So I’ve begun a series called “Glorious Shame”, inspired during a hike I was on. Those who know me best may just experienced their jaws dropping to the floor because I have always had the personality of a cat- I’ve never done outdoors if I can help it. Especially for exercise.
Well I’ve been doing some changing you see. Outdoors depict God’s artwork across the seasons. And I am developing a whole new appreciation for the colors and tones of fall. And I like to see it all from the top of a steep mountain that make my legs cry.
I’ve come to enjoy turning hikes into quiet time with God: seeing the chaos of man made structures surrounded by the vast spread of nature remind me of how omnipotent He is. Then before you know it, I’m meditating on his love for little old me: just one small entity that makes up this vast world.
Then I got the idea of “Glorious Shame.”
Glorious shame is presented as separate small stories. Each story is a testimony of how ordinary people were transformed by the extraordinary power of God and overcame their former shame. It is meant to be a celebration of something all believers share: testimonies.
I chose the name GS because testimonies all start off with a point of brokenness. And if you’re like me, you’ve probably felt shame about your past or struggles you’ve been through.
But you never stay at the point of pain or despair or doubt, do you. You find yourself being pulled from sinking sand and gloriously rescued by Jesus. And story of that journey is what inspires hope in others, and strengthens faith in God.
So sit back, grab a nice cup of coffee or tea or cupcake or whatever you like, and just read story 1. Then reflect on your own testimony- and share your own “glorious shame” with someone!
Part one: Secret darkness in the mind
The battle began each morning when I opened my eyes. My first thoughts were never about work or what I was having for breakfast. It was always a familiar dark whisper that would echo over and over in my mind until I complied:
“You’ve got to weigh yourself. Better make sure that you are not a pound over 110.”
My fear and guilt over yesterday’s calories drag me from my bed to the digital scale in the bathroom. I lost some weight and have been getting better at eating fewer calories each day, but that nagging whisper always said that it wasn’t good enough. That I still wasn’t pretty enough.
I take a deep breath and climb on to the cold glass top. I could feel my heart pounding as the scale calibrates my mass.
I was 110 even yesterday morning. Today, I need to be less. I broke down and ate my entire sandwich for lunch yesterday like an idiot but for dinner I just had an apple and some carrot sticks so that should even out the bad right?
I stood on the scale in utter shock and my already anxious mood plummeted into perpetual despair.
112.2 was the proof that I had failed. 112.2 proved that I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t pretty enough. Tears strolled down my cheeks as I got off the scale and headed to the sink.
“What’s wrong with me?” I asked my teary reflection, “Why do I see nothing but fat when I look at you? Why can’t I get smaller even with the exercise and the restricted calories?”
“You’re pathetic,” the dark whisper in my mind reminded me, “You know what you must do but you’re too weak minded to do it. Eat less and you will finally be a ten in the mirror. You will finally fit in with everyone else.”
I pinched my legs and my waist and felt the self-hatred consume me. My legs had no tone and my waist was still too big!
That day, I was determined to calorie restrict and exercise even longer and harder. It was exhausting to put on my mask at work and pretend like everything was okay. It was so exhausting to sit in the lunch room with my apple and carrot sticks and have my coworkers ask if that was all I was eating. But I was determined to finally reach the point when I could accept the woman in the mirror staring back at me.
Part two: Drowning
The name of the dark whisper in my head was finally uttered aloud one day, when I woke up in a hospital bed, attached to tubes in my arms. The doctor explained that I fainted at work and my panicked co workers called 911. He said that I was terribly underweight at just 90 pounds and severely malnourished.
He said that I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa. There it was. Anorexia was the what coiled itself firmly around every inch of my mind and said that I wasn’t good enough.
Anorexia said that I would never be free.
Being force fed and diagnosed didn’t help me to feel better. Being in that hospital only meant that I was trapped with the whispers in my head. This was going to undo all the progress I made, and there was nothing I could do about it! As I laid on the hospital bed, I could feel by body getting fatter and my self-hatred rising. The torment went so deep sounded so loud that it was hard to sleep.
And at that moment, I just wanted to die. The task of trying to make myself good enough was so daunting and heavy. I felt like I could never be free of that dark, cold whisper. Who could ever unravel it it from my mind and body?
I was transferred to an in-patient behavioral health unit and prescribed with therapy, antidepressant medication, and frequent visits with a Nutritionist. It was encouraging to meet other women who felt just like me and to see their genuine commitment to better mental health, but I wasn’t strong like them. All my life I’ve been mediocre and now it’s up to me to adopt a new mindset to save my life? If I’m in the driver’s seat, then this car was destined to wreck before the key was even placed into the ignition. I was afraid that after my release, I would go right back to my scale and the dark whisper in my mind. It was just waiting for me to leave this regimented environment and he would truly let me have it.
