More Than An Eating Problem
The Root: Unbelief
In these two articles, Brenda and Janie share their struggle with two seemingly oppossite eating disorders. Not only do they discover the root to be the same (unbelief) but their victory results from right believing.
The Symptom: Overeating
by Brenda Luttrull
One of the major difficulties that came up after I stopped compulsively overeating was handling anger appropriately. I had stuffed it with food for so long that I was not aware of how anger was operating in my life. When I felt like I was having bad luck, I did not see that as self-pity, which is a form of anger. Whenever I would think something wasn’t fair, I did not see it as rebellion against God’s plan for me. I certainly didn’t call it my highest and best, even though it is scriptural to do so (Romans 8:28). When I felt hurt, disappointed, or unfairly treated, I did not take James’ advice and count it all as joy. I thought I was just allowing myself to have my "feelings."
This insanity would have led me back to binging if I had not gotten to the bottom of it and given up the "right" to think I was a special case. I realize that hanging onto any thought that I have a life that deserves any consideration apart from God’s will and plan is Satan’s lie of "I will be my own God, Iwill control my own circumstances, and I will be in control of the consequences of my actions." It is rebellion, and I have come to see how destructive and dangerous it is to confuse anger, the feeling, with anger (resentment and rebellion), the choice.
An important awareness of the choice behind the anger came in Singing Hills last Memorial Day weekend. I shared how angry I felt when others could have a chocolate chip cookie when I couldn’t, but I felt I was doing okay because I didn’t eat it. Page called this "white-knuckled abstinence." I could identify immediately with what she was trying to get me to see. I resented the fact that I could not have my addiction and get well, too. I was choosing to believe that God could not replace food with something greater, that He was a less-than God. My choice in my self-pity was that people who could eat chocolate chip cookies were lucky and I was not. I did not praise God for the deliverance from my addiction that had not only saved my life, but finally made it worth living.
No wonder "my" program had come to a standstill and I couldn’t make it past what I was innocently referring to as a "plateau" in my weight loss. It was plain self-pity and rebellion, and it claimed that Satan was the greater god. Nothing was wrong with feeling the feeling, but I never said the truth; I never thanked God for the wonderful opportunity to be able to say "no" to the cookie through His life and will in me.
My choice said that Satan could satisfy me and give me more abundant life through food than God could through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I also found out how I manipulated people through what I "innocently" referred to as just being very emotional. Page said she had read where people who cried at the drop of a hat were very angry people. I thought about that, and I have come to believe that is a true statement. In the misuse of my anger, I would cry to make people back off and leave me alone. This had worked when my father would get the belt out. The louder you wailed, the sooner he would quit, sometimes without ever landing the first lick. It also made my mother feel real bad about any restrictions she would try to enforce. So crying and looking real soft-hearted and concerned really was putting up a barrier that kept people off of my case, and yet left me looking so good and pitiful that they felt bad for having questioned me in the first place, even when they were right.
When I would choose to believe and live from this choice, I was totally self-for-self Satan. I was wrapped up in me and how tough I had it and I wanted to make others see me that way. I could manipulate with pitifulness to keep from being held accountable and responsible for my own believing. I used my childhood abuse to feel special, like I had it tougher, and I wanted to keep others believing that, too. It let me off the hook from having to change my behavior.
I just flat out did not want to stop doing what I wanted to do, and I wanted to find a way to gain other’s approval of my behavior by convincing them that "poor me" just had it so tough that I deserved to have my way to comfort me and pay me back for all the tough stuffthat I had to endure as a so-called helpless child and victim. This did not give God the glory, nor did it let any Light shine out that would draw others to know what I knew. I was terrified that failure would lead to rejection, and I wouldn’t take the leap of faith that would say "No matter how fearful I feel, Christ is adequate to live and do and be by me a real person that stands up with others, takes on responsibilities, and does so successfully."
When I feel anger, the feeling, come up in me as a result of some tough circumstances that I am going through, I know that I have a choice to make. I can "see with the single eye" (Matthew 6:28) and "rejoice in tribulation" (Romans 5:3), knowing that this is God refining me for my highest and best. He certainly is not doing it out of some self-for-self thing to make Himself feel powerful at my expense; that is Satan’s lie and an impossibility for God, who has chosen to be self-for-others. His choice for me is to live freely. Of course this is done by my living, knowing that it is He doing the living through me. This is what the Bible calls the abundant life. It is He who is living through the tough stuff and the pleasant stuff as well. As I practice obedience (believing the truth) Christ lives out His life through me.
When I taught at the Jackson conference in April, I came across a scripture that clarified a whole new area of thought for me. In Amos 3:6, it says, "Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" I realized that to be in resentment or self-pity for any incidence in my life, no matter if it was not my choice but the choice of the care-giversaround me, was to be in rebellion against God. For no matter what it was, it was ultimately under God’s control. He could have prevented anything if He did not want it to happen. I do not need to make excuses for God’s seeming negligence to the abused children of the world, He is not afraid to own His responsibility in everything He allows Satan to do in this world, for He knows He is all the power. He is greater than he that is in the world, and He is well able to turn all things to good through faith in Him. I simply can choose to line up with this and agree with it, which is the obedience of faith.
