It’s not that I want to appear better than others. Not at all! I am just afraid that if I come clean with the things in my life that keep me from fully experiencing God’s love and peace, that people will think less of me. Or worse, that they will pull away from me completely.
For a few years I have struggled with eating and body-image issues. It all started innocently enough, with a desire to lose those few extra pregnancy pounds that had attached themselves to my hips, as well as be healthier for my family. But after awhile, that desire to be healthier and stronger became an unhealthy obsession with counting and cutting calories, and beating myself up for the tiniest slip-up. Rather than feeling I was a beautiful woman of God, I began to believe the lies I told myself, that I was fat, that I was ugly, and that I was a failure.
I couldn’t tell anyone about how I felt. I mean, all my friends had been so encouraging (and some slightly envious!) of my weight loss after the birth of my son. How could I go to them now and tell them what a nightmare I was living in?
On many occasions, I felt God nudging me to share my struggles with someone. But I was too afraid. I was afraid they would dismiss my fears. I was afraid they would be disgusted by the bingeing habits I had picked up.
I was afraid they would stop loving me.
And so I hid it. I hid my bingeing from my husband. I hid it from my friends. I hid it from my family. I would pretend that dieting meant nothing to me, that I wouldn’t have anything to do with it because it was a waste of time. I was all about being healthy, not trying to lose weight.
Yet all the while all I could hear in my head were the thoughts that if I didn’t lose this extra weight I would be a failure. A big, fat failure.
It wasn’t until about a year and a half ago that I finally began to have the courage to talk about my struggle. I had written about it on my blog, feeling that since no one I actually knew read it, I was safe in being transparent at least there. It was extremely difficult for me to come clean about my issues. I was especially afraid of the judgment and criticism that may come from me revealing such a dark secret. But I felt so strongly that God wanted me to tell someone about it, that I just couldn’t keep it inside any longer.
Do you know what surprised me most? The outpouring of support and encouragement from other women who knew exactly what I was going through. Even today I still get e-mails from women who will tell me how much my story touched them, either because they see themselves in it now, or they once experienced the same things as me. The beautiful thing is some days when I most need it, I will receive an e-mail encouraging me to not give up hope, that there is healing, and that God will get me through it.
I’ve realized that as women, we all have things we deal with on a daily basis. It could be struggles with body-image, the loss of a child or loved one, perfectionism, a painful past. But we’ve also bought into the lie that we need to hide these things, to put on a brave face, and let everyone around us think we have it altogether. But I don’t believe this is God’s desire for us.
I believe that God wants us to encourage one another in our struggles. Hebrews 13:3 says we must “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of (us) may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Can you imagine if each of us came along side each other and encouraged one another by sharing our own stories of how we struggled and how God triumphed? If we overcame our fears of allowing others to see our true and vulnerable selves so we could really minister to one another?
I don’t know about you, but that thought excites me! How different our relationships with one another could be if we dropped all pretense and were just our true, authentic selves.
It takes a lot of courage to do that. And believe me when I tell you, I still struggle daily with this. But I pray that not only myself, but all of us women of God would find the courage to do so.
The courage to encourage one another.