Redefining Lent


Lent.

*sigh*

This is a rather bittersweet time of year for me personally. Because even though it is leading up to Easter and is such a beautiful and intentional season of reflection, it also brings up a lot of pain for me.

Because you see, Lent of sophomore year in high school, was when my anorexia first began.

I gave up sweets.

 

Innocent enough. No desserts or sweets for 40 days. I was being a good little Catholic girl — “challenging” myself during this season of lenten fasting and penance.

But what started as that small denial, quickly spiraled into a lifestyle of extreme restriction, and the next thing I know, I had wasted away to 78 pounds, knocking on death’s door as a shell of my former existence – physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually.

So yeah, I look forward to Lent just about as much as I do a root canal.

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But as I was reflecting on all this the other day, I was struck with a powerful thought:

Lent is bigger than me.

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Lent is bigger and more important than Little Ol’ Me going boo-hoo, it makes me feel bad about my past. 

You know what? Everybody has things that remind them of pain. Maybe it’s not an eating disorder, but everybody’s got something. Maybe a broken relationship, or the loss of a loved one or friend, a rejection by a peer, missing out on an opportunity, getting cut from the team, betrayal, bullying. Whatever it is, everybody has reminders of pain or trials in their life.

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And if there’s ever a time to “look beyond myself,” it’s Lent, for cryin’ out loud. This is a time when we reflect on the fact that Jesus made the decision to die on the Cross for us. For you. For me. For my sins. For my eating disorder.

So yes, maybe it’s a little sobering to think about my eating disorder every time Lent rolls around. But perhaps, instead of viewing it from a self-pity/victim stand point, what if I’m supposed to be reminded of that darkness, so that I can fully appreciate what my freedom truly cost? What if I’m supposed to remember, so that I can rejoice in His saving power in my life? Rejoice in the fact that I’m not trapped in that hell hole of anorexia anymore? Rejoice that I was rescued?

Maybe, just maybe, that timing is not by accident.

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So.

Lent.

You can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be giving up sweets any time soon.

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And in fact, I won’t be doing any dietary fasting, period. It is detrimental to my recovery to fast, even for one day, even for religious reasons. I have vowed never to abuse my body and withhold nutrients from it ever again. I made that promise to Jesus and myself. And tbh, I think it gives Jesus more joy for me to eat and nourish myself for His glory, than to fast and flirt with the behaviors that nearly took my life nearly ten years ago today.

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I will instead fast from negative self talk. From thoughts and lies that erode my self worth. From comparing myself to others and setting the unattainable standard of perfection for my life/body/possessions. I will instead fill myself with His love for me. “Feast” on His words of truth and love. “Feast” on the joy that comes from His forgiveness and from His saving and healing hand in my life.

This is Lent.

It is no longer a reminder of the destruction that nearly took my life, but a reminder of my rescuing by a Savior who gave me new life.

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317 thoughts on “Redefining Lent

  1. Sobering story Beauty. I have yet to confront your situation face to face but what you lay down here has provided me different a perspective on the limits that humanity can bring. May God grant you grace and insight at whatever level you find yourself right now. Others need the first hand knowledge that your powerful testimony provides . God bless

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    • Thank you so much for this encouragement and affirmation. It really means a lot. Yeah everyone has different struggles, but how comforting to know that we have such a loving and merciful Father that will always take care of His children. Thanks again for stopping by. Hugs and love to you!

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      • Wow I so relate to you even though my issues were different. This Lent for me was more about embracing God’s love and not trying to earn it. Thanks for visiting my blog.

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  2. I am so pleased you enjoyed my post about persistence. I have read several of yours and admire your courage and thoughtfulness. I wish you the best in your recovery and pray that you continue to inspire others!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your story! I am a dietitian and have a little bit of a history of disordered eating, so I totally related with you on the whole using religious fasting to cut calories, etc. I’ve done it myself and also now choose to give up things other than food for Lent. Congrats on your recovery! One thing I am am curious about, from what I have heard about eating disorders, it’s usually not about the eating disorder or the food. The root of the problem usually stems from other things-wanting control, family issues, mental disorders, etc. Do you peg Lent as your starting point or as part of the problem (I guessing specifically the fasting)?

