Everyone has a story, a multicolored thread that contributes to the tapestry of humanity. Each color, each fade, represents a transition from one stage of life to another. These colors are created by God, allowing and ordaining each season of our lives.
Today, I would like to share my story.
Growing up was hard for me. I was a crowd-pleaser with a rebellious heart, which was a lethal combination. But I was forced to learn a very hard lesson early on that sent me spiraling: it is impossible to please the crowd.
My fourteenth birthday brought a wave of self-loathing and depression that lasted until I was twenty. On again, off again bouts of intense self-harm—cutting, scalding, or burning myself—characterized my youth, and I lived in a constant state of anxiety, terrified that someone would find out and that my image would be shattered. I vividly remember wanting to take my life at one point, but becoming more depressed because I was so fearful that my shaking hands fumbled the pills into a vent in my bathroom.
Eventually, the bleakness of my life began to lighten and the self-mutilation stopped. However, I had made myself believe that no one was actually happy with who they were and that the hateful thoughts that I had toward myself were normal. I discovered that I enjoyed exercising and working out and finally grew out of the awkward high school phase everyone goes through, which boosted my self-worth a bit toward my junior year. I had a steady boyfriend, I was doing well in school, and I had a plan for my future. Life wasn’t too bad. But then I crashed.
In 2011, I developed an eating disorder, and it owned me.
I found myself so critical of my body that I had to be perfect. After all, I would only be happy if I could wear a size two, right? I calculated calories meticulously, planned workouts to ensure that I burned every calorie that I ate, and whatever the excess, I purged.
This went on for four years, a considerably short time-period when compared to others who develop eating disorders. During this time, I started Christian college, ended the long-term relationship that I was in, and started playing college basketball and volleyball. Everything seemed great, perfect, even. However, I’ve never lied as much as I did in those four years.
It was the second semester of my sophomore year and I was twenty years old. Up until this time in my life, everything—everything—that I had done was to impress or please other people, including the salvation that I had claimed to have. I knew every answer, even the ones that I didn’t know. But there was no transformation, no “new life.” I was spiritually dead. Then my best friend suggested that we read the book Not a Fan by an author named Kyle Idleman. I was skeptical. I had the critical heart of any good self-righteous braggart, and I thought this was just another book that would fizzle once the hype was over, but God rocked my world and He used this little book to do it.
Don’t ask me what chapter, what topic, or even what day it happened. I wouldn’t be able to tell you if my life depended on it, which thankfully it doesn’t (contrary to what some might have you think). All I know is that little-by-little, God spoke life into my dead, cold heart. He made me see His glory—really see Him—for the first time in my life. And the more of God’s glory that I beheld, the more I realized just how incapable I was of “fixing” myself. I saw that I am broken and that I will never be good enough on my own. The radiant light of His greatness shone light onto my desperate need for a Savior—Jesus. I saw that Jesus had already done all that was needed to make me worthy and that the acceptance that I so desperately craved was available to me in Christ. God knew how broken I was. He saw my tears and He heard my thoughts. He knew that my rebellious heart would defy His love for the first twenty years of my life. Yet, “in my sin, Christ died for me.” And in those late nights, reading that little book and pouring over the pages of Scripture that I was reading with eyes unscaled, I began my journey with Jesus.
The beauty of my story, as well as those of others that will follow, is that it is unique. I’m not perfect, and I never will be. My eating disorder didn’t just disappear when I began to follow Jesus. It was a process, just like it is for anyone else that suffers the same way. I am a Christian, but I am still a human. I even have days where I’m tempted to cope with life the way that I did before I became a follower of Jesus. I am who I am, and who I am becoming, because of my encounter with grace.
I’ll end with a quote by a man that knows the grace of Jesus to be as powerfully real in his own life as I do in mine.
Because Jesus was strong for me, I’m free to be weak; because Jesus won for me, I’m free to lose; because Jesus was Someone, I’m free to be no one; because Jesus succeeded for me, I am free to fail; because Jesus was extraordinary, I’m free to be ordinary. I don’t have to pretend anymore, I don’t have to win anymore, I don’t have to be always right. I’m free from the burden and the bondage of trying to be something and someone that I can never be because it’s not about me — it’s about Jesus.