Prisoner No More

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Are you free, beloved? Your God is a God who can free you. By His power, you can truly live!

This topic is dear to my heart, seeing as I struggled with it for years, and still to this day I have to fight to believe God’s truth. If I’m honest, I’ll tell you that it’s a little scary to open up my heart to you–my palms sweat a little and my heart quickens. My heart is completely laid bare in hopes that you will know you are not alone, and to share that there really is hope. I wanted to share my story with you today...

It was another sunny day in California. The flowers were in full bloom. The trees showed off their bright green leaves. The sun hit my face as I huffed my way up to my dorm room. Why in the world they put the dorms up at the top of the hill is beyond me. Except, I must admit it did wonders for my thighs!

Despite the beautiful day, inside I felt cold and lonely. Tears welled up in my eyes. My chest felt heavy as I tried to breathe. My mind felt dark and depressed. No hope flooded my heart. No joy. No thanksgiving. I had just come from the school cafeteria, where I managed to eat a salad, again. Only a salad, with very little dressing, and water. Oh, I had a smile on my face and seemed cheery as I talked with my girlfriends, but leaving I felt hopeless and enslaved. Yes, enslaved. I remember vividly my prayer as I walked up that steep hill that day.

“Lord, I feel so alone. I know I’m trapped in this cycle of not eating enough because I’m completely terrified of gaining weight. I want to fit in. I want to look like the beautiful girls. I want a guy to notice me. I feel as though I’m in a dark prison cell, with no light, and I can’t get out. This has gone on for so long Lord. No one understands. There’s no way I can tell anyone that could really help me either—I’m way too ashamed Lord. Embarrassed. Guilt-ridden. I mean I’m a Resident Assistant. I’m supposed to have it all together. I’m supposed to be leading other girls and helping them through their struggles. God, help.”

My parents knew. Two of my closest girlfriends knew. But I never listened to them. I chose to stay in my cycle of sin, instead of seeking help and freedom. See, here’s the thing. Although it had started off as wanting to be beautiful, I had bought into the lie that beauty=skinny, the root really became that I wanted to be in control. Counting my calories, and choosing only certain food, fed my pride. I could control it. I could manage my weight by choosing not to eat something.

When something in my life was out of my control—not having a boyfriend, stressing about a test at school, friend problems, missing home, overwhelmed with daily tasks—there was one place I ran that I could control: eating. Yes, I would run to Jesus and ask Him for help with that area I was struggling through, but I never fully surrendered. I never fully trusted. Instead, I took matters into my own hands and with a tight fist, chose what to eat and what not to eat.

For six long years, this eating disorder controlled me. Yes, I had some days or seasons that were better than others, but nevertheless I was a slave to it.

Finally, the Lord intervened. Yes, the Lord had been there the entire time. His heart hurt every time I idolized eating. Every time I didn’t eat something out of fear. Every time I believed a lie in my head about how skinny is beautiful. Every time I ran to controlling my food, instead of trusting Him. He had been there—with arms open wide, wanting me to come to Him. Sometimes I did, really I did. But then fell again into the vicious cycle.

A few weeks before I moved to Maui for my internship, my best friend and I were walking in the hot Fresno sun and she said to me, “Alyssa, how are you doing with eating?”

She always asked. She loved me so much that she called me out on my sin. She’d follow up with me. I told her how it had gotten really bad; actually I had hit an all time low that summer.

“I’ve been praying that the Lord would bring a mentor into your life when you move to Maui. Someone who will walk you through this to find true healing.”

Her words went deep into my heart and made their home there. Tears pierce my eyes now as I think on how she loved me like Christ. What beauty there is in friendship and accountability.

I began to pray the same thing, and within a month of moving to Maui, the Lord indeed blessed a mentor into my life who radically helped me find freedom from anorexia. She was real. Honest. Authentic. She constantly asked how I was doing. She prayed with me. She brought me to the scriptures to renew my mind. She called me out on the lies I believed. She gave me ideas of good things to eat, to see how many calories I should actually be eating in a day.

Along with her help, the Lord also placed three other girls into my life who I lived, worked, ministered, cooked, drove, and hung out with. We were always together. (Can you say accountability!?) These girls were free. They loved to eat. They enjoyed good food. They showed me how to not fear eating, but rather to give thanks for it. To eat wisely and use mealtime to fellowship and hang out with people. (Where before I ate so many meals alone because I didn’t want anyone to see what I was eating, or not eating.)

My journey with eating was long. But the moment I surrendered, the moment I made it known--brought it to the light--God freed me. He provided people in my life to walk with me--people who cared enough about me that they asked the hard questions. They prayed for me. They ate with me. They carried me when I was too weak to walk on my own. And to these women, I am ever so thankful.

But even more, I am so thankful for our Lord Jesus who loved me so much that He pursued me in my mess and came to my rescue. He didn’t let me stay in the filth of my sin. Yes, it was humbling. Yes, it was hard, and yes sometimes I fell right back into it. But slowly, He loosened my grip and freed me from my desire to control. He set me free. 

Our God is a God who frees us. By His power, we can truly live. I have to be honest with you—I still have to fight. I still have to choose to believe in His truth about my body image, about eating. Some days more than others. But I’m not a slave anymore. I know the truth, and when I am tempted—I know where to run. I have treasured His word in my heart and know how to overcome the lies that Satan and the world and my own flesh throw at me. And when I do fall, or start to realize a lie I am believing, I quickly run to Him, and ask His help, remember the Spirit’s power in me, and can ask others to pray with me. As one who has walked this rugged path, I can assure you:

There is hope.

There is healing.

There is power in the name of Jesus.

There is freedom.

Jesus came to set us free.

Are you free, beloved?

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