Part three: Jesus to the rescue
One day, while I was doing a crossword puzzle, the Chaplain dropped by my room with 2 books. I attended one of Miss. Gibson’s prayer circles because my therapist recommended that I venture out and try some the other support groups at the facility. I hadn’t been to church since I was probably 12, but I just felt led to sit in on Miss Gibson’s prayer circles: I figured that I was in such bad shape mentally, I could use all the intervention I could get. Some prayers couldn’t hurt right? It even felt good to share about my struggle with Anorexia.
I looked down at the literature she dropped on my bed. One was a NIV Bible. The other one was called “Battlefield of the Mind” by Joyce Meyer. I was surprised- and a little disappointed with my gift. I could barely keep focused enough to finish a brochure. Did Chaplain Gibson really expect me to read all of this?
My disappointment was plain as day on my face, but Chaplain wasn’t disheartened by it, “Good habits aren’t easy to form, but nothing that’s worth it comes easy, does it.” she said reassuringly.
“I guess, but what do you want me to do with these?” I didn’t want to sound ungrateful because Miss Gibson was nothing but kind to me, but I suppose being in an environment that promoted honesty made me forget my tact as well.
“Read them of course! Serena: do you want to get well?”
“Of course I do.” Chaplain smiled and sat on the bed next to me. She took my hand in hers and squeezed them reassuringly. Her kindness melted my apprehension away.
“Then you got to fight the bad thoughts with good ones. And you need a relationship with the One who specializes in supernatural victories to help you form a new relationship with yourself.”
The Serena before in-patient treatment probably would have dismissed her, but something about her words pricked my soul and made the yearning for victory and renewal of my entire being scream above the hopeless I felt about recovery.
What if this Jesus that Chaplain shared with her prayer circle could become more than just a story, and clean away the darkness that made me so tired and worn?
I knew that nothing meant more than the possibility of living a life where I had peace of mind, and where what I saw in the mirror was beauty and strength. Nothing meant more than the joy of hope.
Maybe I would try to read these books. And pray like I’ve never prayed before. What did I possibly have to lose?
I picked up the Bible, “Where do I even start?”
How about for tonight, you read the story of the woman with the issue of blood. And we will both pray for God to show you what you should read next.
“What about the Joyce Meyer book?”
“Read a chapter a day, starting tomorrow.”
Chaplain prayed over me. She prayed about me reading the Bible. She prayed for healing from Anorexia. And she prayed that I would desire a relationship with him. I couldn’t explain it but while she uttered those words and her arm scooped me closer to her, I felt this peace flood over me. It was something I never felt before. Not even when I was taking my medication. That peace was so precious I didn’t want it to leave. I needed more.
That night in my room, I read the Matthew chapter 9: 20-22. The woman with the issue of blood’s story was short, but I felt as though I related to her. How much effort it must have been just to make it to the robe of Jesus. But He stopped and healed her. I felt worn and tired just as she was, tethered to a persistent sickness.
Despite my earlier complaints to the Chaplain about reading, I kept reading the rest of the chapter where he healed a dead girl and two blind men. Then I decided I needed to read the entire book of Matthew. I made the time to read the Battlefield of the Mind as well during the day. I was in a constant war against spiritual darkness and I saw all the signs in my own life. How hungry I was for healing and victory over my mind!
Part 4: Redeemed
Before I was released from treatment, I used that prayer circle to give my life to Jesus. I didn’t want to walk through another moment of life without him. I couldn’t. I think I made Chaplain Gibson’s day when I slowly raised my hand to tell everyone that I wanted them to pray with me and help me to get “born again”. She got up and hugged me so tight that I could barely breathe. She squeezed my hands tenderly and led me in prayer to the biggest decision I could ever make.
And through an active decision to read the Word daily and feast on the daily restoration it brought to my mind- I noticed that the dark whispers grew quieter and quieter. Jesus was actually winning. And I no longer felt that anxiety about my appearance. Like the woman with the issue of blood, I was a daughter who was made whole through my faith. I was healed!
Adjusting my thought life is still a journey, but I no longer see a skewed image of myself in the mirror. Thoughts of self-hatred no longer plague me in the mornings. Instead I make the effort to pray first and invite Jesus right in to be a part of every single day.
I thank God that I’ve made it this far, and that he continues little by little, to lead me on as I run my glorious race.