Whole people, wholly His

I sat in my parents’ minivan in the parking lot, crying. The diagnosis I’d just received wasn’t a surprise—I’d put a name to my behavior weeks ago—but, as is always the case, speaking the words into existence made them real: I had an eating disorder.

It had been a long time coming. I was ten years old when I first cried after weighing myself. Around then, I started counting calories on-and-off and feeling guilty around food. In my freshman year of high school, I spiraled from having occasional disordered thoughts to a full-blown eating disorder. At my worst, all I could think about was food. I made marbled cheesecake brownies and came downstairs in the middle of the night to look at (but never eat) them. I had dreams about eating a plate of baked ziti piled high with thick noodles covered in steaming tomato sauce and rich cheese. I sat in the back of the school bus and thought about how many calories were in a clementine. Food consumed me. I was not Molly, not the Molly I once was, sister and daughter and friend and athlete and student. I was the skeleton of that girl. Food was my personality, and my weight was my identity. 

And that illness left me in the parking lot, crying.

That Wednesday, seven years ago today, I began eating disorder recovery. God blessed me with an abundance of resources throughout that process, which isn’t the case for everyone. With my parents’ consistent patience and the support of my doctor, dietitian, and therapist, I started to heal. I gained the weight back and learned to eat normally again. In many ways, my eating disorder is a chapter in my past—yet it’s always going to be part of my story. I don’t just mean that I still occasionally have bad days or that mirrors in dressing rooms and calorie counts on restaurant menus still bother me, although those things are true. I also mean it in the much more positive sense that recovering from an eating disorder has allowed my story to continue, by God’s grace and for His glory.

When I stopped fixating on food, I started to discover the other parts of the person God created me to be and to think about how I could use my whole self to serve God. Part of my whole self is someone who eats and exercises—I really do like to run and lift weights and snack on anything that involves peanut butter. But I also love wandering through used bookstores and studying in coffee shops and taking road trips, none of which have anything to do with what I eat. I was not created to be a math equation of calories in, calories out. I am a whole person, made in the image of the God who is holy and whole.

The seven years since I started treatment haven’t been linear. I’ve made real progress, but I’ve also yo-yo dieted, body-checked, stepped on scales, and counted calories. The last two years have been the best: I haven’t stepped on a scale since January of 2019, and I’m working, really working, on eating intuitively. But if you want to talk about what recovery is all about, well, it’s not at all about what I’ve eaten. It’s about blogging with my best friends from high school and living with my best friends from college and working in my field after graduation and writing and trying new recipes in my free time. It’s about the way God’s shown me His love and how the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctifying me with every passing day. It’s not about consuming food; it’s about food not consuming me.

Let me be crystal-clear here: my recovery has been a gift from God. An eating disorder is not a sin, and recovering from one doesn’t make you a better Christian. Learning how to nourish my body well and stop measuring myself by my weight hasn’t met my deepest needs or made me whole. Nothing on this earth can do that. What recovery did, though, was free me to serve God more fully with my whole self. Instead of seeing myself as a calorie-consuming machine, I started to see myself as a fearfully and wonderfully made creation and to want to serve my Creator with all He’s given me.

I posted Romans 12:1-2 on our Instagram earlier this week. In the ESV, it reads: “Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” The Message puts it like this: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.” When I stopped fixating on food, I started understanding what it meant to offer up my everyday, ordinary life, in all its God-given fullness, back to God. I started to see that God wants me to use my brain and body for His glory by using my gifts, building friendships, joining a church, and serving my community. I don’t do these things perfectly, but if I was still trapped in my eating disorder, I couldn’t do them at all.

This is our calling: to love the Lord our God with our whole selves. In Matthew, one of the Pharisees asks Jesus, “Which is the greatest commandment?” Jesus replies, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:34-40 ESV). It is a simple but profound calling: to be whole people, wholly His.

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