Saturday, March 22, 2014

When Jesus Wouldn't Welcome Me

    Before you read this post, you should probably check out Kevin DeYoung's post on Jesus befriending sinners, and Jonathan Merritt's excellent response.
    It's the last two sentences of DeYoung's article to which I wish to respond.
    "Jesus was a friend of sinners not because he winked at sin, ignored sin, or enjoyed light-hearted revelry with those engaged in immorality. Jesus was a friend of sinners in that he came to save sinners and was very pleased to welcome sinners who were open to the gospel, sorry for their sins, and on their way to putting their faith in Him."
    The first sentence, and the first clause of the second sentence? I agree.
    The last part sickens me.
    Because I believed that last part wholeheartedly in high school.
    I've struggled with my weight since I was eight. But when I was fourteen and just starting my freshman year, the "I am fat" feelings became too much. I felt sick and freaked out and so I filled with blackened self-hatred. I couldn't take feeling like this, so humiliated and ugly and tingly all over with my gross layers of fat, so I started starving myself and over-exercising (In retrospect, I wasn't fat at all, but that didn't change how I felt or stop the nightmares in which my family turned on me for being fatter than my skinny twin sister).
    But because I wholly believed Jesus didn't welcome the unrepentant (you can't serve God and mammon, right?), and I didn't have the strength to repent, I realized I would have to choose: anorexia or God.
    I chose anorexia.
   Sure I was going to hell (because, doesn't Hebrews 6 say I cannot turn back?), I continued on in my decision, even though my eating disorder nearly destroyed my relationship with my sister. Outwardly, all was well. I was a good girl and believed firmly in God, yet inwardly I shut Him out.
    I tried to turn back. I'd be good for a week, a month. I'd talk to God again, ask for forgiveness, and as proof of my true repentance I'd stop starving myself and over-exercising. But, inevitably, the I-am-fat feelings would return, and in a moment of panic I'd choose anorexia again. And there were moments I begged for God to send someone to confront me, to love me where I was and point me back to God, for anyone to stop and ask, are you all right? But no one did, although I don't blame them since I put up a pretty good facade if I do say so myself (I was careful to maintain a figure skinny enough to draw comments but not so skinny my doctor would become alarmed or I would risk dying). 
    I was isolated and drowning and eventually suicidal, but I wasn't repentant because I valued my weight over God. I wasn't determined to change; I liked being 105 pounds, even though at my height, that's not healthy. So I kept my distance from God.
    Two weeks before college my sister left for her school. And I was like, my twin is gone, no one can compare my to her and call me fat again. Maybe now, with the temptation to compare myself with her gone, I could truly turn back to God.
    So I prayed. On my knees, to act more repentant than I felt. I didn't feel much, to be honest, only that I wanted God back even though I also wanted my ideal weight.
    But something happened the next week. I caught myself over-exercising again. Normally, this was the moment I'd give up on God. But this time I felt God whisper to me that it was okay. I did not have to have my sins under control, I didn't even have to want to stop losing weight. I was welcome by Him despite my sin, even though I wasn't necessarily sorry for my sin.
    The burden was no longer on me to be in the right frame of spirit and mind to be welcomed by God. It was never about me; it was about Jesus. Jesus, who loved me anyways.
    I think I'll save the rest of my battle against anorexia for another post, 'cause it's kinda a long story. All I'll say for now is this:
    A God who only welcomes those who want to change isn't my God. God welcomes us no matter who we are, and, maybe, we start to change when we are already in His presence.

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