“…for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’”
I’d like to confess some sin.
I’ve been working at a prominent church serving in various roles, with hands in multiple ministries, graduated from an amazing Bible college. I read my Bible daily and pray, I love my God, and I yearn to follow Him in obedience. I meditate on Scripture. I lead a small group of women. I pursue humility as a posture and attitude, with the Holy Spirit’s help. I’d like to think I’m doing pretty well in my Christian life. Many common sins don’t phase me: lust, or lies, or lack of conviction, or unclean speech. My media choices are well though-out in light of God’s call to holiness.
But part of my heart is not devoted to the Lord. An idol rules my life in a particular area, and that area has started to dominate my entire life.
It’s one sin that Christians might possibly be the most guilty of condoning and not addressing. What is not named is not redeemed. Where there’s an ocean of sermons and books, blogs and articles about other “confessions” and unholy habits, no one out there is talking about my big, besetting sin.
I can’t blame anyone but myself. Coming from a home where food was always a part of celebrating and where we had to finish our plates, I took that more and more to the extreme until I realized in college that my stomach had become an idol.
It was a world of free food, and not just the all-you-can-eat cafeteria. I was delighted at the amount of goodies that would appear in my path, begging me to take them. When my roommate brought home leftover treats from the coffee shop she worked at, I would happily take two and have a snack, plus breakfast the next day. People were always stress-baking, or someone would invite me to get fries, or my friend who did food sampling would bring back extra ice cream. Lukewarm deep dish pizza from the student group event earlier in the night would show up in our community lounge. My on-campus office job had treat day Thursdays, and I always looked forward to them. In fact, I began to get so excited about my next brownie/ice cream/whatever that it would become the thing I was most eager about in the day. And I began to lose control.
Two treats became five treats. Snacking became all the time, even when I was full or wasn’t hungry. I was bored, I was distracted, or this urge was simply dictating me to take and eat, like an obsessive compulsion.
I realized I was on a bad path, but always made the excuse that I was still in control. Whenever I would lust after food and overeat, I would feel guilty and confess my sin, asking God for forgiveness. I would sometimes go on diets here and there – no bread or potatoes, or cutting out all sweets, or going to the gym consistently to try and “do better.” And then I’d get emotional, or something would happen, or two days would go by, or someone would randomly show up with my favorite gourmet donuts at midnight while I was working on a group project (this actually happened).
My stomach would hurt and ache, I would have already had dinner and dessert in the cafeteria, and yet I would still have four cookies from the plate someone put in the floor lounge where I did my homework. I began to wait in the common areas to see what food would be brought in. I would always run out when I heard a dorm mate come home from work. I wouldn’t track what I was eating because I wanted to avoid thinking about it or acknowledging what I had done.
Once, a dorm mate dumped an entire bag of dark chocolate minis onto the common table in our lounge where a group of women and I were studying. I kept leaning forward to grab one, then two, then three. I stopped counting after thirteen. I ended up eating 24 or 25, figuring it didn’t matter once I lost count.
The night of a friend’s engagement party, I was working on homework and a dorm mate baked an apple cake for the floor to share. I was talking with some of the girls, and just kept stuffing cake in my mouth. I somehow registered that I was full. I had eaten five pieces, and we were going to a restaurant for the party. I felt compelled to still order food, so I got a milkshake and fries. I kept eating and eating, and suddenly felt so sick I ran to the bathroom. I was sitting in there for ten minutes, begging God with my entire being to keep me from throwing up. I left the party, saying I didn’t feel well, and friend walked me back to campus. I confessed that I had an issue with overeating, and he encouraged me.
That was one of my lowest points.
Time has continued to go by, and I’ve now reached a point where I am desperate to truly change. I don’t believe I ever really wanted to before – my prayers were sincere, but I was afraid of giving up and surrendering my entire self to God, including my eating habits. I had resigned myself that this was just going to be my load to bear for the rest of my life, that food would always have a compulsion and dictatorship over me. Read that again: I had already quit for the rest of my life. I had already decided that I was a failure here, dismissing everything I had ever believed about the power of God in sin, and settling in to my addiction to pastries and chocolate.
