This week we are talking about how the gospel affects our closet. As we talk about this, I am completely aware that most (if not all) women struggle with some kind of body image issue. Whether you feel too fat, too skinny, or are just unhappy with certain parts of your appearance, these things can become strongholds that turn into eating disorders and deep insecurities and wounds. If this is you, know that there is hope and freedom in Christ! Below you will find a glimpse into my own story and testimony of finding freedom from an eating disorder. I pray that in this post, you, too, would know that Jesus is the key that sets you free.
Another five pounds. The numbers on the scale told me a story of loss, but my heart felt a surge of confidence. I glanced up at the mirror and saw a tall, lanky body standing there, wasting away in many ways. I turned around and examined my spine protruding from my back and shuddered. Why did this make me feel so beautiful? In many ways I felt like I was disappearing. Each week I was losing more and more weight. And yet, every reflection I whispered to me that if I just kept going I would finally enough. I wanted to be noticed, but I still felt invisible.
The warning signs were there. I felt faint every time I stood up. I would have to stop on the way to class so I wouldn’t pass out. It took me hours to go to the grocery store because I scrutinized every label for the lowest fat content and least amount of sugar. I cut every portion size in half to being almost nonexistent. I talked about food all the time as if I actually ate it and I would lay awake each night with a grumbling stomach, planning what I would eat the next day. I was anorexic and didn’t even realize it.
For years I found my identity in my outer appearance. When I was little I received daily affirmation from a loving father and faithful big brother. Deep down, I began to believe that my looks were what defined me. After I graduated high school, I packed up my belongings and embarked on the adventure called college. I moved into an all girls dorm at the University of Georgia and was hit with the reality that life was radically different. I no longer heard the affirmation that I was beautiful and didn’t receive the daily reminder that I was enough. Instead, I was faced with one of the ugliest battles a girl can face: the battle of comparison.
It sneaks into our minds and steals our identity before we even know it. It tricks us into thinking that we will never measure up. It trips us up and drags us down into a pit of loneliness. Comparison is a lie and a thief. It convinced me to take control of my beauty. It whispered in my ears that if I made the numbers on the scale decrease, that my confidence would increase. It made me believe that if I looked more like “them” that I would be noticed for me. It lied. And the lie wounded me deeply.
Within the course of three months I dropped over twenty pounds and three pant sizes. I had little fat left on my body and looked as if I was wasting away. But, even still, I received compliments from people about “how good” I looked. They were wrong, and the enemy used these comments to keep me in a destructive pattern of exercising and eating. Even a compliment can steer our wandering hearts in the wrong direction. The words of man were never meant to define us. It is God’s Word that makes the difference. It is God’s Word that erases the lies that scar our souls.
There was one day in the course of this time when I fell headfirst into the depths of the pit. I had gone to the gym and completed my exercise routine and came home to take a shower. While I was shampooing my hair I noticed clumps of hair interlacing my fingers. I washed it out and noticed the drain was clogged. With trembling fingers, I reached down and pulled a clump of hair from the drain. Tears poured from my eyes and I looked at my reflection in the mirror. My hair, my thick, long brown hair, was falling out in clumps. I pulled myself together and went to my roommate and asked in a calm, nonchalant kind of way if she thought my hair was falling out. She responded gently, but honestly, that she had noticed it, too. Not only was my body wasting away due to my bondage, but I was losing my hair.
I went back to my room, crumbled to the floor, and wept bitterly. The tears of brokenness that streamed down my face began to fill the pit I was in and made me feel as if I was drowning in my bondage. My heart ached and my spirit cried out to God as I laid there in my towel on my bathroom floor. Shame pinned me to ground and comparison taunted me in that broken moment, but the Lord came. While I was in the dust of my brokenness, drowning in my nothingness, Jesus bent down low, picked me up, and redeemed me. The hair falling from my head was merely an outward sign of my sinful rebellion. This very rebellion, this very moment, is what sent Jesus to the cross. In that moment of need, Jesus touched my wounded eyes and began to heal them. Healing came from seeing Him again and realizing that the gospel was my hope and my salvation. Freedom came from turning away from the mirror of the world that had captured my attention and lied to me to looking into the mirror of the Word that captivated my soul and unlocked the chains that help me in bondage.
With tenderness, Jesus scrubbed my rebellious heart and taught me that true beauty doesn’t come from a certain pant size, but from a heart that is set on Him. With compassion, Jesus turned my gaze away from looking to the crowd around me and the mirror in front of me to look back at the cross where He died for me. With mercy, Jesus touched my broken body, healed it, and gave me eyes to see the truth again. And with power, Jesus redeemed my life from the pit of comparison that had led me down a destructive path, removed the scarlet letter I wore on my chest, and gave me a new life in Him.
I need to be completely transparent here, freedom didn’t come overnight. As I bathed in the Word of God each day, being washed in the blood of Jesus, seeking Him more than food, Jesus took an eraser and wiped away the lies I once believed and wrote truth on my heart. I learned firsthand the promise of John 8:31-32, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The freedom that Jesus offers is forever and it is found through abiding in the Word. At the dawn of each day, He met me with new morning mercies, and in the middle of each day when I tripped up again, He met me with even more of His grace. Step by step, moment by moment, He was with me, speaking words of life over me.
Comparison is a thief that is out to steal, kill, and destroy us, but our God is greater. He is stronger than the chains that hold us in bondage. He is better than any worldly pursuit. We have a choice each day, offered to us through the cross of Jesus Christ, to choose life in Him. One of the most pivotal verses in my life during this season was Deuteronomy 30:19 which says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” Each day we have a choice, we can choose the way of comparison that leads to destruction, or we can choose abundant life through Christ and live in victory. By His grace, let us choose life!
If you’ve ever struggled with disordered eating, bondage in your body image, or if you currently find your self in a deep, dark pit, I pray that you would choose life in Christ this day. No chain is too strong for Him to break. Choose the better way. Salvation is not for tomorrow, it is for today. His blood that was shed is your freedom. He has paid your ransom in full. In Christ alone you are free, and in Him you are clean. The way to redemption is a daily surrender. It is letting go of your life in order to find it in Him. It is looking away from the mirror on the wall and looking intently into the mirror of the Word. He is your freedom song, sisters. He is your redeemer. Jesus holds the keys that set you free. Hand Him the lock today and watch Him break open the shackles that have pinned you down. By His grace, you choose life that you may live, in fullness, in abundance, and in freedom. Jesus set me free from the trap of comparison, and He will do the same for you. The time is here, let’s celebrate the victory we have in Him and sing our freedom song loud for all to hear.