Fig Leaves

Click Here for “Fig Leaf Psychology”

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

8 thoughts on “Fig Leaves

  1. Virna Santos Reply

    Just two weeks ago, my sister and I spoke at a small church in West Virginia and we shared this very insight of “self-fixing”…and am very blessed by this post! One of the reasons why God cannot abide in the presence of sin is because we prefer to self fix than to run to God and accept His healing, and as a result we literally say to God my way is better…mercy! All my life I was afraid to address my brokenness and allowed the shameful and guilt ridden thoughts & feelings distort who I thought I was and chose the homosexual lifestyle for 20+ years self-medicating wounds resulting from being sexually violated and defiled when I was a child. The anger and self pity was consuming and I sought acceptance where I could find it. But my gracious Lord and Savior pursued me. By His Spirit, He embraced me and has revealed to me He has been there all along. He knew every tear I cried, every hurt and He showed me what He endured on the Cross for me! He saved me and continues to save me for His way is the only way!

  2. Lynn Baerg Reply

    Wow, Jennifer, your video is great, praise the Lord! Thrilled I will be at Gentry Camp Meeting, looking forward to seeing you again after many years (can’t remember for sure where!) God bless you, I will share the video!

  3. Dale Martin Reply

    Jennifer, this is outstanding and so very true. Revealed to me that I’ve been self-medicating with a “good” fig leaf…fitness. Or thinking I’m better looking than most at my age. Ha! Such excursions into hubris are nothing but a failure to appreciate the sufficiency of the righteousness of Christ. Thanks my friend.

    Have you seen Barbara Wilson’s book The Invisible Bond: How to break free from your sexual past? Excellent. Sequel is Kiss Me Again: Restoring lost intimacy in marriage. Barb’s a great lady too, living near me.

    Hey, I fly into Philly on the 17th speaking in Indiana, PA on the 19th and at Reading Kenhorst on the 26th. Calling it the Prodigal son Tour. 🙂 Plan to speak on Mal 4:5-6 “Broken-hearted Fathers.” Love to chat if our schedules can mesh.

    Grace and peace to you, my friend.

  4. Rich DuBose Reply

    As I watched this last Friday I was moved by the simplicity of Jennifer’s presentation (not to be confused with lack of depth or content). It is obvious that Jennifer has spent years agonizing with imbalance in her own life and struggling to understand what it means to find true healing. She presents it in a way that is alive and easy to grasp. She tackles incredibly complex issues yet makes it clear that healing and hope is available to anyone who wants it. I love it.

  5. Rich DuBose Reply

    As I watched this I was moved by the simplicity of Jennifer’s presentation (not to be confused with lack of depth or content). Jennifer from her heart and is not afraid to expose her own weaknesses. She presents her topic in a way that is alive and easy to grasp. She tackles incredibly complex issues yet makes it clear for all to understand. I love it.

  6. Deb Reply

    I so appreciated what you said, Jennifer, about not waiting until we feel better in order to come to Jesus. I’ve been battling depression since last fall as a result of a serious car accident I was in. Thankfully, I’ve been praying and spending time with God, even though I don’t “feel” right or “feel” His presence as I did before the accident. I know God is faithful and will heal me, but until that happends, I want to be covered in His love and righteousness.

  7. Branden Reply

    The link to your video doesn’t seem to work for Fig Leaf Psychology. Could you repost it? Thanks

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