In my teenage years, I became a slave to bulimia. I loved and enjoyed food, but I didn't want it to "catch up with me." How delighted I was to find this way of eating what I wanted without consequences—or so I thought. More and more of my life began to center around food binges. I made my decisions about who I would be with, what I would do, and when I would do it based on my growing addiction.
No one knew, and my happiness seemed to depend on their not finding out. I lived for those binges. In those moments, I could live without limitations—except, of course, the swollen glands, the strained relationships, the wasted opportunities, and the perpetual sense of guilt and fear that I would be discovered. But I could eat anything I wanted!
Sounds crazy, yet this was life for me, and I chose it again and again over losing my "freedom." Eventually, however, I began to desire a life beyond food. So I decided I would stop. I read books, obtained jobs, and chose college and graduate courses all with the primary purpose of learning how to be free from the chains of this relentless addiction.
And I would quit . . . for a day, a week, even months, at times. But the addiction would never leave. When life became too hard, I would comfort myself by appointing a day for an uninterrupted binge. When that anticipated day was unwittingly disrupted by an unsuspecting friend or relative, or by some unanticipated circumstance, I experienced the ensuing restraint as an untamed beast experiences a cage. No matter how hard I tried, brief periods of abstinence were the best I could do. My mind and heart were literally obsessed by food.
During my years in graduate school, I began to feel concern for my soul. I felt so guilty. I knew that God was not pleased with what I was doing. I reasoned that even if He would tolerate my binging and purging, He certainly hated the lying, stealing, and manipulating that came with it. These were essential, though, since secrecy was my only means of "peaceful" continuance in sin. What an absolutely miserable existence!
After completing graduate school, my husband and I began attending an evangelical church, and I started reading the Bible. I was without a job, and God raised up a Jesus-following lady who hired me to transcribe her personal journals. As I read of her own failures and battles with self-indulgence, I saw an unmistakable difference. Her happiness was in God. My happiness was in food. When she struggled, she responded by ultimately forsaking the sinful indulgence out of greater love for and delight in God. When I struggled, I turned from God and His ways out of greater love for food.
All I could do was groan to God. I felt it would kill me to permanently stop practicing bulimia. It would mean giving up all of what I knew and loved (though also hated) about life. I could not do that. I knew I couldn't.
About this same time, a guest speaker came to our church and shared his testimony of how God's power had set him free from the sin of gluttony. I was surely the most attentive person present that day! When he said, "If you want to stop sinning, memorize Scripture," I began immediately. It didn't work in the magical, instantaneous way I had hoped, but I kept on in sheer desperation. I spent hour upon hour, day after day memorizing, reading, studying, and meditating on the Scriptures. I continued to groan and plead with God for help, for freedom.
My desire for freedom increased all the more as I came to see more and more the beauty of Christ, and the peace and happiness that surely belonged to all who could walk with Him freely. But that was not yet my privilege. Would it, could it ever be? I wondered and hoped.
One day in the midst of study and meditation, the first of several links in the chains of bondage was broken. For a long time I had known that the word gospel meant "good news," yet it wasn't until this moment that it dawned on me why "good news" was the phrase used for describing the work of Christ. Christ had died for sin. By His death He freed me from the penalty of sin. This much I knew. But by His resurrection, new life had come for all who were His.
What I realized in that moment was that Jesus was the One with the power to make me free, and He would do it by making me altogether new! I knew from hard experience that I could never stand against the power bulimia had over me. I would be its slave forever. My only hope was the possibility that the old me would die and be remade, reborn, a new person in Christ.
As I responded to God in faith, I began to experience a new desire. Before this time, I had always wanted to be free so that I could live without hindrance. For the first time, I wanted to be free so that I could love my God and Savior with all my heart and soul—the way He deserves! Something had indeed changed.
So, did I quit practicing bulimia from that day forward? No. In fact, I betrayed my new Master many times. But something about even the process of failure was incredibly different. He remained faithful to me. He blessed me so richly every time I was in His presence that I came to love His presence. And captivated in this way continually, I found myself binging and purging less and less frequently, until one day I realized I didn't need to practice it at all. I was happy without it.
I never could have imagined it possible, but the truth had set me free! Jesus had become more important, more satisfying, and more desirous than the sweetest, most appealing of foods!
That was about fifteen years ago now, and I am still free. In fact, I am more free. Do I ever feel old desires creeping in? Yes. Do I ever think too much about food? Sometimes. But I am experiencing the amazing grace and invincible power of God, who is remaking me in every way. Because He has freed me and I am being freed still, I know that one day I will be completely, altogether freed—made perfectly like Jesus with no distractions, no impulse toward sin, in order to serve, worship, and love Him forever!
There is not a day that passes that I don't marvel at what He has done for me. I love Him and run after Him and His ways because He has set me free. Yes, the gospel is "good news." It is indeed the power of God unto salvation (freedom)! And yes, now I have a new obsession: freedom for all in Christ! "Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you . . . I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods" (Psalm 63:3-5).
Check back tomorrow for several insights that were helpful to Debra throughout the process of being delivered from the bondage of bulimia.