Lately I have been struggling with my eating disorder. For well over half of my life, I have been bulimic. Bulimia is a horrible mind disease, because it says, “One more. Do that again.” It says, “You already ate a chocolate chip cookie after you promised yourself not to. You might as well finish the entire batch and then start in on the ice cream. You can deal with this problem later.”
Bulimia is a disease that says my body and my mind are not good enough, and I might as well give up. It declares I want that and I want it now—I want that treat, I want that number on the scale. Today is a wash and tomorrow I can try again…but tomorrow never really comes. For me, having an eating disorder feels less about looking for control in inappropriate ways and more about having a habit I cannot break.
I have only ever found one thing that helped me to break the patterns of eating when bored and emotional: giving up all refined sugar.
It worked so well for me for a whole year. A whole year of glorious, delicious freedom. A whole year of saving money on food because I didn’t eat every single available morsel. A whole year in which my mind wasn’t against me. A whole year of not hiding and agonizing over every choice. A whole year of extra time to do other things. (Because baking and eating an entire pan of brownies takes time, friends.)
But then I became pregnant with my third child, and that healthy eating went right out the window. I could try to blame this on someone else, like the doctor who told me to eat more refined carbs after I mentioned my nausea, not realizing what my background was. Or I could blame it on the condition of growing a human. No one eats completely healthy when they are pregnant, right? Everyone craves ice cream sometimes. But the reality was, it was just me. My broken brain was all too eager to sit down on the mudslide and start eating for the wrong reasons again. And then it was only a matter of time before I slipped and started throwing up the things I regretted.
My beautiful daughter is a little over 9 months old now. She has been out as long as she has been in. And my disease of doing-better-tomorrow is in full swing.
I’m embarrassed. And I’m hurt. I’m waffling between hopelessness and determination.
I am trying and I am trying and I am really, really trying. But also I’m not.
This morning, my Bible app reminded me of what was once my favorite verse in the whole Bible.
This verse comes from the middle of Exodus, when the Israelites realize that the Egyptian army has followed them. They are desperately trying to escape from desperate oppression. God had shown his might in so many ways while they waited to be set free from captivity. And they believed him and believed in him and believed that he would save.
They finally fled…only to turn around and find that their tormentors pursued them.
At the risk of finding parallels where maybe there shouldn’t be, or too eagerly identifying with a people who were truly experiencing the monstrosity of slavery, I feel like the Israelites must have. Trapped.
I thought I was free to go! I thought I had found the way out of this unbearable situation. Yes, I made the choices that brought me here, but does that matter when I find myself in a dark room with no doors? I need out. And I truly thought I had found the way.
It wasn’t an easy way. It was quite a bit like giving up everything I had ever known and stepping out in faith that God would make a future with himself that would be worth it.
But then I looked behind me, and darn it if I didn’t find my enemy at my heels!
Here’s the beauty in Exodus, though. God is faithful and all-powerful even when the Israelites are scared and doubting.
The people don’t understand the place God has brought them to. They are hopeless. They thought they could outrun their past, but now that they are face to face with the Egyptians once more, they know they can’t defend themselves. The Egyptians are too strong, and the familiar patterns of their power are too hard to overcome.
But Moses doesn’t take in the fears of the Israelites and give up. Moses listens to God. God already promised freedom, and Moses isn’t about to let fear overcome the truth. He believes what God promised more than he believes the circumstances of being followed by a formidable, terrifying enemy.
And Moses unflinchingly says the beautiful words that blinked back at me on my phone screen this morning: THE LORD WILL FIGHT FOR YOU. BE STILL.
“Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” – Exodus 14:13-14
You know what God does next, don’t you? The impossible!
He literally makes a brand new way that did not exist before Moses asks.
The sea parts, the Israelites are saved. They don’t have to turn around and fight their demons to regain their freedom, they just need to look forward, and walk. God tells them to “move on.”
More than that, the Egyptians with their hardened hearts are destroyed behind them, so that they cannot continue to follow, they cannot continue to cause fear, they cannot continue to distract the Israelites from God’s goodness and power and love.
Moses and his people watch the Lord win. And then they sing to him. The Jews never forget the amazing miracle of being set completely free; they continue to tell stories about this escape for centuries.
Now, I get that this isn’t a perfect analogy. The Israelites went on to wander and to doubt and to fall into wrong choices. They were free to do so. But I don’t need to live in fear of my future mistakes. I don’t need to live in the failure of my past.
What I need to do is be still. Be silent. And know that God is God.
God is a God who will fight for me. I may have a monkey on my back—a gorilla even, a giant, reaching, grabbing thing against which I am too weak to defend. But my God can defeat a giant. He can defeat an army. He can defeat any enemy that comes my way, and all I need do is trust him.
So here’s the song I’m going to sing, even in the middle of feeling trapped where I cannot escape:
God will make a way where there seems to be no way.
He works in ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me.
If God is for me, then who can be against me?
Thou O Lord are a shield for me,
My glory and the lifter of my head!
You are my hiding place,
You always fill my heart with songs of deliverance!
Whenever I am afraid I will trust in you!
You are my strength when I am weak,
You are the treasure that I seek.
You are my all in all.
When I fall down you pick me up,
When I am dry you fill my cup.
You are my all in all.
Lord I offer my life to you, everything I’ve been through
Use it for your glory.
Lord I offer my days to you, lifting my praise to you
As a pleasing sacrifice.
Lord I offer you my life.