Every real relationship has its ups and its downs…its seasons of distance and difficulty. But if you dare to fight through it, you can come back better and stronger, and closer. I know in my heart that distancing myself from Him was because I didn’t know Him, only about Him. I didn’t want to hear or face what God might possibly see in me. God absolutely does not see or love or respond to you and me in a way we can ever really understand. I thought I knew what He must see, and it must be disappointment and anger and shame. Disappointment in me for having mental challenges and for being so full of emotion that I could barely take a bite of food to nourish myself. I’ve felt my struggles were a punishment because of things I’ve done wrong and how my family ended up splitting up for years. Maybe if I would’ve been a better kid or student, or youth leader, those things wouldn’t have happened? I haven’t felt like a victim, I’ve felt responsible. I didn’t want Him to be a part of my recovery anymore because I was angry and tired of trying to get better and no noticeable strides seemed to be being made. I have journals full of asking God when this game in my mind and the anorexia could be over. Without Him, it’s been nothing short of a never-ending nightmare.
That’s where I was, and it didn’t scare God one bit. He could take my brokenness and turn it into amazing hope no matter how many pieces I have sat in the floor with… I was dead wrong about how He saw me, loved me, and how courageously and selflessly Jesus had given His life for me. The more time I spend with Jesus, the more time I desire to spend time with Him. Even now though, all I have to do is barely turn the knob opening that past door, and the rebellion and hurt and fear rush back in with great strength. Even just opening the door a tiny crack can be a setback, so waking up each day and choosing Jesus is life for me.
All of these emotions came back to me recently when I was out getting groceries for our family. Grocery stores are so big and, well, full of wall to wall food. I know…brilliant J. Grocery stores are, at times, my hardest place to be. I had gotten what our family needed, I hoped, as I stood in the long line to reach the checkout lady who was working so hard to get us through her line. I felt like I’d been shopping for hours, but in reality it hadn’t taken near that long. Standing in line, I walked up next to “her.” Our carts were almost parallel and after looking everywhere else, I saw the left side of her face, and she knew it. I looked away and straight down at my feet. I am positive the bruises and marks on her face and neck were not as a result of anything cosmetic she had willingly applied to look pretty. Momentarily, my eyes saw her upper arm, and it was deeply bruised with finger marks perfectly spaced apart and my heart went from my chest to my throat. I couldn’t swallow. My mind immediately went to black and white images which flashed quickly and then dissipated only to reappear. I didn’t want to show my emotion but how could I stop my heart from breaking for her? Impossible.
Maybe she had chosen the wrong boyfriend or spouse. Maybe he was drunk or she had said the wrong thing to trigger his rage. Maybe someone felt she “deserved” this reaction. Unacceptable. I don’t really care about the “maybe’s,” because I saw her and I know her even without knowing her name. She never let even the side of her face be toward me again, and she left quickly after paying. As I was paying, the tears flowed down my cheeks. I couldn’t stop them and people saw and I didn’t care what they thought in that moment. It’s not my responsibility to know the “why” or “how” things happen in others’ lives before I feel compassion or love. God’s got every detail, and He sees what happens in your life and mine, so judgment before love doesn’t have to happen.
God imparts grace…not tolerance to us. He is just, but His greatest attribute and characteristic is love. And His love is not reserved for when we get to a certain place in our recovery or lives, but it’s available the very moment we let Him meet us…just as He did with the lady I last wrote to you about – the woman from the well (John 4). Jesus loves the unlovable.
The precious people God has in my life know they could point out my struggles. My struggles aren’t easily concealed and hidden like some. Friends and family could be critical. They could be critical of me and tell me what to eat because their struggle may be different and they may not get my battle at all. And while they aren’t tolerant of what I am faced with daily, they trust God enough to hand me over to Him, and I am changing. They pray with me and for me when I cannot pray anymore! This creates change from the inside out, but in His timing, not theirs. It must be very difficult to not try to “fix me,” and they have cried with me and for me. My family and friends must get angry over the days and moments and decisions I have turned over to the sickness and addiction, but the greater the unconditional love, the more I want to know this Jesus who has lived in my heart as a stranger, and see Him as my Father.
