There’s something beautiful about packing up your broken heart and venturing to sit with it by the riverside, allowing it to break as the heavy rains pour down, over and around you. It poured all day on Sunday and that night I did just that; I took my broken heart out to the riverside, I sat in the pouring rain and allowed the brokenness to simply come. The skies were broken with me and I felt their tears collide with my own. God was with me in the breaking, His love and presence washing over me amidst the stormy weather. I found peace in Him, amidst my brokenness there was a broken joy, a broken freedom and I rose up to dance in the midst of God’s love. As the rain poured, I so vulnerably danced with the Holy Spirit in the presence of God. I’ll never fall out of love with the way God holds us in our brokenness, the way His heart breaks with our own and how gently He loves us through it. Goosebumps covered my skin as I returned to my car, I wrapped my wet body in a blanket and switched on the lights. With the heater going, I reached for my Ann Voskamp book and opened to the next devotion. Now I don’t know if you remember but I still continue with the ‘surprise’ aspect of not knowing what devotion is next and when I turned the page on Sunday night, my heart smiled because I knew God was trying to speak to me; “Koinonia Brokenness”.
I can still recall how it felt when my heart broke for the first time and how it’s continued to feel, each time it’s broken since. It often begins with a deep pressing inside of me, my lungs begin to burn with an ache so deep that they forget how to draw breath. The process of breaking can sometimes feel so tangible and you’d swear you could feel the cracks turn to crevices, and then into canyons. I’ve been reflecting on brokenness and suffering a lot, over the last week or so especially. On Sunday night, when I began to read Ann’s words, God so beautifully showed me how brokenness and suffering go hand in hand, and how they are held in His wrap-around love. The way through brokenness is to break free from suffering alone; koinonia brokenness; communal brokenness. When we choose to suffer well and to suffer with God, and with those around us, then we allow for the suffering to be shaped into a meaning that transcends our understanding, as well as the suffering itself. Both R and T have at times told me that we would sit with the stuckness, the suffering, for as long as we needed to before we could move on. I realise now that I never once sat alone in my suffering because there was always someone sharing my suffering and that’s exactly what is meant by the phrase “koinonia brokenness”. God created us for community, for relationship with Him and those around us. When our hearts break, God’s own heart breaks. In the bible Jesus spoke of faith, hope and love. He said that the greatest of those is love. If we do not love God, we can not love others – let alone ourselves. Loving like Jesus means to embody the concept of koinonia, that is our sole purpose as God’s children. Ps Shaph actually said the exact same thing in church that morning – “as the body of Christ we need to love like Jesus and share God’s grace with those around us”. Following Jesus and loving like Him, is always worth the suffering. I would happily break daily if I knew that it would glorify God, that it would allow Him to be seen through me and for His love to wash over those around me.
