When I initially started writing this blog, I was suffering.
Physically, I had lost weight, and my gaunt face, lackluster hair, and thin legs showed that the few pounds that had disappeared from my body caused my normally sunny countenance to grey into one of fatigue and frailty. Granted I was nowhere near a full-blown relapse from anorexia like those that I had experienced in years past, but the amount of training I was doing in the gym, the hectic life I was leading as a full time teacher and mother of two, and the lack of sleep and good nutrition I should have been receiving left me winded and in dire need of rest.
Mentally, I was fried. The end of the school year was near, and while the students (especially the seniors) were already dreaming of spending their summer days sunning at the beach, I was making a galliant effort to drum up their enthusiasm to find comma splice and pronoun/antecedent agreement errors in preparation for the spring final exam. It was a Herculian task, and I wracked my brain attempting to find SOMETHING that would curb the students from daydreaming about their summer freedom to instead focus in on grammar lessons. All of this brain-wracking, however, was for naught as all it did was lead me to having a persistent dull ache in my temples and restless sleep where I’d wake up at 2am every morning, unable to go back to bed.
Spiritually, I felt empty. I knew the Holy Spirit still lived in me, and that I loved Jesus with all of my heart. I prayed in the mornings, mostly prayers to bless my children, students, family, and friends hurriedly repeated on the drive in to school, but the words I recited felt flat and rehearsed. I read scripture because the verse of the day popped up on my Bible App with a “ding!” every morning at 6am, but my eyes just glazed over the words. Sadly, as much as I loved Jesus and knew Him to be my Savior, I felt distanced from God.
It was during this empty time when I turned to God and asked Him for freedom: freedom from disordered eating, freedom from negative thought patterns and behaviors, and freedom to be who He wanted me to be. And low and behold, God answered my prayers immediately, and prompted me to write–write about the physical challenges I was facing, the emotional turmoil going on in my spirit, and how by God’s grace and the power of prayer, He was able to turn my whole being inside out. Since starting this blog, I’ve found a way to communicate how my past demonstrates the awesomeness of Jesus, and how He truly has the power to heal a person externally and internally.
It would be quite easy to say that since the inception of this blog, I have not been tempted to over-indulge in exercise or skip out on eating a full meal. Not so. Yes, I have found amazing freedom when I put my faith in Jesus to heal me, yet the enemy is tricky–I mean, his main purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. And so there have been moments, specifically when I am extremely tired or overwhelmed by other events like preparing my daughter for her first day of summer school, when I hear that eating disorder voice trying to find a foothold back in to my thoughts. It is times like those when I feel off balance, when my life is not nicely planned out and plotted, when the temptation to gain some semblance of control (and mostly through the means of exercise and eating) occur. But that is where the beauty of God comes in. Rather than let that sinister voice berate my thoughts or lead me down a slippery slop of diet and obsessive exercise, I instead call upon the power of God to help me.
A few weeks ago at church, one of our friends who also happens to train Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with my husband, spoke about his life-altering encounter with God, and how Jesus’s miraculous healing power is relevant and real even today. As I listened to Pastor RK speak about how shriveled hands became full of working muscle and tendons, how men were set free from drug abuse and addiction, and how numerous individuals’ bodily pains and aches were erased after he prayed for them, I found myself nodding in agreement. Yes, true healing can be found through Jesus. But then Pastor RK spoke more about HOW to pray for these types of healings, and what he said was an eye opener: Pray straight to the point and with intention. In the Gospels, Jesus directly spoke to pain and commanded healing to occur. He did not spend hours upon hours chanting or saying words just to say them. He knew His authority, and spoke life to those in need. It was at that point that I realized I needed to mimic those same types of prayers. If I was confident in Jesus’s healing power, why not just command infirmities and addictions to leave? Why did I feel the need to talk and talk and talk and use more words and more words and more words when I prayed for healing? Essentially, I was worried that Jesus wouldn’t hear me, and that if I continued to speak to Him, even if they were only with filler words, then and only then would He hear my prayers and grant me complete freedom from whatever physical and mental ailments I suffered from.
