Over the past few weeks, I've opened my inbox to have several emails from people I don't know. The email addresses are different, but the content is essentially the same. They are all from women who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Savior, they have read my recently-published book, and like me, they have at one point in their life, either now or previously, battled an eating disorder.
I've had ups and downs reading their notes. Sometimes, I can identify with their stories so well that I am brought to tears. Other times, I rejoice so loudly with their victory in Jesus over their past destructive behavior, I wake James up. (I check my emails in the morning, and I get up before him - whoops!)
However, today, I got a particular email that broke my heart more than others. Though this young woman has definitely had her share of struggle, it wasn't the details of her eating disorder, or even her depression, that devastated me.
"Last night, I told my sister and a handful of close friends [about my struggle with the eating disorder.] It is amazing to see how the Lord is already working through it. I have a few good friends who are currently struggling with eating disorders. I would have never been able to understand or relate, nor would they have ever told me, if I wasn't first upfront and vulnerable in front of them."
Three things in this paragraph caught my eye.
1. Of the handful of close friends she told who she knew she could count on to pray, a few of them (defined as at least 3 or more) are currently struggling with an eating disorder.
Maybe we've allowed ourselves to become immune to the statistics:
- 1 in 5 women currently have an eating disorder.
- 90% of the women who do have eating disorders are between the ages of 12-25.
- Twenty percent of the women who do survive anorexia will die prematurely due to health conditions caused by the eating disorder.
But those statistics don't represent numbers - they represent people. And they aren't strangers - they are people you know. She's the woman who sits in front of you on Sunday mornings in church. She's the student who walked by you on campus today. She's the young girl who just joined the youth group. She may even be your daughter, your mother....maybe even the pastor's wife.
We have all of the research, so being uneducated can't be the reason we don't act upon it. Certainly, we can't believe this type of unhealthy lifestyle is acceptable, so that can't be why we don't respond. Yet, remaining silent certainly takes less time and energy than dealing with the consequences of our actions or attempting to change.
2. If one person is willing to be vulnerable, others will follow.
The next time you're at church, test my "fine disease" theory. Ask five people how they are doing, and at least four of them will quickly respond to you, "Fine." Of course they are. I'm fine, you're fine...all of God's people are just fine!
We want to appear confident. Put-together. Solid. Because somehow, we have wrongly associated lack of difficulty in our life with godliness.
Persecution and affliction are not a maybe thing when you walk with Christ. It's not even a most-likely thing. It's a promise.
But what happens when we keep our struggles inside? We quietly pray, hoping that no one notices any broken pieces we haven't frantically tried to glue back together. When God restores the situation, we silently bow our heads and give Him praise.
Do you see what's wrong with this picture? We give God a golf clap (which is way lame, if you ask me, and one of the many reasons why I choose to watch football instead) when we should be wearing His jersey, jumping up and down, screaming with excitement as He runs us into the end zone!
Every time I share about my shortcomings in my walk with Christ, people line up to talk to me afterwards. Many times, it's just to utter the two words that were actually the subject line of the email I've referred to in this post: "Me too."
3. As soon as this young woman opened her mouth and shared her struggles, God started working in her life...and in the lives around her.
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is 2 Corinthians 4:5-9:
"For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed."
For this to make sense, we have to remember that "jars of clay" is an ancient metaphor for human weakness. So if you were just to isolate that one passage, it reads:
"But we have this treasure in human weakness to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
Make it even more personal: We have an opportunity in our human weakness to show others the power of God.
Picture for one second that you are that clay jar. Imperfection happens. Maybe it's anorexia, but maybe you struggle in another area: jealousy, gossip, sexual sin, drugs, lying. Maybe you're struggling in your marriage or maybe you're compromising your morals at work. But when you try to piece yourself back together, you're just a clay pot with a bunch of dull cracks.
However, when you share your struggles with others, when you admit your imperfections....that is when His light can shine through you to penetrate into the lives of others. And where does the light shine the brightest - in the pieces that are solid and held together? No. God's light shines brightest through the cracks of the jar of clay...in our human weakness.
Instead of seeing transparency as messy and broken, can we recognize it as the opportunity for God's light to shine brightly through us?
Transparency is beautiful.
Let Him bust down your wall.
Let him peel off your mask.
Allow Him to mold you into the very person He created you to be.