marveled that she had heard my testimony from someone who was not even a believer yet. Nothing at the bar could have matched my spiritual “high” as I sensed God’s presence in that room, wooing another soul.
I don’t know exactly how long we were there, talking about school, life, and most of all Jesus, but it must have been pretty long, because when we came back downstairs people had started to leave, and empty platters were being cleared away – and I hadn’t eaten a bite. I barely had time to greet my parents’ friends and hear “Imagine! Little Ann is in college now!” I was delighted to find that the open house had passed, with my feeling neither guilty nor deprived. In fact, when we were talking about Jesus, I don’t remember the thought of food having crossed my mind.
Have you ever tried to rid your life of some sinful habit or obsession? Do you find that when your mind dismissed that thing, there was a vacuum that sucked it right back in? Its’ not enough to reject sin; something has to replace it. Paul wrote, “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18) That night I was terrified I would spend all evening binging, but God gave me something better – and more satisfying – to do.
If there’s something in your life that you are finding hard to let go of, pray about what the Lord might want to take its place – another way that your time, energy, and resources could be spent for His kingdom. Then stay close to Him and see where He leads you.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for dying to pay for our sins. If any of the readers of this post do not yet know You, please open their hearts and minds to You. Be not only our Savior, but also the Lord of our lives. Please continue cleansing our minds of the depraved, the deceiving, the distracting, and the dark. And replace them with what is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. In Your name, amen.
P.S. This was not the end of my struggles with eating and body image. There was a process the Lord took me through, involving His Word and my faith. I will tell that story in a future post.