This leaves me with no back door of self-pity over a raw deal that Satan would love to convince me I had gotten. It leaves me no stash to run to in resentment when it "feels like" someone has been unfair. Knowing God all in all leaves me knowing that I really am answering to God and God alone. I am responsible to keep my believing clear and thus give Christ the freedom to live His life as me. He is sufficient for all the circumstances that come my way.
Christ is accountable, so I can put on accountability by faith, knowing Christ will do what He has said He will do. Christ is the one taking all the hits for me because "He who knew no sin was made sin for us" so I can no longer feel sorry for a "self’ who is not doing the doing anyway. I am "more than a conqueror" (Romans 8:37) for I no longer need to win (in the world’s definition of win) to be okay.
The Symptom:Undereating by Janie Prewitt
One of the major difficulties that came up after I stopped compulsively under-eating was my fear of being out of control. I had lived under the illusion for a long time that I could control life and how it affected me. I grew up with a lot of shame, never feeling like I was as good as others, especially my looks. I constantly compared myself with my cousins: they were skinnier, were cuter, wore nicer clothes. I tried to look put-together and in-control on the outside so no-one would know how bad I felt about myself on the inside.
Eating was one area I was hell-bent to control. One summer, my father said, "Your thighs are starting to look like your mother’s." I felt hurt and embarrassed. I remember thinking, "I"m fat. I’m not going to stay that way!" I decided that I would start running every day and control my eating. My plan was to drink only selected beverages and eat mainly vegetables and fruits. That began my anorexia (starving myself to death). I went from 122 pounds (I WAS NOT FAT) to 100 pounds in one summer.
Being "in control" gave me a sense of power. Even as a very young child, I knew how to manipulate my family. I manipulated them so that I could get my way. I got away with a lot and didn’t have a strong fear of getting in trouble with my mother. As I got older, I was praised for being so capable and for taking care of the family. I can see now that controlling others gave me a good feeling about myself and a sense ofidentity–I felt smart, capable and in control.
It didn’t take long for this self-centered unbelief to get noticeably ugly. I knew my under-eating was dangerous, but I thought I was in control. I fought to have my way and didn’t want to be told to eat differently. My mother would say, "You’re not going anywhere until you eat more," but I argued with her and as usual got to do what I wanted to do. I was extremely absorbed with myself and what other people thought of me and what I looked like.
When I tired of being hungry and burned out on exercise, I just continued on with my agenda and became bulimic, eating large amounts of food and then vomiting to get rid of it. I was going to any lengths to stay in my darkness and self-centeredness. Anything to continue to control. I was not concerned with what was wrong or right–just with getting my way.
I wanted to do what I wanted to do and hated the thought of not getting what I wanted. I was very prideful of things I thought I was doing well–working hard, being very controlled in my eating, staying very thin–all outer things that gave me some kind of good feelings about myself. I was in denial about how abusive and self-centered all this was. All I knew was that I did not want to give up my way, I did not want to live by somebody else’s way. Not even God’s way if it didn’t coincide with mine. Satan was certainly living out his lie through me of "I’m an independent self living my own life here apart from God." I didn’t accept the truth that my self-effort was really Satan-effort. Like Romans 6:16 says, "I was a slave of Satan and He was doing his evil by me."
I continued to be bulimic for about ten years, even after I was married, but told everyone that I had quit. I became so insane in satisfying my addiction that I became depressed, anxious, and physically ill.
Worst of all, I conned and lied to everyone who cared about me. I would not admit to the details of the controlling, manipulation and self-centeredness that my sin involved. I lied about what I ate. I lied about how often I vomited up my food. I lied about how much I weighed. I even lied about my own responsibility to do something about it–I tried to beg off as some "victim" of this eating disorder as if I had no choice in the matter.
At times I started feeling overwhelmed with guilt and fear of being caught. Then I would come up with a very lame confession which was full of half-truths and incomplete facts about my eating and vomiting, The only reason I did this was to make myself feel better–to ease the guilt and shame. This didn’t work very well. I constantly felt paranoid, guilty, and wrong. I was full of self-pity and resented anyone who did not feel sorry for me and try to make me feel better.
My life was basically dark, lonely and depressing. I hated having to get up and live each day. The insanity was that I wouldn’t admit to myself that I was so unbelievably out of control. What I wouldn’t choose to accept was that God was in control of my life and that, much as I might want to be, I could not be in control. You see, "in control" meant having my own way. What scared me most was that I might have to do something I didn’t want to do. I wanted to have my way; I wanted to be in control of my consequences. I came first, and to hell with everybody else.
The last thing I wanted to do was to be honest and responsible and say that I was in sin and that it was my choice to be there. But my lying did not change the truth that I was disobedient to God and was spitting back at him, "You will not have your way in my life–I will have my own way." Satan had me deep in his lie that I could live independent (of God and Satan) and control my own life. Once I believed that lie, Satan was free to control my every thought and act.
