The Prayer: Part 2

Growing up I didn’t know much about prayer.  My grandmother had a “God is Great!” prayer written out and tacked onto the wall of the kitchen, and every time we sat down to dinner we’d have to recite that four-line grace before digging into the meal.  After becoming a Christian, I knew that I should pray, but even then I wasn’t sure HOW to pray.  I’d mimic what I saw other people doing–closing their eyes, bowing their heads, asking God to help them–but those recited lines felt so fake and forced.  On the other hand, my mother, who had been a believer in Christ for about a year which was just as long as me, led a very personal and thoughtful prayer life. I knew her to spend hours in the bedroom, meditating on God’s word with closed eyes and then mumbling something under her breath.  What she was saying I didn’t know, but her calm demeanor while in prayer was vastly different than my more rigid one.

So that day after the doctors, while sitting in our living room, her Bible on her lap, my mother was adamant about praying for me.  She laid her hands on my chest, and opened up the time by thanking God for bringing me home.  Then suddenly the floodgates opened.  She started speaking in tongues (something I had never heard her do before), and then she verbally began breaking off bondages in my life.

“I speak to the spirit of lies and deceit, that you have no hold over Lauren’s mind.”

Say what?  Lies and deceit?  Mind you, I had absolutely NO experience with this type of prayer–the kind of prayers I said were simple, “Thanks God for the grub” type of words before meals, and “Please help me get through this day.”  Had I maybe been ready for such a powerful and explosive verbal monologue from my mother, maybe then I wouldn’t have been so afraid.

But I was.  I was afraid of what she was praying (how did she know that I was lying daily about my exercise and food?), but moreso I was fearful of the one statement she kept on repeating over and over:

“Spirit of death, I command you to leave in the name of Jesus.”

I just about fainted.  Me, dead?!  I was a healthy college girl!  But in the dark recesses of my mind, the 0.01% part of my brain that knew I was ill and in desperate need of help kicked into gear.  I know it was Jesus that pulled that mustard seed sized bit of rationality out, and then miraculously and exponentially expanded it, so that all of a sudden, the fear of thick thighs, the fear of a rounded stomach, the fear of not being liked my others, the fear of my mother leaving this earth prematurely, the fear of not being good enough–they all vanished.

It is very corny and maybe a bit fantastical to many to think that a simple prayer can change the course of a human’s life.  But I am living proof that that is true.  With my mother’s call to the spirit of death to leave, I felt a flood of wholeness, and more importantly, I felt internal freedom.  It’s hard to express in words how one can go from feeling constantly barraged by mental constraints to suddenly seeing the world as one full of possibility and hope.  It was as if I suddenly had permission.  Permission to eat food.  Permission to break the rules. Permission to be a human with wants, needs, fears, insecurities, and dreams.  I could be myself in all of its imperfect glory, and I realized that I was a bright 18 years old girl with my whole life before me–a life where I did not have to worry about running or macronutrients or body parts.  THAT was liberating.

Case in point:  Previous to the prayer I got the Dr. Shintani’s stew for lunch.  After the prayer, I asked for a teri-hamburger plate lunch.  Why did I ask for that?  I just really, really, REALLY wanted to bite into a piece of juicy meat.  The savory, gravy-laden meal was all I could think about and I couldn’t stand NOT having it.  Did I worry about the meal suddenly expanding on my hips?  No.  All I wanted was the meat.  Did I worry about my stomach suddenly ballooning up to pregnancy status?  No.  All I wanted was the meat.

There was a whole lot more to my mother’s prayer than just that one line, but there was power with her utterances.  Prophetic, life-altering, life-giving utterances.  Romans 12:12 reminds us to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer,” and my mother believed that scripture with her whole heart.  Every morning before we ate breakfast, she would pray for me with that passage in mind: to regain my health, to know Jesus with a pure heart, to be protected from the enemy, and to glorify Him.  She was faithful in seeking His protection even if it seemed like I would have to be sent to an inpatient hospital for treatment or that my heart would start beating at any time.  Miraculously even at the low weight I was at, I wasn’t referred to the local eating disorder hospital, but was instead deemed medically stable enough to attempt treatment in an outpatient setting.  Without my mother’s devoted prayers, I am really unsure where I would be today.  Her prayers didn’t only bring me steps closer to recovery and physical rehabilitation–her prayers showed me the power and might of Jesus and gave me a personal connection to a being I had previously only seen as untouchable and unrelatable.

And so I started outpatient treatment with a dietitian and psychiatrist–they met girls and guys like me at a hospital, so on a tri-weekly basis (those were amount of times I met with them, which seems like a lot but I took off from school to enter recovery) I was constantly reminded of where I COULD be if not vigilant and careful of letting the anorexic thoughts seep into my mind.  The initial meeting I had with the dietitian was unlike anything I had previously experienced, and even 17 years or so later, I still remember the first time we sat in her office and I started treatment.

