Updated: Feb 28
“We’re going on a walk."
“I wanna go.” I cringed, realizing my response had been too quick. I sounded too eager.
My mom paused for a second, then replied: “You can come with us if you eat four Hershey's chocolate nuggets.”
I quickly did the math in my head.
It wouldn’t be worth it. I would have consumed more calories than I could burn off in a short walk through the neighborhood - at least according to Google’s calculations for my weight and pace of walking.
To this day I could tell you the numbers. They’re seared in my brain, renting, if not permanently owning, space and costing me far too much.
“No thanks,” I said, aware for a split second how silly it might sound that I couldn’t bring myself to eat a few chocolates. Any fleeting shame I felt was not enough to stop me.
I ran upstairs, heart pounding.
By the time I heard the front door close behind my family, I was pacing in circles in my little brother’s room. If I put one foot in front of the other until they came back, maybe that would be the equivalent of their walk?
Victory soared inside my emaciated figure - I had worked out a way to walk and avoid eating chocolate.
This surge of victory lasted but a moment as I circled breathless in my brother’s tiny box of a room, my ears ever alert for the click of the front door. I couldn’t be caught.
My triumph had been replaced with something, but the words to describe it eluded me. I didn’t understand at the time, but I now know exactly why that feeling disappeared. I wasn’t a victor at all. I was a slave.
SLAVE OR FREE?
In the last few years, God has used my eating disorder, probably more than any other thing, to teach me about the nature of sin and our enslavement to it because I know what it is to be a slave to something.
How many of us naturally think of sin as something we’re a slave to?
Most of us think of sin as something that’s free. There’s a mentality of doing what you want, when you want. Following your own heart. Living your best life for yourself. Sounds pretty great, right? Some would even say free.
But the reality is, none of us are free. We all serve something.
If you’re living for yourself, you’re living according to some kind of doctrine. You serve and worship something. You’re influenced by what others say, what they think, what you think they think. The values of culture and our world. The tug on your own heart to be liked, and praised, and full. These things are fluid, constantly changing, and impossible to appease.
On top of that, we are constantly flooded with the lies of an enemy who wants us to pursue and live according to all of these other things so that we don’t accept the saving grace of Jesus.
Let’s go back to the nuggets.
An eating disorder is something that any doctor will tell you develops out of the desire for control. You can’t control other things in your life so you control what you eat. You search for peace in it. You entrust it with your life. You lay everything else at its feet. And yet, as you search for control, you are absolutely consumed and controlled by this thing that promised control and freedom.
Do I sound like I was free? Walking in circles, paranoid, in my little brother’s room?
That doesn’t resemble freedom. It resembles a cell.
I was chasing freedom, relief, little shots of peace or satisfaction. Yet I only grew hungrier and hungrier. I was starving - physically and spiritually. Chasing freedom that could only be found in my Maker. The One whose opinion of me never changes. Who loves me unconditionally. Not for what I look like or for what I do. In fact, He continues to love me despite what I do because it’s who He is (Titus 3.4-7). He loves me and He loves you to the point of death on a cross.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT THIS?
John, arguably Jesus’ closest friend here on earth, records these words from Jesus for us: “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin (John 8.34).”
In Romans 6, after Paul has discoursed on the abundance of God’s grace, it’s saving nature, and the absolutely free gift that it is, he goes on to reinforce what Jesus said:
“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin…Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness (Romans 6.6-7, 16)?”
More often than not, I think we want to experience grace but still live in sin, because in our sinful nature, we still desire and believe that sin is freedom and that it satisfies. We don't want to leave it behind. We want the grace (which we don't need if we don't think sin is bad or separates us from God) and the freedom we think our sin offers.
Honestly, all throughout recovery, I was looking for ways to hold onto parts of my eating disorder. Even in the last few years, I continue to realize there are things I never fully let go of or laid at Jesus' feet. But, we can't hold onto our old lives when we're a new creation. Paul literally says that "our old self was crucified with him that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin."
Sin is not freedom. It’s something we need to be freed from.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6.23).”
Friends, that is the good news of the gospel! While we couldn't free ourselves, God didn't leave us hopeless. We needed a Savior, and He sent His only Son! Jesus paid the price. He frees us from sin and makes us right with God. We are saved and have eternal life through faith in what He did.
Reflecting on that time, I was at the beck and call of my eating disorder. I sacrificed bits and pieces, and then whole parts of myself to it. My days. My time. My friendships. My mind. My heart. My soul. It ruled my days and where I went. It determined what I thought of myself. That's what identity and worship look like. My identity rested in it and I belonged to it in every possible way. It owned me.
By the grace and mercy of God, He rescued me. He physically saved my life, and then ever so patiently worked on my heart, pointing me to the cross, and the only One who has ever been enough. He showed me the truth that we are all broken by sin. He showed me my need for a Savior and introduced me to Him. That very Savior offers freedom from sin and freedom from a life in service and worship to anything other than Him. Things that promise life but bring death.
OUR GREAT HOPE
While we still struggle with sin, we are not at all alone. It does not have the final word. It is not our master. The Son of God who conquered the grave is. That is good news!
We rest in Jesus' finished work on the cross, not striving to earn our salvation, but experiencing the saving and changing work of grace in our lives as the Holy Spirit helps us be conformed to the image of Christ.
Friends, there is great freedom and joy to be found when we turn and worship the One who made us. He is faithful. He came so that we might have life and have it to the full.
My identity is now in Him. I belong to Him. I am not my own. I am His child, called to so much more than circling a room or counting calories. Redeemed by a Savior who broke His body so that I might be a new creation, with a new heart, and - one day - a new resurrection body that will worship Him for all of eternity. Praise Him!