As the moonlight reflected upon the river on Sunday night, I watched on as the rain sent ripples through the still waters and what Ann had written next in the devotion was so fitting: “There is a river over which every soul must pass to reach the kingdom of heaven, and the name of the river is suffering – and the way to cross that river is a cross nailed together with love”. Jesus died cruciform for us so that we may have eternal life, it is by His love that we are able to walk through seasons of suffering. Ann said that ultimately, all those who love will suffer. If we didn’t love, we would have care or compassion, therefore we would have no reason to suffer or break. God knew that keeping His commandment to ‘love your neighbour’ would also be a means of keeping suffering, yet he commanded us to do so anyway. God knew that suffering would come from Jesus dying on the cross, but through love God allowed Jesus to die anyway. God knew that suffering would inhabit the earth, yet He created it anyway. Love runs through the veins of suffering and the cross, Jesus, is the only way of abundance and the only way through the brokenness. Suffering is at the burning core of everything because love is at the core of everything. As I said earlier and as I’ll continue to say, it is most beautiful that we don’t need to ever suffer alone; God draws nearer to us in our suffering and He breaks with us. The word suffer is derived from Latin, meaning “to bear under”. Ann wrote: Suffering lets the soul see — see the deep suffering around us, see the deep suffering within us, see the suffering Savior who deeply absorbs all suffering, and carries us Home where there is no suffering for evermore. Suffering doesn’t mean you’re cursed, suffering means you’re human. There is no point trying to question suffering, the point is how are you going to answer suffering. The question never is if you understand the why of your suffering — and the answer always is how are you going to stand up and walk through your suffering. You don’t have to know the reason for your suffering — you only have to know your response through the suffering. The suffering isn’t meant to drive you away from God, but it can drive you to the only place in the cosmos that is ultimately safe: His open arms. No suffering can sever us from the tenderness of Jesus who suffers with us. We who have run for our very lives to God, have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go (Hebrews 6:19 MSG). Suffering quietly begs us to surrender what is out of our control unto God, it tells us that we can not bear the burden alone. Ann shares that the only way to bear suffering is through koinonia brokenness; depending on God and on others to help us when we are unable to help ourselves, bearing the vulnerability and intimacy that comes with koinonia and community, allowing others to sit in our broken suffering with us. Suffering calls each of us to bear under for one another, to hold and support each other through the brokenness in the same way the God does for us. Jesus broke the bread and asked us to do so in remembrance of Him; communion, community, koinonia. When we choose to suffer and break alone, we live enslaved and dis-membered. But when we choose to suffer and break in koinonia, we live an abundant life, re-membered in this brokenhearted world.
I have dwelled on relationship a lot over the last few weeks and I have found God calling me to step out into new depths of vulnerability amidst my brokenness. Growing up, trauma caused me to develop a skewed outlook on relationships. I never understood the importance of relationships until this past year. God’s been teaching me that relationships are actually a huge part of why we were created; whether it’s our relationship with God, or with those around us, with ourselves, and with all aspects of life – yes, even our relationship with food – they’re all important. For years the main relationships I held near was God and Gollum, I felt as if I couldn’t trust the rest so I withdrew and eventually I withdrew from God as well. Relationships became something I feared, they encompassed vulnerability and deep suffering. The people I loved in my life always seemed to break me; both family and friends – even strangers, whether I loved them or not. My safely trapped became a habitual retreat and kept me tucked away from relationships; and now it seems that the more I venture out into being safely held, the more drastically things begin to change. R and I spoke about our relationship the other night and I realised that until meeting her, I had gone through many beautiful friendships but none were like the one I share with her. When I think of T and TC, I have had various beloved ‘mother-like’ women in my life but none like them. R, T and TC all so gently love me the way Jesus loves me, when I am with them I feel close to God and I realise how truely precious relationships are. God has been challenging me to step into new relationships and as I have done so, He has continued to bless me in my brokenness. There is a girl at work, ER, who for months used to scare me. I remember feeling so insecure around her and Gollum turned everything into a competition; she had anorexia and Gollum said that my battle was pathetic compared to hers, she would complain about not being able to gain weight and Gollum would remind me how huge I was, she would express her love for Little J and Gollum would convince me I wasn’t good enough. I became so afraid of her that when God began asking me to pray for her, I couldn’t understand what He was trying to do. After a month or so of God placing her on my heart, I began to pray for her and as time went by, my heart began to soften toward her. Over the weekend before last I wrote about brokenness and what God had been teaching me, four days passed and God prompted me four times to reach out and share with ER but each time I said no because that would be vulnerable. Wednesday came and ER arrived at work in tears, and without her engagement ring of three days. I still felt insecure around ER and didn’t know how to approach her but that night I found myself submitting to God and sharing with her. ER’s broken heart responded to my own and God used me as a means for