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The Prayer: Part 1

It’s a hard thing to see tears streaming down your mother’s face because she thinks you are about to die.

On the way home from the airport, my mom was very silent.  VERY silent.  That’s never a good sign.  It was only when we got through the front door did she start to cry, her face full of fear and worry.

“What’s wrong?”  I asked, still a bit oblivious to the fact that I looked like a strong wind would send me flying flat onto my bony butt.

“Lauren, you need to see the doctor.”  My mother was firm on this point.

My heart was stuck in my throat, not because I feared the doctor which was also a bit true, but rarely had I seen my mother this upset.  Even when I returned home from my California music camp to visit her after her initial surgery, my mother was smiling in her hospital bed and optimistic about the future.  She had recently accepted Jesus as her savior at a healing prayer ministry gathering, and ever since then, the Bible became her daily reading tool, and a special warmth and love radiated from her that I hadn’t seen in previous years.  Little irritants that normally caused her much grief (helloooo traffic-induced road rage and angry words yelled at me for not helping with the household chores) ceased.  And so to see her with tears running down her face and eyes filled with questions (Will my daughter need to go to the hospital?  Will she even survive the night?) made ME similarly scared.

Ok, ok.  I’ll go.

Lets just say that when my pediatrician saw me walk through his office door later that day, HE almost had a heart attack.  The appointment was a whirlwind of poking, prodding, and questioning, but after the hour or so with the doctor, our family left with another scheduled meeting with an eating disorder specialist and nutritionist.  My doctor had the same look of fear and terror in his eyes that my mother had, and knowing that all of the Hawaii people who had thus seen me all looked completely terrified at my appearance did not sit well in my gut, and made my spirit turn with uncomfortableness.  Great.  To say I was overwhelmed was correct, but I was also so nutritionally deprived, my brain was not thinking quite clearly.  I knew SOMETHING big was about to happen, but it didn’t faze me.  It was almost like I had taken one too many cold medicine pills, and the resulting head-unattached-to-my-body feeling had resided in my body…for the last, oh, I don’t know, 10 months?  12 months?

Here now is where my faith, and my family’s faith, would surely be tested.

I too, like my mother and father, were believers in Christ, yet the head knowledge I had about Him greatly outweighed the experiential knowledge.  Case in point:  I could recite scripture, tell you all about the book of Mark, and detail history in the Old Testament, yet I didn’t have that ONE life-changing God moment where Jesus truly transformed my world.  I heard people talk about it, that there was a time when it was like flipping on a light switch, and they turned from darkened sinners to individuals redeemed and free from the constraints that once held them back.

I wanted that.

Deep down I felt like a fraud.  I said I believed in Jesus, but (in my mind) I didn’t have a close relationship with Him.

On the way home from the doctor’s my mom suggested we stop at Zippy’s to eat lunch.  Great.  Vegetarian chili, just like what I had in the freezer at college.  My mother’s response:  No way.  Pick something else.

Step one of eating disorder treatment:  Patient must eat, and she should try to eat foods that are not considered “safe”…like the aforementioned chili.  Or veggie burger.

What to eat then?  Once seated at the restaurant I perused through the menu with a fine-tooth comb.  Which dish had the least amount of fat?  Which dish wouldn’t make my thighs big?  Obviously my mother was not going to let me run, so what could I eat that wouldn’t make me feel like a gigantic slob?  Ten minutes later I finally decided on stew.  Granted it was Dr. Shintani’s (aka a macrobiotic-like doctor who prescribed low fat meals for diabetes sufferers) vegetable stew, but hey, it was not chili or a veggie burger.

I devoured the meal when the waitress brought the steaming plate to our table, and while my dad looked at me with pride (he had no idea what Dr. Shintani was all about), I saw my mother’s furrowed brow as she bit into her burger.

The first nutritionist I worked with definitely would have frowned at the stew as well.  At a really low weight, patients need as much energy as possible–although the general public may baulk at the idea that fast food and processed snacks make for good eating disorder recovery meals, these types of food will give a person protein, fats, and carbohydrates without taking up too much room in the stomach.  Going with a carrot, green bean, mushroom, and cauliflower tomato-based soup was not the best method for getting in those calories, but I was scared.  Scared of eating a burger which I really wanted and ballooning up overnight.  Scared that I wouldn’t be able to exercise off the meal I had just eaten.  Scared that my perfectly calculated daily meal plan would be uprooted and turned on its’ head.

My mother’s brow stayed furrowed until we reached home.  It was then that she said that we needed to pray.  Sure, I thought, we can pray.  I knew my mother was a prayer warrior, and would devote hours to reading God’s word and then talking with Him.  I was expecting a short five minute recitation of scripture, maybe a few words to Jesus thanking Him for the day, and a request or two for physical healing for me.

Was I in for a surprise.