We struggle to view ourselves accurately

I am in recovery from an eating disorder. Mine took the form of starvation - commonly referred to as anorexia. Back in the day when I suffered from my condition there wasn’t much conversation about such things. Generally speaking, people thought I was self-controlled. Part of the issue was denial. People close to me did not notice (or pretended not to) that I started acting weird. I stopped showing up for dinner; I disappeared when my friends ordered in pizza. I skipped events where food was served. I over-exercised. I got really skinny, which was all the rage in terms of style. Dieting and starving and such were the norm. My grandmother even bought a contraption that was supposed to jiggle off fat. It had a wide belt and when powered up it would shake and shimmy and the user would wrap it around their body and just wait for the fat to melt away. In fairness, I am sure any veiled attempt to bring up and discuss my bizarre change in eating habits was met with resistance. I did not think I needed help; I certainly was not open to feedback. Denial complicates healing.

Denial’s common definition is “doing the same thing over and over expecting different results” (but never getting different results). My denial fit that definition and then some. Scott McBean, Co-Pastor with me at Northstar Community defines denial like this: DENIAL IS AN AGGRESSIVE PURSUIT OF FANTASY LIVING; IT IS A DECISION TO CHASE THE LIE OVER THE TRUTH. I was NOT living in reality. In reality we need nutrients; I despised ripe red juicy apples, rejected chocolate chip cookies, and refused hot, warm bread freshly baked out of my grandmother’s oven. We need to socialize and hang out with our tribe; I stopped returning my friends’ calls. We need rest; I spent my nights doing crunches and running to keep my calories in the deficit column. My heart and mind were broken and I needed rescue.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there;

if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath.

Disciples so often get into trouble;

still, God is there every time.

He’s your bodyguard, shielding every bone;

not even a finger gets broken.

The wicked commit slow suicide;

they waste their lives hating the good.

God pays for each slave’s freedom;

no one who runs to him loses out.

~ Psalm 34:18-22, The Message

How might denial be complicating your life?

Running for my life

In the bible we find an amazing book of poetry that speaks to people living through impossible situations without much support. Early in my recovery I could not read the psalms; they triggered me. I felt irritable, restless and discontent when I read them.

I thought they were a bunch of baloney.

Then one day I was reading about David. My childhood had taught me about David, the giant slayer, but my summer-go-to-grandma’s church Sunday School teachers had definitely skipped over the chapters where King David became an adulterer, a murderer (by proxy), and a pretty unimpressive father. This fuller version of David’s life story completely opened the psalms up to me - since he is attributed with writing many of them. Today I love the psalms. They do not “should” and “ought” me with demands for perfect trust. Today, I read them with more context and a touch of imagination. When I read Psalm 23, I think of David running for his life, chased by his many enemies. I can see his arms pumping, his legs churning, his breath coming in deep and uneven gasps as he cries out, daring to hope but not quite believing, that what he is praying is true. He is disciplining himself to believe in a God who loves him in spite of his world offering little evidence that God does love him OR that he, David, deserves it. Got the picture? Now listen in…

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall lack nothing.

He makes me lie down in green pastures,

He leads me beside quiet waters,

He restores my soul...

~ Psalm 23:1-3, NIV

David is a guy who was a “man after God’s own heart” before and after the Bathsheba scandal. When confronted with his sins by Nathan, he confessed and received forgiveness. He did horrible things in his life; he loved God well and true for much of his life also. Complicated. Human. Loved by God.

How about you? Have you the spiritual bandwidth to live with such a complicated reality for David? For yourself? For others?