Him to hold her heart. By the end of the week I found myself sitting across the table with ER, having a chai latte and a chat at one of our local cafes. I experienced what it was to bear under one another in suffering, koinonia. A few weeks ago a lovely woman named H, introduced herself to T and I in church. Since then she has reached out to me many times but out of fear I polity declined any form of relationship; once again, God challenged me to step into a new relationship. I have since bravely done so. H and I first met at a cafe with several other women, then a week later the two of us drove out to the riverside and I shared with her all the trails and back roads for her photography. H partnered with another lovely woman from Oceans Perth, A, and the two of them are desperately trying to rope me into the media team where I can serve at church; another scary and new connection. My favourite coffee shops know my name and order, based solely off the sound of my voice; for years I used to avoid coffee shops and when I went I gave out a name that wasn’t my own. I walked into Yellow Bird the other week and much like the other boutiques, I was greeted by name and praised highly for my photography and presence; I was asked if I would mind having my photos shared on their social media. Although many other boutiques from both New Zealand and around Australia have already shared my photos, for a moment I was quite insecure because of my body but God reminded me once again that I was safe and secure in Him. I scrolled through my instagram just earlier today and surely enough a photo of myself had been posted on Yellow Birds account and to my surprise it didn’t effect me negatively, the way I thought it would. The same goes for my photo being posted on my churches social media. As insignificant as these examples may be, in my heart I think it shows progress in terms of boldly stepping out and connecting with those around me. I won’t lie, the concept of relationships is still one I am learning to grasp but my God has been safely holding me through the process.
Stemming from relationships, I have learned that even the most precious and grounded relationships, have the ability to crush your heart. In relationships where loving someone seems so easy and effortless, it is all the more important to establish boundaries; not only tangibly, but emotionally as well. Tangible boundaries are fabulous, but I think it’s the emotional boundaries that are most vital. I wrote a letter once that was titled ‘emotional separation’, the idea behind it was that I thought I needed to stop loving and investing so that I wouldn’t find myself heart broken and alone. Oh how God has grown me in understanding since then! I have come to learn that it’s quite the opposite, instead of with holding love and investment, we are called to give more. Broken Givenness. I am learning to set emotional boundaries through prayer. I now often pray that whilst God holds my broken heart, that He will protect my heart and help me to fearlessly love those who hurt me. Often our most precious relationships are the ones that break us the most and I think most the time, the breaking is unintentional. I stood in church on Sunday, broken hearted and alone in tears; I felt abandoned, unsafe and insecure. As the tears swelled in my eyes, I smiled because how many times does God have to remind me that when it comes to relationships – my relationship with Him is the most important and consistent. I asked God to hold my breaking heart, as I searched for my safety and security in Him. I have learned that my human heart can be selfish and deceitful when it breaks and loves; therefore I have learned to pray that my human heart will grow to align with God’s heart, so that when I love, I am able to love with His love rather than my own. I have learned to pray that the boundaries within my relationships would shift to align with God’s, that all those involved will be led by His heart rather their own. The three relationships most dear to my heart are those I have with R, T and my mother. I hold hope that two of those are safe and secure, but I know one is suffering. There’s an unspoken broken that lives within my worldly home and it’s led me to realise that the only home that is true, is my home in God. E shared with me a concept that she discussed with one of her past patients. She said that sometimes when a person finds themselves in safe and warm environments, they feel like they are able to be themselves and they’re surrounded by light. Whereas when that same person goes back into a dark environment where they feel unsafe, they’re often less likely to be themselves. E said it becomes hard when that dark place is their home. I resonated with what E shared because when I walk into R’s home, or T’s office, I feel a great sense of safety and peace. But each night I return back to my home and the darkness within, I find myself trying to shrink and conform. There’s an unspoken broken between my family and I. My relationship with my mother has been growing more and more difficult to navigate and the breaking grows deeper each day. I shared with R and God used her to plant a seed of hope within that hurting relationship. What if I prayed for God to help me establish loving emotional boundaries? What if there was a way to unconditionally love my mother, without my heart being torn to shreds each day? I am still learning how this will look going forward but I know that God will carry me through and will provide me with what I need to suffer well. I am blessed to be able to look at other relationships for examples of what these boundaries may look like. When I consider my relationship with T and the boundaries we hold, I think of the brutal process we ventured through to get to this point and the love she needed to have for me in order to follow through, especially when both our hearts were breaking. It’s different, but also quite the same, when it comes to my mother and I; I am praying that my love for her through Jesus will carry us through the setting of boundaries. We will never be able to change someone, I have seen proof of that in all of my relationships, but we will always be able to love them when we choose to like like Jesus.
