“If you wish, you can make me clean.” Mark 1:40
This was spoken be a leper to Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. And every time I read this passage, I am reminded of one thing: surrender.
When I was trapped in the throes of anorexia those 15 years ago, I likened it to being stuck on a treadmill at full speed. There was no getting off, no stopping, I was just completely out of control. And all I could do was keep up, making it go faster and faster, every day pushing myself deeper and deeper into the disease.
It was all consuming, and gave me some twisted sense of control or power over my life that was shattering around me.
“If you wish, you can make me clean.”
As with all addiction, anorexia included, there will come a point where the bottom has fallen beneath you. Not just like, superficially, but actually you are in the parking garage level underneath rock bottom, and you lack the ability, resources and wherewithall to get out.
I remember that happened for me during intake at inpatient. I had just flown across the country to the top eating disorder inpatient treatment facility in the country. And I was swept up from my parents with a brief goodbye, and I was swiftly taken to the back room, where they were going to take my vitals, monitor me eating my first meal there, and do a “body check” where they’d do a full body scan for any signs of self harm, which sadly can go hand in hand with eating disorders.
I was not in a good place at this time. I was 78 pounds. My hair had all but fallen out – I had about four inches of peach fuzz…which was a far cry from my lion’s mane of ringlets that I was known for.
I was standing there, naked in a backless paper hospital gown, getting scrutinized for any signs of self mutilation, and I thought, “Caralyn. This is it. It does not get any lower than this.”
The rest of that afternoon was a blur. Except for bedtime. I was sleeping in a cot at the nurses’ station, because they were fearful that I would go into cardiac arrest in the middle of the night because I was so nutritionally depleted – and I just remember laying there, realizing that there was no way I could do this on my own. Simply zero. I was terrified of food and gaining weight. I deathly addicted to exercise. And I could see absolutely no scenario where I was able to get through those three months of inpatient on my own.
And so I just remember pleading to God to take it from me. To take the eating disorder. To make me clean.
I related so much to this leper: being seen as unclean, shunned by society. That’s the thing about eating disorders, and anorexia in particular: I was a walking billboard of my illness. And the sight of my gaunt, skeletal body — it scared people. My hollow cheeks and cold, gray skin: it pushed people away.
And people talk. I mean, how could they not. I was wasting away in front of their eyes.
I had become the outsider. Once on the homecoming court, dating the captain of the football team, and now the outcast. I was the leper.
“If You wish, You can make me clean.”
Jesus had been waiting for me to come to Him. He was waiting for me to reach out for His hand, so that He could swoop in and save me. And save me He did.
I don’t know exactly how I got through those three months at inpatient, but what I can tell you is that Jesus carried me through the whole way. Every meal, every supplement increase, every lonely moment, or those times when I wanted to give up. He carried me through.
That is the Father that we have.
That is the Savior that we have, and can place our trust in.
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