Well, today is the first day of Lent.
The 40 days where, as Christians, we prepare for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter by seeking a true conversion of heart to follow Christ more deeply.
And every time this day rolls around, I am given the gut punch of a reminder that today also marks the onset of my anorexia, some 16 years ago.
Back in 2006, as a junior in high school, little miss student-athlete perfectionist was trying to “challenge herself” by giving up sweets for Lent. Innocent enough. Little did I know that that choice would be the absolute worst decision of my life, snowballing to years of severe anorexia, followed by several more years of a disordered relationship with food and exercise, more than a decade of amenorrhea, and a wake of destroyed relationships, dreams, and self-respect to follow.
All of that, can be traced back to a decision I made sixteen years ago, today.
I never let myself think about it, every year when Lent rolls around. I never let myself “go there,” emotionally. And to be honest, if this blog post didn’t fall tonight, on the actual day, I probably would have just let this day glaze by, without really acknowledging the impact it made on my life, and the feelings I’ve bottled up as a result.
But as I’ve been mulling it over today, and praying about it, there’s been something very poignant that keeps coming to my mind and heart:
Lent is not about me.
*Scoff* I’m embarrassed to even type that out, because…I think to myself…”DUH Caralyn! How could you even think about making this about you!”
But it’s more than just that.
In this season of Lent, we are supposed to align our hearts with Christ, and participate in His suffering leading up to the Cross and Resurrection. Jesus: flogged, humiliated, beaten, mocked and crucified all in love for us – we are to unite ourselves to Him, and share in some bit of that.
And what I keep feeling in my heart, is that in preparation for Jesus’ Resurrection at Easter, I’m being called to reflect on this: What God used to break me, He has used to rebuild me.
On this “anniversary of sorts,” instead of getting angry or bitter or resentful about the decisions I made all those years ago that led to my anorexia, I need to “offer it up,” as so many Christians have banally said before me.
But it’s true. I need to surrender those negative feelings, and instead look at how Jesus delivered me through that season. How, yes — that was a season of suffering. Not only for me, but my loved ones, too. But it is precisely because of that season that God was able to truly reach me.
I had to endure that season of darkness in order to fully appreciate that I am nothing without God. All my hair had fallen out, I was flirting with death at a mere 78 pounds, I had pushed everyone away, and was living only for my eating disorder.
That period established my utter and complete dependance on God for literally everything that sustains me both physically and spiritually.
It was only through experiencing first-hand what it meant to be alone, hopeless, terrified, in despair, completely empty in every sense of the word, with nowhere else to turn — that I realized that, not only was God the only thing I had left, but that God was the only thing that could get me out of that pit of rock bottom. I had thrown my life away, but God was able to rescue me, and love me back to life. And not just life, but life in abundance.
“But we also rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. – Romans 5:3-5
It’s time I finally offer that up once and for all. Not just push it under the rug and try and forget about it every time this day rolls around. But truly surrender it to Christ. Because His deliverance is the absolute greatest blessing in my entire life.
And His resurrection — His triumph over death — is the hope that saved, not only me, but the whole world.
That is what Easter is all about. And as we prepare for it, during Lent, it’s time I really come nose to nose with what He actually delivered me from, and how He has ultimately turned that pain into something good.
Friends, as we go forth during Lent, may we each fully examine our hearts — even the dusty, hidden away parts we like to forget exist — and surrender them to Jesus. Because like the Resurrection that we’re preparing for, He has proven that He makes all things new.
And one final thought that came to me 15 minutes before this was scheduled to publish: is that when God rescued me, I was not in a state where I was “ready” to be rescued. The perfectionist in me would have wanted to be polished, poised, unblemished, welcoming. But no. I was the lowest of low. He didn’t care.
He came to save me as I was. As the broken, lying, destructive, manipulative, girl with a laundry list of sins a mile long. He still saw my dignity and worth as a child of God. He still loved me and believed that, despite all of that, I was worth saving. I didn’t have to be perfect or “in good condition” to be saved. Heck, then I wouldn’t have needed saving.
I don’t know, but maybe someone needed to hear that tonight. I know I sure did.
OK, bye for real.
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