How much will I allow my past to define me now? Will I believe that the Lord is greater than any of my past failures or the wrongs done to me? Will I believe what HE has said about me? This is very much related to my eating. Especially when it comes to emotional eating (and other strongholds).
This is how it has worked for me:
Someone says something that I interpret as rejection (or some other unpleasant thing). It triggers a memory, however distant (maybe even from 4th grade!). I may not even be aware that it has triggered that memory. Before I know it, I have taken whatever was done in the present moment and attributed to the present things that went with a past event. In fact, I may even allow a “domino” affect to take place…triggering an entire series of past memories that seem related. I may do this all without realizing it!
I may, in fact, respond as if I were that little girl in 4th grade trying to fit in and not quite making it. Even though I am an adult in the present moment, my experiences with similar emotions may be stunted…I haven’t ever responded as an adult to these kinds of emotions…or I have rarely because I have tended to use coping mechanisms (like eating) to make it through.
At this point, I may find myself feeling emotional pain…and projecting all kinds of things to the present experience that aren’t even there at all!
When I do this, I may want to be free from the pain that I feel. It may seem impossible that I have allowed something so “small” to make me so upset in the present moment, but the fact is, I have brought past unresolved issues into this moment. Frankly, I believe that until I allow the Lord to resolve these past issues (even those from 4th grade), I will continue to experience things in the present that trigger those past memories. The truth is, he will have his way and he wants me to be conformed to the image of Christ.
If I insist on numbing myself to my pain in the present moment by looking to food for the temporary false comfort it offers, I will perpetuate this cycle…that of continuing to have a series of unresolved painful memories…and something in the future is likely to trigger them all…resulting in eating to numb myself from the pain and on it goes. (Please note that it doesn’t have to be something super traumatic or abusive in order for this to happen. It can be just the ordinary things that happen as we grow up in a world where kids are cruel and people are sinful. It is life, but life can hurt!)
This cycle can be stopped. But first, I have to be willing to FEEL. I have to be willing to say NO to the temporary “joy” that eating may give me in these moments when I am feeling pain. I have to be willing to go to God and to invite him to help me to become what He intends through the pain.
I will not minimize how I feel, but acknowledge that something has triggered a deep feeling and invite God to show me what HE wants me to do with it. Journaling can be a big help here!
One way of doing this is to go back through the past experiences that are triggered. I can remember the moments when kids in the 6th grade said mean things, or the jibes in 7th grade, or the rejection of the 8th grade boyfriend, or the softball coach in 9th grade that added to my sense of abandonment when our team wasn’t “good enough” for him to show up at the games any more…or…well, the list goes on and on.
God wants me to look head on in to these, feel the pain of the 4th grade girl in a new school and allow HIM to comfort me. He says these things matter…they are affecting how I respond today and are causing me to turn to food so that I don’t have to feel.
I believe that forgiveness is the antidote to much of this tendency we have to bring our past into the preset moment and to hinder us from walking in freedom.
True forgiveness cannot exist without the acknowledgment of the extent of the damage. Forgiveness takes seriously the magnitude and profound effect of the hurtful event. It does not condone the behavior nor does it minimize the damage. Rather, forgiveness honestly confronts the extent of the harm and calls the offender to accountability. Get Thin Stay Thin, p. 149
We take all of this to God. Each event, each incident, each emotion felt as a tender 10-year old, teenager or middle-aged woman…whatever we experienced, whenever we experienced it, we intentionally choose to remember, to feel, to reject depending on food to cope, to cling to God and ask Him to be whatever He wants to be for us in that, so that we can become what He intends through it.
As he does this work, we then intentionally choose to release those who wronged us–or who we perceived to have wronged us.
This isn’t easy, but there is freedom and growth. Our character develops and we become more like the Lord we serve as we allow him full sway to do that which he intends in and through our suffering.