I remember one very cold morning earlier last week, I was wrapped up in my heated blanket and my numerous heavy duvets, whilst the storm outside raged. I opened my journal and began spending time with God when He shared the following with me. It had been raining heavily all night and I looked out my bedroom window to see small white bullets of hail landing between my poppy seedlings. My first thought was that life can be a bit like that sometimes.. brutal. There are times where we ourselves are like those poppy seedlings; we are with faith newly planted in rich soil, we are fighting to grow nearer to God, and before we know it we are hit with attacks from the enemy – we are hit with brutal bullets. You see, those poppy seedlings don’t know what is to come, they don’t know if the days ahead will hold sun, wind or rain – growth, challenges or battles. They don’t know whether or not they will survive but they remain planted deep in the rich soil. Their roots draw their strength from that soil and they don’t give up the fight when the brutal hail of life hits them; instead they dig deeper and fight to stand taller. The hail soon melts to water and soaks into the soil, those poppy seedlings are then able to draw from that water which yields further growth. The brutal hail brings forth growth. In that exact same way, we as humans don’t know what the days to come will hold. We never see when the storms will hit us with brutality. We can find ourselves questioning if and how we will survive. But by the grace of our Father we are able to remain planted in faith. We are able to draw our strength from Him. We are able to fight without giving up and when life’s brutality tries to knock us down, we are through faith able to stand taller because we know our God is fighting the battle for us. As the hail turned to water that produced growth, so the brutality of life turns to water that brings forth growth from our broken wounds–when we survive the storms and give the glory to God, we see His provision and our faith in Him grows deeper. T once told me that when her poppies initially begin to grow, she breaks the buds off before they can flower because it brings forth a bigger harvest. I think that picture of growth after brokenness is so precious and plants seeds of hope in our broken hearts. Brutal brokenness brings forth an abundance of growth.
For a while now, God has shown me that over the years I needed to be broken, brutally, before I could be set free. I have often found myself questioning amidst the breaking, but I don’t question anymore. I know that brokenness is one of God’s greatest gifts, by allowing brokenness; we are able to be moulded into God’s hands and feet, we are washed up at the foot of the cross, our need for God is deepened, growth is harvested and we are set free. I have experienced great brokenness in my life and over the last few weeks the brokenness has been tangible, both internally and externally. Within the recent breaking, my heart has never been more safely held. The Friday before last was a day of breaking, it was a day of freedom and an abundance of grace: as a result came a broken freedom. My freedom in Jesus was brought forth by the breaking of Gollum’s chains, the enemies chains, that has held me captive for so many years.