Maybe my insecurities about being heard stemmed from the fact that growing up I was told by my mother to not speak until spoken to. With that kind of mentality, I was quite a shy child, barely saying a whisper to aunts and uncles at gatherings. I never fully believed that what I had to say, my views and opinions, were of value. My demure and quiet nature also made it difficult for me to make new friends in intermediate and high school. Rather than introduce myself to girls that I thought would make good pals, I instead hung around their area with bated breath, attempting to make eye contact with a girl or two, waiting for the one kind soul to say to me, “Hey, Lauren, want to join us at lunch?” As a result, when I did talk to these individuals, I always felt that I had to say something GRAND and HILARIOUS and INSIGHTFUL, otherwise they would think me to be a boring person, not worthy to spend time around.
Needless to say, I had quite a depressing complex about who I was.
And so when it came time to pray, I constantly felt the need to talk to God and rationalize to Him why I needed His healing hand in my life. I would gab on and on, but sadly, all of those words didn’t feel like anything special. They just felt, well, like words. Empty words.
But when Pastor RK spoke about the direct prayer, and that since we have the Holy Spirit in us, we too can pray the same way as Jesus did, his words made sense. Yes. Of course. Why try to rationalize and plead and be overly verbose to a God who already knows my needs? Why should I try to “please” the enemy to leave my thoughts, when he is already underfoot and I have the power of God on my side? Trying to out talk the voice of the enemy (and in my case, it’s an eating disorder voice) will lead to nowhere because that enemy is the king of deception and lies. Why not just be straight to the point and direct?
Similarly, I harken these short and powerful prayers to be much like how I interact with my toddler: straight to the point. Do I ever rationalize with a crying two-year-old why he can’t pick up mud and fling it in the air and then try to roll around in the mess? Of course not! Instead, I just say, “Dirty. No.” and then lead him away from the mud puddle. Toddlers aren’t able to mentally plot out the why behind their actions–they’re still in the “yes” and “no” phase of life, and as a parent, it’s my duty to teach my son right from wrong. The “why” of it all will come later when necessary. In the same way, the enemy doesn’t need to know my “why”. When that eating disorder voice starts trying to tempt me to skip a meal or spend thirty more minutes in the gym, rather than try to talk myself down from engaging in said behavior by going over the reasons why I need to eat and how much additional training will only rob me of muscle gain, I instead merely say, “No. Not good for me. No.” And then I continue on with my day.
Here’s a disclaimer for all of you reading this blog: I was taught CBT to combat the eating disorder voice, and this form of psychological treatment can be wonderfully grand. I know numerous individuals who have benefitted from this type of treatment, and that is wonderful for those people. For me, however, attempting to “talk down” the negative thoughts just left me brain dead. Rationalizing a voice that is screaming at you to run another mile or only eat carrots can take up one’s entire day, which is what ended up happening to me for many years of my life. Thankfully, God showed me that because of His power in me, I am able to combat even the most demanding and negative of eating disorder voices with a simply powerful, straight to the point prayer:
“Eating disorder voice, leave my thoughts now.”
“Spirit of peace, fill me now.”
“Guide my thoughts, Jesus.”
Simple prayers, no more than a sentence long–it has been these types of utterances I’ve said out loud when the addictive and obsessive thoughts come into mind. And it has been these types of prayers that have given me the most freedom to live a life fully devoted to God.
As I look back on that defining moment when Jesus filled my spirit with true freedom, I realize that I didn’t drone on and on in my prayer for His freedom. I asked for faith. I asked that whatever He wanted for my life, to make it clear to me. I asked that He remove whatever was not in His plan. And that was it. Short, sweet, and to the point. Amazingly, that is the type of God I serve and love–a God who is so powerful, so awe-inspiring, so aware of what His plans are for me, that all I need to do is utter a few words, and He will be faithful and just to hear those words.
What a freeing and faithful God.