Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Hungry Girl Healing Story

      I remember feeling so hungry and bleak a hunger that had nothing to do with a growling stomach or a need for nutrition. I was just soul hungry and I chose to answer that need with grilled cheese. So I made a sandwich and then another and another until I had compulsively, mindlessly and joylessly shoved seven grilled cheese sandwiches into my suffering body making it a matching set with my suffering soul. My history with food has not been a pretty one. I had alternately practiced binge eating and bulimia for most of my teens and young 20's and I was a dangerous combination of an unhealthy body mind and spirit. But this is not a story about then; this is a story about now. Now I eat when I am physically hungry, stop when I am full,  enjoy a variety of foods with a healthy appreciation and my only limits on food are that I must obey God in eating. So what does that mean and how did I get there? Here is my healing story.

      My story begins way before I will begin here, but I do try to keep my posts to one page! So today it begins at a diner in Nashville over pancakes with girlfriends. I had recently had a soul awakening that led me to bow at the feet of Jesus acknowledging Him as saviour and this led me into sweet relationship with God. I had seen the directive in scripture to not be gluttonous but I had no idea where to begin. Thankfully God had a plan! Enjoying my pancakes I made a casual statement to one of my friends  "I love pancakes" I gushed.  As soon as this observation had passed my lips I felt a heaviness in my soul and as clearly as I have ever hear the Holy Spirits whisper I heard "Do you? Do you LOVE them?". The question stopped me dead in my tracks. Did I understand love? How was it that I loved food? Thankfully I was dining with girlfriends in Nashville because we were at a woman's conference on God and food. That weekend God showed me that I had made food into a false idol that I turned to for comfort and I left the conference armed with a book on how to give my food to God. First there is a fast where we wait for hunger. True stomach hunger not emotional hunger was what I was searching for. The fast part was not that hard, self deprivation is a buddy to self loathing which is a pal to binging. I had a whole family of neurosis living in my hungry belly. So I fasted until my stomach was clearly hungry.
      The next part was harder: identify fullness, this part was horrifying because I was supposed to allow myself to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted and that to a rapidly expanding fairly vain young woman was a terrifying proposition. The idea is that denial makes desire stronger and sure enough after a week or two of binging on all my favorite foods I woke up definitely craving vegetables. The next part while simple enough took almost a year to come to pass. We were to ask God before every meal to tell us when to stop. I had muffled Gods voice around this issue so much that about a year into repeating this request when I had the fork halfway to my mouth and I heard the still small voice of God whisper "stop" I just froze from surprise. Then I finished eating. Months passed with God whispering "stop" when I was full and me putting down the fork about 10% of the time, then 20%, then 30%, then...well you get the picture. This dance lasted for quite sometime until God got it into my head that nothing tastes as good as fellowship with His Spirit. That peace does not come from mashed potatoes and soul hunger is never satisfied with one grilled cheese. I generally blog about where I would like to go with God (deeper and deeper) but this Thanksgiving season soon after facing another Thanksgiving meal, but this time without dread but instead with true joy I just wanted to take a minute to thank God for where He has already brought me.. This was about a two year healing process, nothing instant or miraculous. Just a repetition of practicing surrender, falling down over and over and God picking me up over and over. I brought to the table a willingness to try to obey God and God brought everything else. Today it is nearly unthinkable to continue eating past my "stop signal" not because I am scared of getting fat or because I live under a vengeful God who will punish me for disobedience. But I cannot bring myself to continue past stop because God has showered me with an eternal love that is soul satisfying and unlike grilled cheese God is faithful and loving and completely soul satisfying. Why would I want to endanger this relationship for a sandwich, no matter how gooey?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest
Matthew 11:28

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Weight of Silence

     It is amazing the weight that silence can carry. Sitting peacefully and silently next to a loved one the quiet can wrap its arms around you both weaving a cocoon of companionship while sitting next to an angry loved one can feel as heavy as a soggy woolen cloak. This is about about another silence altogether. The silence of secrets is a heavy stifling kind of silence. A silence that whispers shame in your ear and convinces you that you alone are so wretched with your secrets. This silence is alluring to the ego as we work to protect our "image" The mind and ego work together well convincing us to keep our secrets. But as spiritual seekers secrets can begin to erode the soul dimming our connection to God. We are instructed to "confess our sins to one another" not for the purposes of shaming and blaming but to shine light into darkness. We stumble along our paths not realizing that all we need to do to shine a light along the way is be humble and truthful. Secrets and lies create only confusion and darkness.

