Shame and Starvation {PART THREE}

Summer 2009. Unemployed. Graduated from university. Alone in my flat. I was arrested by a voice in my head. It told me to walk down the hall to the bathroom...and make myself throw up.

I’d never felt insecure about what I ate before. I was an athletic teenager. Awkwardly tall for my age and fairly shy. But I had somehow bypassed the usual ‘oh I couldn’t possibly eat anything’ phase of teenage girlhood. I prided myself on eating lots, in fact.

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But now this.

I was never able to make myself be sick, so instead? Starvation. I would make excuses to people that I’d already eaten. All the while hunger pains would rip through my body. I couldn’t feel my fingertips or toes much of the time. I was exhausted. My clothes hung off of me. But I couldn’t see it. All I saw was imperfection. Failure. Shame.

The internal dialogue I had went something like this…. ‘Stupid. You’re so stupid. Why did you say that? Why did you do that? Why did you eat that? Stupid stupid stupid stupid.’ I realise now that this was a voice that had defined my whole life.

This shame didn’t just physically starve me, though.

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It starved me of community. I stopped eating around people….one of the most beautiful and important parts of Christian community. Something Jesus always did and commands us to do. Going to Community Group made me so anxious. An inability to think about anything other than ‘what would I eat’, and ‘what would people see me eating?’ The same thing kept me awake at night. That year I began to suffer from insomnia. Unable to fall asleep because I was so anxious about what I would allow myself to eat the next day. I hid in shame and fear. Controlling every single aspect of my waking days. Isolated and alone.

It starved me of grace. I would walk down the street and in every reflection I would look at myself and judge. But here’s the thing, I wouldn’t just judge myself. I would start to compare myself to every other woman walking down the street. Thinking, ‘Oh, well at least I’m not as fat as her.’ And make myself feel better. Or, ‘I’m never going to look like that’, and feel condemned. Shame can be something you either heap on yourself, or on others. Or both simultaneously.

It starved me of love. I was unable to see or receive any love. I started dating Gordon six months after this began….it took me the longest time (I’m talking years) to actually believe him when he said ‘I love you’.

I remember one night, Ailsa finally asked me (I recognise now how much courage this took - thanks babe) if I’d ever thought of counselling. I was like, ‘But I haven’t had anything traumatic happen to me…I’m normal. So I shouldn’t need counseling, right?’ Oh what a fool.

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I started to realise how starving my body was a physical outworking of starving myself. My fear of getting fat was an outworking of my fear of the future: I had grown up with such high expectations placed on me, and that I had of myself, to be this intelligent and mature woman who was not going to waste her life. I recognised this was rooted in my fear of losing control, of shame in not being perfect, or accepted, of being unlovely, of failure.

I believed the lies of shame and fear….that I was unknown (not understood, not seen), unprotected (my future out of control), and unloved (the people who saw me didn’t REALLY see me and wouldn’t truly love me). I believed I was shameful. And even more, I believed that God was not good, not loving, and not strong enough to heal me.

The single fact that changed me and is continuing to root its way deeper and deeper into my soul?

That the Father of all space and time who has called into being all we see and know, is the same Father who whispers an unshakable love into my ear and shouts His grace from the mountaintops. Being rooted in my identity as His daughter. In the irreversible and unquenchable Perfect Love that drives out fear. I love how our children’s Bible (The Jesus Storybook Bible) puts this covenant love. ‘God’s Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love’. It started with recognising the lies that I’d believed. Repenting. And choosing to replace them with the truth of His love and grace.

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Since all of this, I have gotten fatter than I ever thought possible. In pregnancy. And I realised in a deeper way, that my sin of believing these lies had a direct affect on my son. I had to eat well. His growth and development, his life, depended on my nourishment. And isn’t it the same for us all? As Christians, we are a body. And lies that we believe, affect our brothers and sisters deeply. When we aren’t walking in freedom, the rest of the body suffers.

In all honesty, this isn’t over for me. Some days are still a real, deep, and bloody battle for the truth of God’s love. But the more I choose to replace those whispers of shame, with the lie-obliterating glory of His love and grace, the more I am able to walk in freedom.

For now, I’ll finish. But come prepared. Tomorrow we are going to do something different in this space. All you need is paper, a pen, and some time.

{Grace} 

 

 

 

 

 

Friendships {Part 1}

We had such a lovely time. Chatting about sleep schedules and food consumption, running after our offspring, negotiating toy treaties, distributing snacks to each other’s kids, getting quickly to the ‘how’s your heart’ conversation because that’s how it rolls in this stage of motherhood (you gotta get to the depth quickly before nap time calls or someone starts to cry).