Of course, the controlling and manipulating didn’t affect just me. I tried to manipulate my husband Steven from the beginning of our relationship. I lied to him about being bulimic, about my feelings, about everything. One way I would manipulate him is that I would tell him how something was going to be–instead of asking what he thought about it. That way I didn’t even give Steven the chance to disagree with me–with my way. Things started to change, though, when Steven started choosing not to be sucked into my sick lies and stood up to the conning, manipulating and controlling I tried. He stood up to Satan and stood for God in his own life.
My father- and mother-in-law, Tom and Page, Virginia "Radar" Primos, and others confronted me with God’s truth and expected absolutely nothing less than for me to stop lying, turn from my sin and start believing that Christ had made me dead to this sin! Christ had replaced the sin spirit in me with His spirit—I really did not have to keep living this way!
Now please understand that all of this sin, unbelief and rebellion against God was not the result of my being anon-Christian or not knowing God’s rules. I had been brought up in the Baptist church, in a Christian home and had become a Christian at the age of eight. I had married Steven Prewitt, had the benefit of living and learning around Tom and Page Prewitt, had been to Zerubbabel conferences and camp, and testified that Jesus Christ lived my life. I was taking God’s name in vain -professing to one thing and living another. I was very responsible for my choice to be in unbelief and very much deserved God’s consequences for my rebellion. I just was not willing to be honest enough to ask for help and really take it.
I thought I was doing better after I began attending 12-step programs and stopped the bulimic behavior. But I was still lying and keeping secret my anorexic eating. Finally, after a late night confrontation, I started getting a clear picture of the insanity I was living. I could not sleep. I was terrified of what God was going to take away from me. To me, God was saying, "I’ve given you so many chances to live around people who want to live My way, and you haven’t chosen to. This is it!"
I was told to write down how I had abused others by my behavior. I finally saw how sick it all was–how many ways my insanity had affected other people. I could not say Christ was living out my life–it wasn’t Him doing the lying and controlling, it was Satan. I was in serious sin! I knew I didn’t want to live this way any longer–the misery, the consequences. And I realized I didn’t have to. All the things I wanted for ME didn’t matter any more. What began to matter to me was to be a right person and to be able to live around the people who lived God’s way. I told Godand them that I hated my life and, for the first time, truly wanted to live a different way.
That decision made things clearer. Satan’s lie that I believed was that I really could be in control–independent and apart from God. I see now that this wanting to be in control of my own life allowed Satan to do his self-for-self acts through me.
It makes me very sick and sad when I look back and see how abusive all my self-centered thinking was. I was surrounded by people who cared about me enough to confront me about my behavior, but I continued to lie to them. I could NEVER be for another person because I was ALWAYS for me. Although my real life was Jesus Christ living in my form, I had chosen to hold onto Satan’s lies which let him control me and poison everything I did.
Now I can recognize when I am being tempted into unbelief. I know Satan wants me living from self-centered interest and not from God-centered interest in others. Knowing that won’t stop me from lying, manipulating and controlling, though. I have to make the choice to believe Galatians 2:20 that Christ is living my life and I know He isn’t going to live from self-centeredness.
How, then, do I not lie? Because as Hebrews 6:18 says, "It is impossible for God to lie." So when I choose to believe that Christ is living out my life, He does and then He doesn’t lie. Why then don’t I have to manipulate or control to get MY way? Because there is no "just me"! If I choose to believe that Christ is living my life, He IS in control and His way IS going on.
I can certainly say that my choice is very clear to me today. The consequences of living the sin way (the deceit, the terror, the paranoia, the loneliness) are so painfully present in my mind. Having chosen God’s way and escaped those consequences, I never want to live that way again. But I know the way not to go now. My life is a moment by moment choosing to believe God’s truth and not to believe Satan’s lies.
That truth saves me every day. I can NEVER be in control, I can NEVER be self-reliant. All I can ever be is a container for God or Satan to live out through me. I am never in control, I am never out of control. But God is in perfect control of every detail of my life and WILL live it perfectly as me. As Ephesians 1:4 says, God has chosen for me to be "holy and blameless before Him."
So when I do feel out of control or when I feel like I desperately want to control something, I choose to stop and say the truth. Christ is living as me and He is in control. This situation is perfectly taken care of and all is perfectly as it should be.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 9 No 4
- More Than An Eating Problem
- Romans Six to Eight, Paul’s Key to the Liberated Life
- Editor’s Note
- Greetings From the Z News Crew!
- Wanted: Faith and Fools
- Why Me God? or How to Deal with Life’s Frustrations
- The Mailbox
- The Solution: The Law & The Cross
- To Think About
- I’ve Been Crucified
- Family Reunion At Blowing Rock, 1993
- Questions & Answers
- Powerless Over Alcohol & LIfe: Step 10
- Words To Live By
- Moments With Meryl
- Excerpt from The Intercession of Rees Howells
- A Look at a Book, A Review: Rees Howells Intercessor