I knew that this was sin – food was my absolute idol. And yet…it’s complicated, more so I believe than something like alcoholism or sexual immorality. Unlike other things where you can look away, walk away, and keep away, we all need food to survive. Additionally, food is a good gift from God that brings immense color, beauty, and joy to our life in the flesh. Jesus even refers to himself as the Bread of Life – our ultimate sustenance and provision a living metaphor of something we all know well. Food is a wonderful part of life, and we depend on it.
I think I’ve finally reached the point of being completely done and ready to be turned over to God. I can feel a beast inside of me, and for so long I have obeyed its voice and literally risen from my seat at its command to go stuff my face with things my body cries out against. I am ready to submit my life to the Lord here, and finally stand up against this fleshly idol with the Word of God. I am tired of being bossed around my something other that my Savior.
Of course, doubts creep in: I’ve tried and failed so many other times. Is the power of the Spirit even big enough to handle this? Is there really a way out? Is it really that big a deal? So you had three cookies today. So what?
The “so what?” comes in that anything that has claim to my heart other than Christ is an idol – in this case, I believe it is Satan’s attempt to lure me off the path of righteousness by using the only thing I am weak in. He isn’t going to get me in other areas of sin, so why not here? Besides, she won’t notice and nobody will stop her….
Oh, how many times have I almost audibly thought, “I hope someone stops me. I hope someone notices how much I’ve eaten and stops me.” At the same time, I would scheme and map out exactly how I could eat more than anyone else in the room without someone noticing and thinking less of me. I literally did this last Wednesday at a lunch party for work.
This afternoon, I was running an outreach event at church, and it felt like an invisible force was pulling me back to the volunteer room to eat another ginormous cookie when I was already full but no one (apparently including my own volition and protesting stomach) was there to see or stop me.
I am unhappy with my soul, unhappy with the state of my physical body, unhappy in my weakness when in so many other areas I am leading and ministering and obedient.
Obedience. Walking in Christ’s commands, having no other idol and only worshiping my Lord. Bagels don’t deserve worship. Chocolate chip cookies don’t pale against the sweetness of my Christ.
I want Him. I want to know Him as far as I can in this life. I need the Spirit, and the Word, and community (I’ve already been sharing this struggle with others, and the encouragement and support has been a deep blessing).
And I need to walk in it. For real. Because God is faithful – I can’t accuse Him of abandoning me, of there not being a way out (cf. 1 Cor 10:13). Every single time I have been tempted to overindulge, to give in to gluttony, to worship at the altar of my pride and lust for food, the Spirit has always been there with the option to say, “No.” This makes me even more ashamed, knowing that God has been there every time and I’ve rarely turned to Him instead.
The more I learn about God, the more humbled and grateful I am that He would still forgive this dirtied daughter who has chosen countless times to pummel her vessel and eat mud, abuse his good gifts, knowingly hurt herself when she is His body. This is the same God who sent His Son and raised Him from the dead, the same God who empowers us all to say “no” to ungodliness, the same God who is full of grace and mercy and perfect, perfect love.
That’s my Father. And without Him, I would be chained to a stupid, dead pan of brownies that will only lead me further to destruction.
This Corinthian, whose god has become her stomach, stands rebuked. This wayward child, who has refused to take her sin seriously enough, is coming home.
I pray that one day food just won’t have a hold on me at all anymore, but for now, I submit myself to my Lord. I entrust myself to my Father’s arms, and seek to obey His commands because they are the best way to live.
Each day is a battle. I think in this confession, and turning to God, that I’ve become more sober about Paul’s call to put on our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6. I need to be reminded of my salvation, put on the righteousness of Jesus like a breastplate, and protect myself from the Enemy’s lies with the Word of God. I need the peace of the gospel, the truth supporting my spine, and the community of saints to stand with me in prayer.
I can be free. In fact, I already am – a sealed, beloved child (Eph 1, John 1:12, 1 John 3:1).
I need to do the hard work of submission to the Spirit, remember who I am and who He is, and walk forward every.single.day, putting down the chocolate bar to take up my Father’s hand.
And be holy.