For a period of my life I woke up each morning with terror raging in my chest. It was a spiritual issue. Having recently decided to change my life course and serve the God of all righteousness, I lived in fear of being overtaken by the dogs of past temptation as they incessantly nipped at my heels.
I recall how each morning, as I began to poke out of REM sleep, I felt this nameless terror even before I remembered who I was. Gradually emerging to full consciousness, I recalled the demands of God’s Law and my own pathetic, stomach-turning weakness. I groaned within, fearful of failure.
Somewhere deep in the layers of my psyche I found a solution. Actually, yogis, monks, and fasting saints of past ages discovered it first. I would starve myself. Although never reaching the rational, verbal level, my reasoning connected starvation with the shutting down of superfluous systems. When the body starves, it says, “Anything extra must go.” Sex drive dies, strong emotion fades, and personality flattens into a hollow-eyed waif.
Finally I’d found a way to avoid sexual sin and anger. Now I could be quiet and submissive, a good girl, Bible in hand, halo on head. I’d starve the flesh. Literally.
My body melted away to 95 pounds on my medium-tall (5’ 6”) frame. My wrists and calves thinned to skeleton-like, my cheekbones formed concave pockets underneath. Shedding hair floated down when I brushed. One by one people approached me with, “Are you eating enough?” “I’m concerned about your health,” and, “I’m praying for you.”
The anorexia clung to me for three years. While I recommend that people work out their mental health problems before marriage, I have to admit that I didn’t. But marriage really helped stabilize me. Michael Schwirzer loved me unconditionally. I wasn’t alone anymore. I could trust that love and eat. I could rest in the reality that I was accepted and valued, no matter what.
Thirty years later, I help people like me. I’m convinced that our baseline state is one of self-fixing. The shame that clouded us in Eden clings to us today. Like Adam and Eve and their fig leaves, we desperately try to cover ourselves, only to make ourselves worse. Our fig leaves are as varied as our personalities, but at their core they’re all attempts to self-fix apart from God.
“All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags,” Isaiah said, “We all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away,” Isaiah 64:6.
Are you trying to cover your sin with a garment of your own devising? Or are you trying to medicate away the pain of shame and guilt with drugs of your own concoction? Been there, done that. But now I’m learning to rest in the righteousness of Jesus. I’m accepted in Him, loved by God and good enough because of His goodness. “We who have believed enter that rest,” Hebrews 4:3. I invite you to do the same. Will you? And will you say so? Click here and share your own story.
Through a ministry called CRIStalks I recorded a spoken word video last month on this very topic. Check it out and let me know what you think. Click here.
This month’s travels:
May 5- Mental health workshop, Lansdale, PA
May 6- Smart Supper banquet, Philadelphia, PA
May 11-13- Finding Peace seminar, Owasso, MI
May 19- Sermon on human sexuality, Philadelphia, PA
May 20- Bible study, Schwirzer home, Philadelphia, PA
May 30- June 1- Gentry, AR campmeeting