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.
But as I was reflecting on all this the other day, I was struck with a powerful thought:
Lent is bigger than me.
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.
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.
You can bet your bottom dollar that I won’t be giving up sweets any time soon.
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.
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.