This month I decided to share my testimony of the way God has (and is still) changing me into a person who worships Him alone. I hope to communicate just how gracious and big God is to change sinners who feel very stuck in sin into lovers of Jesus.

I am a sinner who has tried so many self-devised ways to get through life. I grew up in church and was a really a fan of God, but had no desire for God to rule over some parts of my life. Deep inside, I did not agree with God that his creation of life was good… or the way he created me because of my interpretation of pain I saw and felt. I became so frustrated with God because I felt there was a lack of resources for me in his way of living to deal with what I was feeling especially after the death of someone close to me. I felt that being a Christian would look put together, happy, and successful…and I TRIED and TRIED, but felt I needed something deeper, more drastic, and stronger to handle what I felt because I did not have a very big or accurate understanding of God.

My sin seemed to give me relief and created an alternate life to live apart from stress, pressure, and depression.  I learned early that people develop ways of attempting to control what they fear or what they do not want to feel and I chose my own method and dove into an eating disorder when I was 13 which would continue for the next ten years.   I trusted only in myself to keep my life under control. I piled added guilt and shame on top of this through many other foolish choices. I lived with the guilt of lying almost daily to cover my behavior. I saw many of the Christians around me as people who expected me to behave a certain way. And I realized that they just did not know how to deal with some of my best kept secrets, and would rather not know these things, so I tried to keep it quiet and not be an embarrassment. Most people were deceived, but a few knew my life and I know that I was the girl they hoped would not influence their daughter.

As part of my attempt at relief, I would turn hard-core to pursue the life of the perfect Christian in hopes that I would feel better, but also because pride was important to hang onto …but I was terribly insecure about whether or not I was even saved. I was tormented by this fear for years.  I asked Jesus to save me every day for long stretches of time. Nothing was secure.  I understood that salvation was not by works, but it was like I spent my life trying to work up enough faith within myself for God to accept me, and I swung to the other extreme of “laying down” in my sin so to speak. I judged my standing with God by everything I did, every way I felt, whether or not I could shake the depression and anxiety, whether circumstances were favorable. I think that I did not trust my life to the promise that if I looked to Jesus alone to save my life, I would live…that he holds onto and saves me. My life was worth too much to me to risk trusting another person’s Word that he could save and keep me, and so without understanding what I was doing, I added to the requirements and strived to change my own heart by looking inward to see if I was producing enough “saving faith”. I wanted God to work for me. When I couldn’t get what I wanted by using God I always turned to my idols. What I wanted needed to change.

I did know that God was the only thing in life that was not futile…and  I wanted my life to mean something, and be of some value, so I went to Bible college, and as much as I wanted to be a different person there, I took me with me… I used food and meds to get through the challenges of college life.  Eventually, I saw that my eating disorder and habits of escape prevented me from living anything near a normal life, consuming most of my time, and I sought help from Vision of Hope. I wanted my life to turn out better than it was, but God even used that incorrect motivation for his plan, because his plan was for me to be in this program.

Because I actually grew up handling everything with an eating disorder, to be honest, I didn’t have hope that I could do more than stop temporarily and/or replace it with some other habit. I let an eating disorder define me in my head…it was just as much a part of me as the color of my eyes or my height. It was my constant companion, and my focus.

The first year and a half of counseling was an endless cycle (on my part) of attempts to use God and his way to get the life, positive circumstances and feelings I wanted, and God was faithful to me never to give me any success in using him as an idol to get to all the various things I thought could make my life worth living. I did not see HIM as the treasure.

In my pride, stubbornness, fear I almost squandered the help that I had. My good girl façade that probably only existed in my head at this point collapsed… but the Lord was there … and he was gracious to answer my begging and pleading. Literally from the floor I would cry to God to open my heart and eyes to see him as better than the small benefit I was getting from my idolatry. He has been and is a better master to me than sin (I am continually learning that).

I began to see exactly where I was living… as a Pharisee who could no longer balance all the requirements. I couldn’t keep it under control anymore! I was still living in a self-created prison of rules. Though I was trying to balance the life of a good Christian My sinful “disorder” had been my identity, my worth, my consolation that had not totally let go…I used that identity to cope even when I was not practicing the behavior, but as I read a sermon on Hosea I began to desire intimacy with God instead of idols. I was forfeiting the grace that would have been there for my life by valuing control of my life and my pride over God.

I could speak the Gospel, I could explain forgiveness. I could talk through what it meant to accept forgiveness on God’s terms, but was told to look at what the past months of my life were saying… and I heard myself say I accept what God offers, but saw myself walking out of counseling and back into my system of rules for getting some small consolation in my life just in case God didn’t deliver.

I understood that in order to choose God’s way I had to reject my own system of living which was so engrained in me it took a good deal of thinking and praying to even understand this prison of rules. Some of the rules I discovered I’d built my life around had to do with food, controlling what other people know or think about me, controlling my environment and protecting myself at any cost, controlling my circumstances and the people in my life, and that I should work everything in my life for good. I had set myself up as God in my life… but under my rule I was still self-destructing.

It felt like such a risk to trash my rules and my eating disorder forever… because I didn’t know if I would fail at life, I wasn’t sure who I was without it…everything was going to be awkward and different choosing to face life without holding onto that familiar method of calming myself, comforting myself, and defining my worth. I have seen that Jesus is worth letting go to follow. All I have to face my life is Christ. The thing is, he said that he is life… and he is worth giving up my own system of life to know. (I will never forget my counselor, Janelle, saying something along the lines of: “Do you really want to stand before God and say, “See, I worked hard all my life to always weigh X number of pounds.”) How sad of a response to Jesus’ sacrifice of his body for me. My life was not a response to his grace. I could not experience the enormous grace of Jesus for your life as long as I live by your my own rules and by my own system of righteousness… I have to stand with no other hope for goodness or mercy, but that Jesus lived the life I couldn’t live in my place and has died the death to pay for the life I have lived.

It once seemed impossible not to live by what has previously dominated my life, but one of the most important things I learned through this process is that change comes by beholding the glory of God in the face of Christ Jesus, it comes through seeing more and more of him… not by assessing my situation and trying to pull myself into righteous living.

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18).

I began to realize that there is nothing beautiful or worthy about serving an eating disorder. No one has ever shown the splendor of the Savior Jesus through her ruthless devotion to bulimia. There is no glory, beauty, or fulfillment in living in this kind of rebellion against God’s plan for me…and have seen something better and more beautiful than anything I’ve wanted… SOMEONE better.

I am free to admit I am human and sinful because guilt and condemnation are not mine. It is not my record that I look to to save my life. Christ’s sacrifice is enough for everything I have done and will do. And God can use what was once my rebellion and shame to show the overwhelming bigness of his grace. Sin can seem so overwhelming and big…but grace is bigger and deeper and it is God’s pleasure to reach people in dark places and make their lives to the glory of his name. It’s a relief that my salvation is God’s work… that it is up to him to save and keep me. If my life is about showcasing the gospel then it is to my advantage to say I am wicked… in my flesh there is nothing good… and even to share what I have shared. The beautiful thing is that Christ wanted me anyway, because he came to find and save those who were sick in sin, and I am freed from living as prisoner to the shameful life I created for myself, and given the ability to pursue Christ and become like him.