There have been times amidst my recovery where the thought of not knowing my weight, has popped up and been discarded faster than it ever appeared; along with the thought of how much less hindered I would be, how much more wholly I could pursue God, if only I didn’t know my number. It wasn’t until nearly two weeks ago that I really sat with that thought. As I prayed for God to aide me in my pursuit of Him alone, He reminded me of my week with Him in hospital: I didn’t know my number, I was able to wholly pursue Him and I reached a point where I had lost enough weight – my weight didn’t define me there and what I didn’t realise, was that it didn’t define me now either. Since coming home I have fought hard for my recovery, for my freedom against Gollum. I’ve had some stinkin’ good food weeks where my intake has been full and I’ve not been exercising, throwing everything up or even abusing laxatives. The battle however, has only continued to grow harder and the weight gain became very real; I can’t bring myself to reveal numbers but T know’s just how real the gain has become. For a while I tried really hard to break away from the chains that Gollum kept me captive in – I found myself reciting scripture over my body when I didn’t like what I saw, before stepping on the scale I would pray, when I heard Gollum’s voice I would play worship music and speak to Jesus – there is so much more that I did and still continue to do, but my heart kept telling me that complete freedom required breaking. I met with T a while later and it was as if God spoke to me again when she brought up the concept of ‘blind weights’ for my recovery – the one thing I’ve always been terrified of and swore I’d never commit to. It wasn’t the first time we had spoken of blind weights over the past year, but it was first time I sat open to it and with tears in my eyes I told her that God said that same thing to me only a few hours earlier. We decided to step out in faith and do it: blind weights all the way because I made a decision in hospital to pursue God above the weight loss. Tears came and I remember boldly telling T that both her and R would still love me regardless of how I look or what my number says about me, the insecure human in me then shyly looked up at her and muttered the word “right”? T smiled warmly and said yes; nothing would change her love, or R’s love, or God’s love. God has shown me that I don’t need to be the ‘right number’ to ‘earn’ love, I am just loved – we established this in my last post. It was so beautiful to see T again and I left with my heart so in love with Jesus and my soul filled with so much peace – this is how it should feel when I walk away from time with any loved one. I also left T, knowing I wouldn’t again step on a scale to see my number. As I drove away, I deep down sensed that in order to secure my freedom, there needed to be a breaking; more than one.
I spoke to God that Thursday night and found myself writing on my scale: “For as long as I can remember I’ve been safely trapped in the embrace of Gollum. I’ve spent years chained and weighed down by the weight of expectations. I have ruined this body in a hope to reach the unattainable expectations placed upon me by those in my life, both past and present. “No one will love you if you’re fat”. I have believed the lies spoken about me and over time I attached my entire worth to the number on this scale… But you know what? I am so much more than a number. God created me in His image, I am His and He lives within me. This body I have destroyed is not even my own… it is His beautiful creation. My Jesus is so in love with me, just as I am. I don’t need to work to be ‘good enough’ because Jesus is abundantly enough. I don’t need to earn love because His love is unconditional. In the name of Jesus, I declare myself safely held”. For how long have I been a slave to that number? In my pre-teen years trauma had become a familiar foe and the battle with my worth and number had already begun. For more than a decade since, I have fought tirelessly to reach an unattainable expectation that Gollum held me to.
God has recently opened my eyes and shown me how beautifully, how fearfully and how wonderfully I have been made. In my heart of hearts I believe that I am worth so much more than a two-digit number on a man made machine – I am worth so much more than a category criteria made nearly 200 years ago. My body is God’s body, it’s been made in His image and is He not most beautiful? I drove out to my safe place by the riverside on that Friday morning the week before last and I spoke to my Jesus the whole drive there. Oh I had a smile so contagious and true, not even my deepest insecurities could hold back my joy in Jesus. I spontaneously recorded parts of my morning because it was something so vulnerable and special, I knew I would want to relive it time and time again. As I read out and declared God’s truth over me, the breaking started taking place.
