I’ve been part of a wonderful group of women who have been meeting for nine weeks with the focus on food issues, although we rarely discuss food. Food issues is what brought us together but we are bound together by many commonalities, not the least of which is larning to simply believe we are ok in spite of our myriad problems. I love these women and this group. We have only one more week and then our time together will end.
Last night, we had a special speaker who has overcome an eating disorder of many years duration. She shared her story, which gave all the glory to God for His help in her victory. She gave us several pages of scriptures and expressed her belief that the Bible addresses every one of our issues and that we cannot make changes without God’s truth.
So, it’s not that I disagree, necessarily. But as I grew up in several churches (Baptist and fundy), I took in messages, which may or may not have been explicit, that in general, I was not ok. What I wanted, what I felt, what I needed, what I WAS — none of these things were ok. Verses such as Jeremiah 17:9 (The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?) were reinforcement to me that there was nothing good in me. Never mind that I don’t remember ever hearing about the context of this verse, or if there were other places in the Bible that told a different story about me. And then Paul says, “No, I beat my body and make it my slave . . .” Again, context? Again, can we temper this for someone who has shame at the core?
What I have found over the past year is that, IN SPITE of what I learned in church, I have actually come to understand some pretty important things. And I learned them AFTER I had prayed MANY times to have my mind transformed, to be changed. So, one could say that the things I have learned are the answer to those prayers. But I am deeply convinced that the transforming of our mind is not MAGIC. Unless we learn something new to put in there, the old stuff has a way of staying around.
1. What I thought of as a terrible flaw in myself turns out to be wholly related to self-image. I never understood why I saw myself either as superior to someone else or inferior to them. I just chalked it up to pride and made sure to remind myself several times a day about how bad a person I was. Seems that what is required to avoid the superiority/inferiority thing is to learn how to see eye-to-eye. Probably sounds pretty logical and duh! but wasn’t something I had a clue about.
2. And speaking of pride, I discovered that it can be incredibly prideful and self-centered to think so badly of oneself. To always, in a conversation, be worrying about what the other person thinks of me, to always think I’m offensive just by being around — these are not things that come from true humility and love.
3. It is ok to believe I am ok, that I am more than ok, that perfection is not the goal. (Ah, but what to do with Matthew 5:48: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.'”) The way I see it, my former obsession with perfection was all about ME. I was convinced that if I could be perfect, I could be loved. And if I couldn’t be perfect, I couldn’t be loved.
3. I have come to believe that “You make me mad” is incorrect. My response to you is what makes me mad, not your actions or words. This has gone a long way to helping me understand that having boundaries clarified whose problem something is. Not to say that I don’t give a rip if you feel sad, mad, scared or ashamed after an interaction with me. I will always want to apologize or make it right however I can. But your feelings are YOUR feelings. This means that I do not have to carry the responsibility for every person in the world.
4. The bottom line is LOVE.
So, last night as we responded to what the speaker said, I tried to explain my baggage from misinterpreting Scriptures and that I wanted to get rid of the baggage, and for the moment, that means allowing some space and healing to occur around some of the beliefs I internalized. However, the speaker was visibly upset by this and ended up expressing her doubts about really having the ministry she feels called to do. We all gathered around her and prayed for her and it was a really sweet time. I think it was very important for her to realize that not everyone is going to accept her message and for her to see how very responsible she feels for the outcome of giving her testimony. As my sister said, all you can do is hold out the beacon of truth. It is not your responsibility what others do with it.
Before I had the awesome opportunity to learn the truths I listed above, I truly would have felt like I Suck Because I Made the Special Speaker Cry. Instead, I had the opportunity to practice being authentic. I was careful about what I said. I did not set out to hurt her feelings, or discount what she said. In a group such as ours, the point of it is to share ourselves with each other. I shared my resistance to the message and I told why. I know that doesn’t sit well with people who hate to rock the boat. I wasn’t sure I was going to say anything, but someone commented on my silence and asked about it. I took the risk to express myself. I addressed the fact that it seemed like what I had said was hurtful to her and I told her I was sorry for hurting her. But I’m learning that being authentic sometimes means things are uncomfortable for a while, and that often a deeper relationship and more meaningful interaction are the outcome.
So, I don’t really suck. Nor did I make the special speaker cry. But somehow, as God seems to be able to do, He used all the elements to minister to quite a few of us all at once.