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Then we said goodbye. And the doubts started to creep in. ‘Oh my goodness I shouldn’t have said it that way...she’ll think I was judging her mothering style’ or ‘Why on earth did I say that...that probably hurt her’ or ‘Maybe she misunderstood that and now hates me’. Thought after thought. Always ending with ‘Stupid. That was so stupid. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Stupid stupid stupid. I’m so stupid.’

The voice of shame.  

YOU are not enough. You’re not selfless enough, you’re not kind enough, you’re not a good enough listener. You’re not enough.

It’s so easy, especially in friendships, to allow the voice of shame to keep us from vulnerability. To keep us bound in fear. Fear of being known. And fear of being rejected.

I have been so convicted recently. And in the name of vulnerability, because that’s the tone we hope to set on this blog, felt like I should share....I’ve been convicted that I’ve allowed this voice of shame to mark so many of my friendships throughout my life. Looking to these friendships to give me the security and peace, love and grace, that my heart so yearns for. But there are hurts. Big betrayals and little ones. Deep wounds and harsh words spoken thoughtlessly. I’m so afraid of being hurt....And so afraid of hurting. I listen to both the voice of shame speaking to me, and also the voice of shame that judges and wounds others.

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But what if there’s another way. A way that implodes this controlling voice of shame. That keeps us from looking inward for our sense of love and belonging. Jonathan Helser describes insecurity as this....looking inwardly for security. So simple, yet so profound.

What if the rumours are true? What if we are indeed understood at our deepest level. What if we are truly loved at our farthest and worst, not just at our best and kindest.

Tim Keller puts it this way in his book on marriage, ‘To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.’

When we know this very best and most faithful of Friends....we have the grace with which to see others clearly and love others truly. Not for the sense of love and security they can give to us. But for themselves.

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And maybe, just maybe, this can be the beginning of a freedom from shame in our friendships, and the growth of deeply vulnerable love.

Women.

We all have stories. Stories of the backs that have broken. The blood, sweat, and tears that have been poured out, the battles fought, the arms that have pushed us forward at the very moment their own strength failed. The shoulders of greatness upon which we stand.

Today is the day to tell these stories. Stories of women who have gone before us.

One of these courageous women once wrote....

‘I hate to hear you talk about all women as if they were fine ladies instead of rational creatures. None of us want to be in calm waters all our lives.’ (Jane Austen, Persuasion)

Here are some of the women that have gone before me, and bravely fought through the stormy waters, ensuring that I had a sail and a compass to go forward....

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Here’s my mum. Carol. Of the many things she gave me, my education was one of them. She decided, against cultural norms at the time, to homeschool me. All the way till university. She would hand pick the curriculum every year, driving hours to a conference to wade through the decision making process. Now that I’m a mother myself, the weight of that sits heavy on me. She gave me a love of health food well before it was fashionable. One of the most incredible gifts she gave me was ensuring my brother and I had read through the entire Bible before we graduated high school. What has shaped me the most, though, was the way she created a home that was founded upon hospitality. From the age of nine, we always had people living with us. To this day, I have many older ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’ around the world of different ethnicities and backgrounds. We hosted meal after meal, guest after guest. As a kid, it meant a lot of chopping, cleaning, and laundry. But, I am beyond thankful for this. Thankful for growing up in a home centred on hospitable love and welcome. 

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This is my mum’s mum. Nana. She was the daughter of Portuguese immigrants to the USA at the start of the 20th century. She battled through discrimination (she changed her name from Rosa Edwina to Edna Rose in order to fit in with all the other northeastern fashionable girls) and poverty. She left school after the 8th grade, was sequestered in a sanatorium for two years at the age of 16 for tuberculosis, and saw numerous young women die. Age 18, she met my Papa at a 25 cent dance hall, he was in the navy and soon after they were married. She went on to have 7 amazing children, 25 grandchildren, and numerous great-grandchildren. All of whom still love each other and who prioritise family. But most of all? Her love of Jesus shined the brightest. Her favourite thing to do was lean over to a stranger in the grocery store queue, or next to her in the doctors office, and ask ‘Do you know Jesus?’ What a legacy. What a saint.

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This is my dad’s mum. Grandmother. Helen. She raised five children with a husband who flew planes for a living and had to be gone much of the time. Her strength carried her family through when my Grandfather, Jim, was in an accident that left him in a coma whilst she was pregnant with my dad. Her home on the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia was an oasis of peace and beauty. She went before me. Raising a man, my dad, who serves and loves with dignity and strength. Her legacy.

Who are the women in your life who courageously set out from the calm waters and braved the storms so that you could sail?

 

{Grace} 

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