The first broken freedom came when Jesus took my final few bricks that I’d begun restacking around my heart, as I spoke to Him whilst driving out to the riverside and as I stood in awe of God and what He says about me; the breaking within me began and I was freed from what Gollum says about me. The next to break was the ground, as I smashed the scale downward the earth began to break as my body has been broken; both by forceful hand. The scale began to break next, it didn’t happen all at once as I thought it would. I had to smash the scale many times and each time it broke the ground, a little more of the scale wore away. The breaking of the scale was gradual but with force I threw it to the ground over and over, the way life has thrown me brutally over the years. The scale at last shattered and scattered pieces of broken glass everywhere, I paused in disbelief as I further felt a sense of freedom from my number. The final breaking was the most beautiful breaking; the breaking of chains. As the scale shattered, my Jesus shattered the chains that has held me captive for all these years – a total abundance of freedom. The chains that broke were the lies and labels that took root within me, that ruled over so much of my life; the ones placed there by others since I was a little girl. When the scale at last broke, it was an exact representation of how I eventually shattered and God picked up my scattered brokenness. When I spoke to R later that day, after a billion squeals and hugs, she told me that as she watched the breaking she thought it so beautifully depicted how God gradually took my bricks as I allowed over time; until eventually all at once God broke through and held my heart, scattering pieces of His abundant love everywhere.
Looking back now, it is more clear than ever that my brokenness led me to freedom. My heart needed to be broken and my hope needed to be broken so that I could be forced to seek out Jesus. The brutal waves needed to break over me, they needed to crush my heart before I could be washed up at the foot of the cross; breathless in the breaking until I could atlas breath in the freedom of Christ. The scale itself, needed to be broken before I could be set free. The chains that kept me safely trapped needed to be broken, so that I could be safely held. Once again, Ann Voskamp put it beautifully: There is no growth without change, no change without surrender, no surrender without wound—no abundance without breaking. Wounds are what break open the soul to plant the seeds of a deeper growth. I used to be so fearful of surrender but I now believe it’s the most vulnerable and raw act of love we can do in our relationship with God. God knows our brokenness and He loves us through it. Brokenness happens so that God’s power can be seen and so that He can be made known. The breaking gave way for an abundance of God’s love and freedom to be poured out over me. If my brokenness can reflect God in even the smallest of ways, then may I remain broken for the rest of my days.
The bible tells us over and over that God is our source of strength; “The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusts in Him” – Psalm 28:7. The breaking in my life, over the years and over these recent weeks, none of it could have taken place without God. There is no way that I could have broken safely without Him holding me in my brokenness. I look back over the years and I can so clearly see how God has carried me and walked with me. My recovery would not be where it is today without God and His strength that has helped me get through hardships. The me a year ago is so different to the me now. E said the same to T a few weeks ago. The me a year ago never would have broken the scale or agreed to blind weights because the me a year ago had her worth and identity so strongly tied to her number. The me now has been able to boldly break the scale and agree to blind weights because I know that my worth and identity is in God, it is by His strength that I am able to wholeheartedly pursue Him.
What E said to T, really caused me to stop and consider how far we have truely come over the last year. We’ve made “truely remarkable” progress, as T worded it. I told her just the other day that it’s very exciting to see how much can be achieved when our faith and trust is solely in God. When we choose to draw our strength from God’s well, the way those poppies draw their strength from the good soil – literally nothing is impossible (Philippians 4:13). It’s so true though, when you actually pause and look at where we are at, it is so obvious that God is there; you can see pieces of Him in everything. The more I press into God, the more His Holy Spirit inhabits my being and the more I pursue Jesus; the less room there is for Gollum and the more he begins to diminish. I never could imagine a life without Gollum or a life outside of my safely trapped. But my golly, your girl can imagine a life without Gollum, she can imagine a life where she is safely held and so beautifully free. When I think of my life, I think of Jesus and all He has done for me. Eeek my heart is beaming with this relentless joy.