Where do the consequences for our actions come in then? How can others make sure we know we are wrong? I do believe “her,” from the grocery store line was very aware of her consequences as she stood there in line with her bread and milk and peroxide and box of bandages and devastated demeanor. She wanted to be invisible. And I’m positive the woman who Jesus met at the well that day was marred by her sin, and it seeped out of her walk and her talk. And I know that for how long I have fought anorexia my consequences could be greater, but I have physical reminders intruding on my daily life without fail. God has spared me much, nevertheless.
But there is something else about the woman from the well, you, me and the lady at the grocery store. God’s Word says this, “Then leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did.” Jesus told her only a touch of what He knew about her, and He was honest yet He extended grace to her. Her part was to accept Him and let Him forgive her and change her. She didn’t leave that well thirsty. She left full and not beaten down or abused by their talk. She desired to go and tell everyone Who she had just been with. That’s what I desire to do so badly. That’s why I write these things to you.
I am still on this dusty road of recovery, but Jesus, and my amazing family and friends are cheering me on, so I cannot help but tell you about Who I meet daily at the well. I am not ashamed of Him, and His healing is helping me not be ashamed of me. I am silenced if I am refusing to eat and giving in to my mind which hurts daily. His strength helps me hate what is going on while simultaneously seeing the good and growth in my life.
For years I could keep my hurts all together in this one little secret place inside me. I wanted to go through life and look so shiny and not accept the hurts or “go there” emotionally with myself or anyone else, which lasted a total of…not long. You and me - we have things happen and we can sort of get through them and add them to our repertoire of hurts. But please know…they aren’t meaningless. If you have shut God out, I ask you to reconsider Him. Even if you did things wrong, if your hurts are negative consequences to your decisions, or if you are a victim of a wrongful act, your hurts are not beyond God. God doesn’t make things happen to us so that we will get so worn down we finally choose Him. He does use our life trauma, however, to enable us to see there must be more. I cannot do this life on my own!
Ask Jesus for help in any way you can. He does not require a formal speech with eloquence. He wants you! The vivid snap shots of “her” from the grocery store still haven’t gone from my mind. I wanted it to be me again, not her, if it could mean I could take it from her. I can live through it again. What if she couldn’t? I got to my car and put my head on my steering wheel and the words fell from my lips, “Jesus, come back today! Please… can today be the day?” Hurting for her was the least I could do realizing she probably got in her car and drove right back to the one who had hurt her. That’s what we often do though. We keep going back for more. Right there is where so much of my daily fight is fought. Without Jesus’ help, I go back to the lies and the abuse. It’s a vicious cycle. I’ve been praying for “her,” for “you” and for “me.” We. need. Jesus. I offer you something and someone different - Him. He changes everything. Only Jesus truly gets the depth of our hurt and can lead us away from the harm. But looking back on some abusive seasons, I can take them to Him and leave them there at the foot of the cross and run away without shame and share with you the joy I have today.
Who is this Jesus, who I am describing to you, in your life? The woman at the well - she represents so many of us. She was hurting and her life totally showed it. She arrived at the well not wanting to hear another person’s opinion of her life choices, I’m pretty sure. She was in deep need for change, and Jesus became that change. She asked for forgiveness, and she was never the same because she believed Him. She left His presence without shame, but with hope. Hope for eternity. You are just as amazing as her, and Jesus waits for the chance to forgive you today, and save you from your toxic tomorrow. Jesus says,” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He is refreshingly incomparable to anyone here on earth.
I honestly cannot thank you enough for letting me share with you as I take each step, and sometimes take a few steps back, in this life. Whether you can identify with the woman who Jesus loved unconditionally at the well, or the woman in the grocery store line who wanted to be invisible, or are the friend or family member of someone who only Jesus can transform, please don’t give up. Please don’t fight alone in fear of what you may think Jesus must believe about your situation. I’ve only lost ground with my Father out of the equation. You? Me? The woman at the well? The woman at the grocery store?...We are all the same. Jesus, then and now - Same.
Jesus...thank you for not being shocked by where we are at this moment in our lives. Thank you for being willing and ready to speak with us and be the change in our lives, not the tolerance. You are hope, and I cannot live without you. I pray that each person who reads this will want you so desperately that they will surrender and ask for help from You! In Jesus’ name, Amen.
I Love You!