Sunday, July 25, 2010

Spiritual Anorexia

I remember when I was 13 and Mary-Kate Olsen was on the cover of People magazine over her anorexia. She was so gaunt, and I was very baffled, because while I understood hating the lumps and bumps of squishy fat, and that persistent desire for a different shape and a different pant size, I didn't understand the strength of resolve, the unbending willpower that takes any person to that point. It's difficult for me to identify with a self-discipline strong enough to go against instincts of self-preservation.

I suppose that's why anorexia is classified as a mental illness, a disorder that has more to do with control and self-perception than nutrition and dieting. On the one hand, that kind of intense commitment and willpower is inspiring. And on the other hand, we are so often a slave to our stubbornness.

Why would we cut ourselves off from the food that gives us life? [And here I say "we" but I really mean "they" or maybe, "me".] A thought spins slowly in the backs of our minds, that perhaps our resolve is self-destructive, but by then the self-determination is too intoxicating and deviation is failure.

With this in mind, here is my confession, my tripping efforts towards James 5:16.

I haven't been doing my devotions. I don't know why. I've had ample time. I was in the habit of doing them, too, but I just sort of stopped. No reason. My Bible sits right next to my bed every night, and I glance at it, and think, "I need to do devotions," while my heart scoffs at my brain, knowing intuitively that I will do no such thing. And each night, before I snap shut my computer, I pull up and drink in the verse of the day, sneaking in little slivers of the living word to sustain me until I actually start daily devotions again. Like a girl with an eating disorder swallowing vitamin supplements to keep her health afloat.

Scripture is not a painkiller or a sedative. I hate treating it like one, my small daily dose so I can fall asleep each night, my chalky and lifeless substitute for real nutrition. But I'd rather take its comfort in spite of my hypocrisy than spiritually starve to death. As though there should ever be such an ultimatum . . .

I am a little girl behaving badly to win attention from a Father who never stopped guiding me. I've been making myself sick to my stomach over my own stubbornness because submission has been too difficult to me, as if giving in is weakness and the strength of my resolve is more important than life. My perspective has become warped so I couldn't even see the true reflection of my health in the mirror, and I became enslaved to a mindset I couldn't break away from on my own.

And what is the slave's prayer? . . . Jesus, set me free.

We starve ourselves so often. We say, I don't need people. And we starve. We say, I can't be forgiven. And we starve. We say, I'm doing just fine. And we starve. Sometimes our resolve is so strong we don't even notice the hunger pangs. We are stubborn and possessive of our sin, finding a sick comfort in taking account of our mistakes and insisting that gauntness is what we want, or at least, what we deserve. Our perspective distorts reality so that we don't recognize the truth when we see it.

And then He intervenes. For we cannot live by bread alone, but by every word from the mouth of God.

Tonight, Jeremiah 1.

Thank you for praying for me.

We are hungry, we are hungry for more of You.


Art said...

Like, I get it in my head that if I'm far away and hungry, there's an eternity to travel to get back into his favor. But it's not like that, not at all.

"When I think on my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments." (Psalm 119:59-60)

I feel with you.

Liz said...

I like the parallel between anorexia and spiritual anorexia. It's so true. And the world promotes this gauntness as the fashion, it's the "in thing". This gave me a lot to think about, thanks. :)

Siobhan said...

thank you