Without God, I well and truely know that I wouldn’t be here today. All the times I shouldn’t have made it, He was there. He continues to be here. When I didn’t want Him there and when I walked away, doubting His presence; He was there through others. The night I sat in the back of my Jeep with R, saying a last goodbye – He was there. On the floor in T’s arms, a wreck after overdosing – He was there. God has literally always been there and He continues to carry me through. Recovering from an eating disorder is hard, no scratch that – it’s freaking hard. There is virtually no way that I would be progressing the way I am if it wasn’t for Jesus. T and I discussed my progress the other week, we spoke about how my team views it from a worldly perspective and I told T that regardless of how others see my progress, I only see it as God; she said there’s no other explanation. And there really isn’t any other explanation; I know my remarkable turnaround wasn’t the kind of ‘snap healing’ we’ve spoken of in the past, but oh how things have drastically changed over the last few months! I have graduated from CMH, this means I no longer need to see a psychiatrist or occupational therapist. I didn’t expect this to happen before next year, yet here we are. It’s daunting to be entirely honest, sometimes I wonder if I’m quite ready but then God just instils within me a peace that only comes from Him. In my final appointment with my psychiatrist, between the giggles about gin and the excitement around my future, she asked me why I now want to get better. My answer? Jesus. My faith. My occupational therapist found herself in tears when I shared with her my decision to pursue psychology and when she too asked me what I thought was the main factor in my recovery; my answer? Undoubtedly, Jesus. My faith. Another huge, and overly exciting, but still huge, and a little bit scary, but mostly incredible, milestone in my recovery was dinner out with R! After literally years of planning and waiting, the two of us ventured out to dinner and afterwards even grabbed a takeaway chai latte before heading to the foreshore for our routine car chat. If that doesn’t just scream God’s glory, then I don’t know what else would!! If you know me, or anyone recovering from Anorexia Nervosa, you can only image how huge this step would be. Eeek I am soo excited though because between all my people, there will be many more outings in the years to come!! On a slightly more deep and fearful note, another form of progress that would never have a chance to take place without Jesus, is the unboxing of my trauma. E and I have reached a point where we are ready to begin healing. Within God I know I am safely held, I am undoubtedly loved and I am secure in Him. Jesus has broken so many chains but I am well aware of the hold my past still has on me. I long for a broken freedom where I am no longer a captive. The weeks to come may feel like one tsunami after the other, but my heart holds hope that each wave will wash me up at the foot of the cross.
My mother smiled at her phone the other night and when my father asked who she was speaking to, she laughed stating that she was chatting with my uncle.. that uncle. As my mother continued giggling, my mind began spiralling towards my safely trapped and oh how I wished that it ran boldly toward my safely held instead. In my human heart I felt a bitterness grow inside of me; how could my mother be making jokes and engaging with him… after everything? It felt like a betrayal but of course it would be unfair of me to feel that way, after all it has been my choice not to share with her about past events. The “t” word.. E first brought that up a few weeks ago.. it took a while before I could agree that we needed to work through my past sooner or later. As cliche as it sounds, the trauma flashbacks come and go in waves. The waves have felt like tsunamis lately and it’s brought back many undesired memories. The intrusive nightmares around trauma and self harm have become increasingly more frequent and more difficult to cope with. The other night I slept for an hour, woke at midnight and sat up in bed for the rest of the night with the lights on. When learning to sit with the emotions that arise, I have found myself at times returning to coping mechanisms from my past; unhealthy coping mechanisms. Truth be told my eating disorder has suffered for a while, I struggled to keep anything down but God’s strength has carried me through and He will continue to do so. I missed a sermon a few weeks ago, T had said she thought of me through it and encouraged me to go back and listen; the night I sat up in bed until sunrise, I did just that. God’s timing was perfect and He spoke to me through what Ps Shaph had shared.