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    • Hi Nikki! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond! You bring up a great point. I have written pretty extensively about this in earlier entries, but you’re right on the money — the weight loss is merely a symptom of an underlying issue. And it’s different for everybody. For me it was believing that I wasn’t worthy of love unless I was perfect. So giving up sweets for Lent was the “perfect” thing to give up because I had set such an unattainable standard for myself, that of course, I was going to do the hardest thing for Lent. It’s all very complicated. lol I hope that helps. But yeah, it was definitely just a symptom of a bigger problem. Hence, why ED’s aren’t about the weight. Thank you so much for reading! hugs and love to you xoxo

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  4. Fasting is obligatory for those in the age range on two days of Lent, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Fasting means two small meals, like snacks, and one normal meal. It would seem better for your mental health if you worked with your confessor toward meeting without exceeding that obligation. There will be many times in your life when you will have to fast for a variety of un-religious reasons–for surgery, for example. You can’t cut it out of your life because you tend to overdo. Doesn’t that suggest you haven’t overcome the problem, actually?

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    • Hi Janet, thank you for this response. You bring up some great points here. I am definitely aware of the fasting guidelines. And I have talked to my priest about it. After much prayer, we decided that dietary fasting is not beneficial for me or my faith. Plus, I have ulcerative colitis which I stay in remission and manage through diet. So there’s that aspect that is a factor in that decision too. But we decided that fasting from other, non-dietary things, is better, as well as adding in additional things to “do” — i.e., rosary, daily mass, holy hour, etc. So there’s that. I hope that clarifies things for you. And to answer your question about my decision not to fast as being indicative of not truly having overcome the problem…my answer is: absolutely not. I HAVE overcome the problem and embraced recovery. Part of living a recovered life is protecting your recovery at all costs. And what that looks like for me, is to uphold the promise that I made to myself and to Jesus to never withhold nutrients from my body ever again. And flirting with the behavior that literally almost killed me is detrimental to my recovery. Not because it would make me yearn for that empty feeling in my stomach again, or because I’m not strong enough to “handle” it — but because it is playing with fire. I am protecting my recovery by not putting myself in a situation that dances around that mindset. Yes, I respect and am grateful and praise Jesus for what He did on the Cross, and long to do everything I can in life to show that appreciation and worship Him — but doing so by partaking in the behavior that ED (Satan) used to try and end my life, is not the way to do so. Although unintentional, fasting is a tiny crack that ED could find his way into and bring seven of his friends. I know this is quite the passionate answer, but I feel very passionate and strongly about it. I love Jesus. My healthy body and recovered life is my greatest form of worship to Him.

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    • All sorts of red flags are flying up right now. I like to remind people to walk a mile in someone’s shoes before judging them; would that be appropriate for someone with no feet?

      The Law was intended to help people, not cause them problems.

      I’m having problems with the word obligatory.

      People, like myself, who have addictions and are successfully dealing with them and know their limitations ARE successful in their efforts. To tell me that my unsubscribing from retail sales emails is an indication of my not having fully overcome my addiction to spending would be cruel, unkind, and insensitive. What possible motive would someone have to say such a thing?

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      • Hi Kitsy, thank you for this response. I appreciate you sharing this perspective. It sounds like you’ve also found a “formula” that works for you. You’re right-recovery looks different for everyone. But one common theme that I can pretty safely say for any person in recovery for anything-is that they proactively protect their recovery-whether that’s by unsubscribing to emails, or not hanging out at a bar, or not looking at a computer late at night, or refraining from fasting. You protect your recovery by not putting yourself in situations that will cause you to flirt with fire. Anywho. Loved your wisdom. Thank you for this ☺️

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  5. Pingback: Earbud Life | BeautyBeyondBones

  6. “What if I’m supposed to remember, so that I can rejoice in His saving power in my life?” Amen to that! Romans 6 says our old man was crucified with Jesus & that we were raised with Jesus to a new life. Lent is the anniversary of your death & resurrection with Jesus. I don’t fast either (http://thevoiceofone.org/2014/11/17/why-i-dont-fast/) & don’t feel it’s necessary, especially if doing so would harm you. Jesus said the Sabbath (& by extension any observance) was made for man, not the other way around!

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  7. Reblogged this on Using God's Word in Everyday Life and commented:
    When we consider all our failures in the past, it prevents us having joy in the present and hope for the future. Let us turn to Jesus and consider what He has done. He has taken our past and thrown it away. Now let us stop looking behind and start looking ahead to Christ.

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