The Secret Illness

12 years old. It seems too young to be wanting someone else’s body at 12 years old. Too young to be feeling ashamed of the differences in body types between you and your peers. Too young to care. But, for me, age 12 is when I started to feel these things. As a basketball-playing tomboy who hated wearing dresses and brushing my hair, I grew up looking nothing like the Disney channel stars I watched on TV. Every morning I got on the bus knowing that when I got to school I was going to compare myself to the girls in my classes that straightened their hair, who were smaller than me, who were prettier than me, and who were more popular than me. The comparisons and insecurities of my 12-year-old self seem silly, but what started as simple comparison in middle school slowly turned into an eating disorder. It didn’t develop overnight- body image issues never do.

As a shy rising freshman in high school, my goal was not to stand out. My goal was to fit in with the majority and maybe, hopefully, be found pretty by a cute boy. I shaved, I curled, I wore make-up, and begged my mom for the trendiest clothes all in hopes that I would feel worthy. All in hopes that my messy haired, bullied, and tomboy middle school years could be forgotten. So, for the next 4 years, I hid. I hid behind the wall of insecurity I built up. I never let anyone know that behind my happy, pretty, athletic, and fun life I desperately craved some sort of affirmation that I was worthy. Hiding was easy. Keeping things secret was my form of control; a satisfying form of control. The less the people closest to me knew about my issues, the more I believed I was in control. I traded intimacy for control. The  longer that I traded, the more​ it led me to believe that ​I could control what they would think of me and how they viewed me. I became desperate to feel valuable and worthy.

“I think it’s one of the enemy’s greatest tactics, really. To provoke us to becoming so fixating with our own thoughts and wants that we are blind to the world around us. If we’re being honest, it doesn’t take much to coax us into a house of mirrors by making us believe that we are solely responsible for controlling our own lives- and that we must do it perfectly.”

Wreck My Life by Mo Isom

If I’m honest, sharing this part of my life is frightening. My heart pounds in my chest knowing that someone is going to read this messy and broken part of my life. But, amidst the fear of judgment, I share these things with joy. Joy in knowing that God is present, even in the messiest parts of our lives. Joy in being able to share how the Lord used these desperate years to teach me His grace, faithfulness, and love.

The cry of my heart during those years was for intimacy. Intimacy with my Creator but instead I turned to the things I could control; eating. I counted calories and worked out, all in secret. My unhealthy 1,000 calorie a day diet went unnoticed because I was good at being sneaky. I never acted like I cared or watched what I ate around my friends; all in hopes that they would think to themselves, “How is she so small when she eats things like that?”. And for too long, I lived like that. Pretending everything was fine. Pretending I was happy with myself. Pretending I was confident. But you can only pretend everything is perfect for so long.

For me, it had been too long. My freshman year of college is when God began a work and I started to realize my wreckage. The year was rough, as most freshman years are. It was the beginning of new freedoms. And my deep-rooted desire for intimacy was growing even stronger as my closest friends attended schools that were hours away. That year I searched in all the wrong places: Greek life, relationships, attention, knowledge, and appearance. And by the end of that school year, my pride took a beating as all the work I had done to feel worthy, all the things I did to feel accomplished, all the improvements I had made to be a “better” “healthier” person​ fell short. The summer following my freshman year, I attended Summer Leadership Project. I have no other words to describe that summer other than life changing. God used that summer as I worked at Chick-fil-A     ( & gained 10 lbs), lived in a cockroach infested room with 3 other girls, and exhausted myself every week to reveal his heart, love, and plan for me. It was that summer that the gospel became real to me and my heart felt cherished by God. He sent his Son to die for MY messy and broken life. He sent his Son even when He knew I would spend many years running in rebellion. He sent his Son and his Son rose again so I would spend forever in eternity with my creator. And so I would spend this life now, praising and sharing Him.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139: 14-16

For many years the verses above were nothing but a popular Pinterest quote. It was a quote I knew would come up if I ever attended a Christian woman’s talk. It was verses that felt uplifting but really had no impact until I started to unpack the weight behind them. God was my sweet Creator, who knit me together before I was even thought of. He made me intricately, with detail and design.  To Him, I was worthy. I am His wonderful work that He now looks at and sees His very own Son.

My prayer for anyone reading this that has ever struggled with, currently struggles with, or will struggle with making your own worth, through whatever means that may be; know that God treasures you because you are His wonderful creation. Understanding our worth in Christ is essential in overcoming our desperate need for control. If having immense worth to the creator of the universe and lover of our souls isn’t enough, then nothing ever will be.

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