The theme we have been working through in church is grace. On that particular Sunday Ps Shaph shared about a time in his life where He felt so undeserving of God’s grace, his voice broke as He told us how ashamed he felt for getting trapped in the cycle of self destruction; saying he will never again do something, then doing it and feeling guilty, doing it more because he feels guilty, then again repeating the cycle. I have been a slave to that cycle for years, especially within my eating disorder. I have felt deep shame and remorse for failing, time and time again, despite my best efforts. I have felt so undeserving of everything as I have fallen down a hopeless spiral. I often have found myself retreating to my safely trapped, engaging in Gollum’s behaviours because that was what was safe and familiar to me. In hindsight my safely trapped only made me feel more guilt and shame which drove me further from God and deeper into the embrace of Gollum. It is solely God’s grace carries us through our suffering and even though we have all fallen short, God still loves us. Divine grace is the undeserved favour of a superior bestowed upon the inferior. Ps Shaph said that it’s not what we do that brings us closer to God, it’s by His grace that we are already near to Him. I can’t tell you how often I have felt the need to ‘earn’ love, forgiveness and grace; from those around me but from God especially. The human in us tends to fall into the trap of thinking that our relationship with God is dependant upon our behaviours and choices, that it depends on what we have to bring to the table. But that’s so not true! Only through faith do we have life in Jesus. It’s not about what we do for God, but what Jesus did for us. My Jesus broke the chains of guilt and shame that stopped me from receiving His Father’s love and grace. God is teaching me that I can never do anything ‘good enough’ to earn His grace. It comes back to what I said in my last post; we don’t need to be ‘good enough’ because Jesus is already abundantly enough. Proverbs 17:4, says that though the righteous fall seven times, they will rise up again. By God’s grace, that’s us. How beautiful to know that though we fall over and over again, we are through God’s strength able to rise up again? The grace of God is our only hope. Ps Shaph spoke about the trembling adoration of beloved children of God. I’ll forever love that phrase; trembling adoration… beloved children. When I think of my Jesus and all He has done for me, trembling adoration most perfectly describes my awe of Him. We are God’s children, His beloved children. How blessed are we? As God’s children, we shouldn’t feel guilty about receiving His grace. God loves us and He freely bestows His grace upon us.
For weeks now I have been speaking about my pursuit of God. At times I have felt that I was bad and failing, but as T reminded me; “I am pursuing God and He loves me in my brokenness”. Whilst driving to work the other day, God reminded me that as much as I am pursuing Him, He is pursuing me more. As I draw nearer to Him, He draws all the more nearer to me. Wherever I fall short in my pursuit of God, He stands in the gap and continues to fight for me. made a promise to God whilst I was in hospital, during my week alone with Him. I promised to pursue God above all else, a fearless pursuit of Jesus and a deeper relationship with Him. I promised to strive toward pursuing my God whole heartedly for the rest of my days. As a sign of my promise I ordered a ring from one of the local jewellers, would you believe me if I told you that it arrived on the Friday that the breaking took place? How perfect was God’s timing? I am so in love with my Father. I am in love with God. God is in love with me. I am in love with my people. My people are in love with me. But I pause to question who we are in love with? Ultimately the answer is God. I think that when people love me, they also love God who is in me. And when I walked away from God, they loved me because they knew that God still loved me. When I think of the people I love, they so beautifully depict Jesus. I was asked what my favourite colour was and when I said olive green, I was asked why and told to replace each reason with the people I hold dear to me – my people like T and R, remind me of God, they make me feel close to Him and I feel safe when in their presence; in that same way the colour olive green reminds me of God through his creation by the riverside, I feel close to Him and safe there. I see God in my people and it makes me love them even more. I know that I don’t need to earn love or feel guilty for being loved because it’s God in me, that my people love the most. I’ve seen the way R, T and TC all smile at me when I share with them my excitement for what God is doing within me, they love God and they love me; they share my excitement. I am learning to love myself, not for how I look but for how I see God within me and all around me.
More breaking is due to come, breaking the chains of trauma, nightmares and areas of my past that still hold me captive. As I continue to face a broken freedom, I hold onto what my God says about me. I am so dearly loved. I am beautiful, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, my body belongs to God and is a perfect depiction of His image, those who truely love me will love me for my insides not my outsides, I do not need to be the perfect number to earn love because I am already so deeply loved. There is a full freedom and deep realisation, that the weight on a scale is nothing, absolutely nothing, in comparison to the weight of God’s love for me – and for that, I am eternally grateful.
-c x (01.06.2021)