Why the fight for the truth matters
Why the fight for the truth about food and body image matters to me as a believer in Jesus Christ.
I know what it feels like to live with the shame of being a Christian who struggled beneath the crushing weight of a life-threatening eating disorder. An eating disorder that spanned decades of my life. I know what it is to cry out to God with all of my might to deliver me from my issues with food (God can do anything!) only to be met with silence. I know what it feels like to live a life spent in devotion to food, a life spent in terror of food; to fear what others saw when they looked at me, to fear the scale, to fear the mirror.
In other words, I know what it means to believe the lies about food and body image. Lies about food and body image are, ultimately, about value.
If I watch what I eat, then I will be thin. I just have to try harder to avoid bad foods, and I will lose weight. I need to eliminate this particular food group from my diet so I can finally be the size I dream of being.
When I am thin, I will be in control.
When I am thin, I will be attractive.
When I am thin, I will have confidence.
When I am thin, I will finally be happy.
These lies promise freedom but deliver emptiness and shame.
I know this from first hand experience.
I also know what it is like to live in complete freedom from disordered eating. I know what pure, wholesome, audacious victory feels like.
The kind that feels like waking in your bed to find you are safely tucked in, secure and loved; like reading a story you never want to end; like watching the sun setting, a ribbon of fire in the west; like crying before a closet of too small clothes and getting dressed anyway; like smashing the scale in a moment of liberated defiance; like knowing, really knowing, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Freedom isn’t relative
Yes, I know what it is like to wrestle with the lies about food and body image, to wrestle with an eating disorder. It was a long, dark night of the soul, spent in combat and determination. But in the end, in the morning, God gave me a new name. He gave me victory. In the light of having experienced such an awesome transformation, I am deeply grateful and am constantly at the ready to share the good news of freedom with anyone who will listen.
Because I know that there are countless others who are still burdened under the sorrow of their own long, dark night. There are countless others who remain imprisoned by the lies they believe about food and body image.
Their freedom matters, too.
The fight for the truth about food and body image matters to me as a believer in Christ because FREEDOM matters.
I remember the day I was approached at church by a woman who was closer to my mother’s age than mine. She asked if she could share a secret with me. I prepared myself to hear a scandalous confession. Instead, she whispered, barely able to form coherent words in a voice strangled with shame. “My son died and I can’t get over it. And now, I can’t stop bingeing and bingeing and purging and purging. He’ll never come back. Never. And now I hate myself for what I do. I can’t believe I just told you…No one can ever know. Promise me, please.” Her features were twisted in anguish.
She is one of the silent sufferers. They sit beside us in church pews. They teach our children’s Sunday school classes. They smile and perform and strive with all of their hearts to serve God, but they are suffocated by guilt and shame.
They deserve a chance to breathe the free air of liberation, to taste the sweetness of victory; victory that has no limit, that triumphs over guilt.
I want to help them dismantle the lies about food and body image that keep them trapped in a cycle of shame, to tell them that they are not alone. Freedom is possible.
Ok, you might be thinking, that’s good, and I really would like to see them be free. But honestly, aren’t there more serious and pressing problems facing humanity?
To which I reply, of course suffering is relative. But what does that fact that it’s relative have anything to do with freedom in Christ?
Freedom isn’t relative.
Freedom in Christ is…freeing.
The thing about freedom in Christ is that it has a way of being exponential. One generation finds the freedom only found in the cross of Christ. The legacy of freedom lives on through the generations that follow, growing, multiplying, as a stone cast in the waters ripples in seemingly unending concentric circles. The gospel is like that. It is the city on the hill whose light, once ignited, can never be hidden. It burns on, illuminating the way for all that will follow.
Likewise, when a life has been set free from the lies about food and body image, they become an exponential liberator. They have been freed up from the weight they carried, from the sin that ensnared. As a result, they are freed up to show others the way to freedom. In this way freedom grows- it rises, in an unstoppable tide.
“Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin the so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
They will know the Truth and the Truth will set them free. Exponentially free.
Lies need to be confronted and torn down
Freed up people will be…well…free. Free from every weight. Free from the sin that so easily entangles us in its labyrinth of lies. Free from the standards of a culture that are ridiculously unattainable. They are patently wicked. If you don’t believe me, have lunch at a middle school and ask them if being thin is desirable. Ask them what the “physical ideal” is. Ask them what lengths to they would be willing to go to in order to achieve that ideal.
Middle school is littered with the wreckage of the lies we believe about food and body image. High school and college are littered with it, too. Young women and men, mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers- none are exempt from the fall out of the lies.
The wreckage has even found the elementary school. I knew a nine-year old who ended up needing a feeding tube because she had stopped eating, convinced she was fat. She had been reduced to shell of what childhood should be; so fragile, with freckles painted across the bridge of her nose, sadness in her little eyes that called out to be rescued from the lies.
Look at her. Can you see the lies you believe about food and body image reflected there?
Look at her. Can you see the hellish pit to which those lies are dragging her?
Look at her. Can you see that she doesn’t even know she has been lied to? She is unable to discern the lies from the truth.
Lies are bewitching things, especially ones mixed with truth. These lies that are mixed-with-truth glisten like the truth. They sound like the truth. In the darkness of the night, when we are stumbling about for something to hold onto, they seem to fit the bill.
But lies are lies, regardless if they sparkle with a little truth.
These lies, that-somewhat-resemble-the-truth, whisper to us in our moments of weakness, our moments of pain:
o Food should be put in categories.
o There is good food, and there is bad food.
o I’ll never be normal when it comes to eating food.
o I am addicted to food.
o Why would God do this to me? Why am I cursed with this metabolism?
o If only I could control what I eat, then I would feel good about myself.
o No one will ever love me because of how fat I have become.
o People who can control what they eat, and eat “healthy”, are happy, confident people.
o Tomorrow I will take back control of food. Tomorrow I will start to feel better about myself.
These lies that glitter-like-the-truth are all the more destructive because they give us confidence on the path to our own destruction. We think we are following the right way, but we are not. It is a small deviation, a subtle one. But it steers us off the right road, nonetheless.
This small, steady shift away from real and living truth, to lies that remind-us-of-truth, is almost unnoticeable at first.
It is easy to see someone’s car careening off a cliff. It’s less obvious to see that someone began to ever so slightly change course toward the direction of the cliff. Yes, they are still one hundred miles away from the edge, but they will arrive there, all the same.
This is what is happening with what we believe about food and body image. The truth has been enmeshed with the lies for so long we don’t notice the lies anymore.
Making healthy choices with food is a good thing.
I must make healthy choices about food in order to maintain peak physical condition or I am a shameful person. My value depends on how I use food.
Don’t you see? The truth becomes twisted into falsehood and we are none the wiser. That is why the fight against the lies is so important to me as a believer in Christ: It is a fight for the truth. And ultimately, it is a fight for gospel. Because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the greatest truth the world has ever known. It makes a spectacle of lies.
Therefore, if one person lost in the valley of the shadow of lies is pointed to the truth because I chose to fight, then the fight will have been worth it.
I hope the fight is worth it to you, too.