     But here's the thing, when you set your sights on growth often times things get dark and ugly before they get better and at times the biggest obstacles in self growth are our secrets. Sometimes when we make it through little tests of growth the tests just get bigger and uglier. And I have arrived at such an ugly place that I don't wish to share. So my choices are to continue to write this blog and hit publish or to stall my growth in a cloak of secrecy. My secret is addiction, a sad statement that "no" my life is not enough.  It doesn't really matter to what "big 3" I turn: food, pot or booze, all three numb me enough to temporarily forget the tough parts of the journey. All three make me heavy enough to continue in the fog of self loathing that I am accustomed to. And, yet....I still hear the still small loving whisper of God calling me to self love. Love yourself. The constant caress of Gods truth like a raindrop carving the Grand Canyon begins to seep down into the cracks and crevices of my soul.

     Almost immediately after beginning to pursue God in 1995 He healed me of gluttony and supernaturally gave me a peaceful relationship with food. For this I am eternally and inexpressibly grateful.  However gluttony was not the root of the problem, dissatisfaction with a perfectly good life is. So with food in a healthy place I began about a decade distraction with alcohol. No drinking during the work week but boy Friday night I would attempt to glamorize the situation with precise martini recipes. Thanks for nothing Mad Men! There was about a year where I shook that martini shaker at least 50 times every time to achieve my "dirty bruised martinis" boy what an analogy for what I was doing to my beat up soul. I would end each weekend Sunday morning hungover at church which was not a edifying situation at all.

     So fast forward a thousand hangovers and ten thousand self lectures. Add one move back to Austin and here I am, no longer drinking to excess almost every weekend. As a matter of fact now I drink maybe once a month. Problem solved, hey? Um, yea not so fast. Alcoholism was not the root of the problem, once again dissatisfaction presenting as addiction continues to tear away at my life force with small sharp teeth. So, today, despite all of my judgement against it I have transferred my addiction to marijuana. And the "rules" remain the same. Clear headed during work hours but, boy, as soon as I am done I can grab my iPad and smoke a little pot and my mind is completely occupied as my spirit is slowly suffocated. OK, so no problem, right?  I have already shown the strength to put aside addictive substances, let's just do it again, right? Um, WRONG! I have only shown I can replace them but addiction continues to trip me up with one substance after another. So while I have no issue at all with drinking or smoking, I do have an issue with numbing and it is a mighty fine line I keep crossing. I have often spent long periods of just abstaining, but this was not curing anything just masking my pain. My study of scripture and time with the Lord all lead me to two conclusions: I need to be present and I need to be satisfied with the circumstances God has put me in. Addictive behavior is a symptom of dissatisfaction and it pulls me straight out of present moment awareness. I don't know where this is going but I do know that the only way to move through your spiritual blocks is to shine a light on them again and again. I no longer want to keep switching additive substances but rather I chose to til the soil of my soul enough to pull out the roots of addiction. So, today, I actually hope this blog goes overlooked in the vast blogoshpere....because maybe exposing my secrets here shines enough light to continue to move towards God. All I know is it is too painful to stay in the dark when the glorious light is close enough to taste and I am reaching my hand into the light hoping God will pull the rest of me through to Him.

      If I drank myself to the point of homelessness or began to foray into "hard drugs" the need for change would be more obvious. I do have a sweet life that I am very happy with and that makes it all the easier to overlook the need for clarity. But, here's the one "small glitch" in my plan. My primary agenda for my life is to grow closer to God as I age and my behaviour is not supporting my agenda. When I overindulge, the still small voice of God  begins to grow dimmer dissolving into a smoky haze of illusion. But slowly God is showing me to keep filling my days with good things, yoga, meditation, prayer, nature and He will continue to faithfully heal me. It is not through self loathing that healing comes, it is not even by fighting my demons. But rather by continuing to pursue God and nurturing myself. So for the last few weeks I have argued with myself and presented myself a thousand good reasons to not write this blog. After all it is tied to my professional site. If I lose students, friends or your esteem that has got to be ok because it all keeps coming back to obeying God's voice while it is still to be heard. If Quiet goes down in flames and my employers cut their ties to me it still has got to be ok.But God has commanded us to shine light into the darkness of our secrets.  Do I want to stifle the Divine whisper or sit in the stillness and listen? This is the question I must ask now. Not "what will they think?" So today I risk your judgement for the chance to sit in stillness and clarity with God. And that is a gamble that today I am ok with.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. Anais Nin.