“Now where there is forgiveness of these things, there is no longer any offering for sin… For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin, but a terrifying expectation of judgment AND THE FURY OF A FIRE WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES… How much severer do you think he will deserve who has trampled under the foot of the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”
Here is a favorite quote of mine from Flannery O’Connor, “Fiction is about everything Human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty then you shouldn’t try and write fiction.”
Acknowledging that we are made of dust is this; accepting the fact that we are not perfect. It is also accepting that others are not perfect. That is reality.
If you are the type of person who cannot forgive well, expects perfection from everyone, or just can’t handle reading stories with unhappy tones, then I would advise you to stop reading. This is not fiction; it is real and it is dusty. It takes grace to look beyond this story, and all stories, to the redemptive plan that is behind this and them.
It has been a long journey, almost four and a half years now. But something finally clicked for me last night as I lay in bed awake, struggling to go to sleep.
This was the situation; I was hurting. Angry would probably be a more appropriate word to describe my emotions. I was honestly pissed—at myself. Throughout this journey I feel like I have wrestled with it all. Depression, anxiety, suicide, drugs, alcohol, sex, anger, pride, you name it. But nothing in my experience has felt as oppressive or appeared as hopeless as my battle with anorexia and bulimia.
I have to admit, be it pride or my acceptance of cultural norms, my obsession with food, body image, and perfection makes me feel pathetic; embarrassed and ashamed. I am supposed to be a Man. I am supposed to struggle with manly sins. I am supposed to always be thinking about sex. Instead I am always thinking about food and dieting. I am supposed to be praying about how I can have the perfect marriage, but instead I find myself praying for the perfect body. In a culture, especially a Christian culture, that defines people by not only what they do well but actually most often how they screw up, I could find myself more at home in a crowd of women then in men. I felt like I fit in better with the women at church conferences when they split up by gender, sending men in one direction to go talk about sex and women to go talk about body image. You know what I am talking about. This happens consistently all throughout junior high and high school and continues into college. That always made me a little embarrassed, disappointed in myself, and ashamed for how I sinned like a girl.
But I am not all bitterness and animosity. I have grown. And more recently, probably for the past year or so, experienced the most freedom I ever have. But, not so much these past few weeks. Lately I have been feeling depressed, anxious, oppressed and isolated. I have quickly relapsed back into that sin. I hate it!
But here is what clicked while I was struggling to sleep. I primarily hate this sin so much because of how it affects me. Yes, there is a distance from God that I experience, but truly, there a times where I am just a much more shallow and dusty human being than that. Often, I don’t care. It doesn’t even cross my mind, but I am still conditioned to speak the Christian language as I talk about my sin. I tell myself, and others, that I am convicted. It’s true in one sense. I feel filthy, I feel broken, I feel hurt, and I feel desperate. But I am not convicted to repent and turn away, because really I am not convicted about my sin. What I am calling conviction is more like fear. It’s more like added anxiety. The only reason I want to stop this sin is because I want to prevent “bad things” from happening to me. Things that I have chosen to believe are completely and utterly evil; gaining weight, not being able to see certain muscles on my body, or being imperfect.
Much deeper than my habits of binging and purging or starving myself is a root of self-disgust, self-hate, and low self-esteem.
And it is deeper than that! When I was young I was ridiculed for being overweight. When I lost weight I was affirmed in the things I put my identity in; mainly sports. I felt the approval of people because I performed better. My better performance was a result of weight loss. Somewhere my thinking got really messed up and somewhere along the way I started to believe a crazy lie. I told myself, “The more weight I lose, the better I do, the better I look…the more people will love me.” I feared, not weight gain or being imperfect, but rejection. I feared, and do fear, being unlovable.
But here is one of the problems and maybe you can relate. As I have already made it clear, when I sin it is not God convicting me—but me convicting. God is not my Judge—I am.
I am not hurting so much because I care what God thinks about me and my sin, I am hurting so much because of what I think about me and my sin. I have convinced myself that mine is the only opinion that matters. For some reason I am convinced that I am a constant failure.
Suddenly my eyes are off Jesus and I have forgotten who He is and what He has done for me, and for the whole world of unloved and seemingly unlovable people just like me. If I cared what God thought about me and my sin I would have remembered that He cared so much that He died to take it away. I would remember that he loved me so much that sin is no longer my burden to bear.
But at 3:00 a.m. as I am trying to go to sleep, right after I have stuffed myself full of whatever food I have found from around the house and vomited it back up into the toilet, all I can think about is the atonement. Not Jesus’ work though; my atonement. How am I going to make it up to my body? How many miles do I need to run? How many hours in the Gym? Which meal should I skip? How can I cover this sin?
And that’s when the question comes to me. How could I forget? It is not sin against myself it is sin against God! It is not mine to atone because Jesus has already atoned. It is Christ who has already done what I believe I have to do in order to pay the price for my sin!
Sometimes I feel like an idiot. My view of atonement must be very screwed up if I think that running six miles makes up for my sin against God. If was serious about my sin I would either be a really poor Israeli farmer—or dead. If I was serious, a hopeless sinner like me would most likely have to sacrifice all my livestock daily or take the once-for-all route like Jesus and die on a cross.
Praise God something finally clicked inside my messed up little brain! But I pray that it changes my heart and transforms my mind too, because I am sick of feeling so much shame.
When all of this happened I kind of made a mess of our kitchen. I left some greasy pans out from the food I cooked and left the fan on that is above the stove. To my parents, who I know that I struggle, my actions were going to be very obvious. But for I don’t know how long as I lay in my bed I actually thought to myself, “How am I going to explain my way out of this one?”
This is the lie that we all have to come against when trying to remember that it’s not about other people and what they think, it is about God and what he thinks. Even after it had clicked and I had such a wonderful epiphany, the thought of other people knowing about my sin began to creep in and squash the truth I had just come to terms with. Suddenly I was at it again. I did not care how much my actions hurt Jesus, but instead was more concerned with how they affected me and my parents.
Don’t get confused. I am not saying one shouldn’t be concerned with the reactions, cares and concerns of others. I think that Christian community is a necessary grace. What I am saying though is that it was obvious that I feared there rejection of me instead of fearing Gods grieving over my sin.
I have forgotten how much my sin grieves the Holy Spirit, Jesus, the one who had to suffer for it, and the Father, who watched his son atone for it. I know I’m just plain selfish when I sin. I make it all about me. I grieve, I weep, and I get sad all because I fail to measure up to my standards and not God’s standards. I consistently forget the grace of the cross.
Somehow I, we, need to remember that sin is not about us. We all had a hand in sending Jesus to his place at Calvary. That thought should convict us; it should destroy us. Our sin put Jesus to death. Let us not put ourselves in the seat of judgment and simultaneously try and take the place of judge of our lives as well. When we do, we substitute ourselves for Jesus, trying to take the punishment he already bore. And even worse, when we try to be our own judge, we judge the cross; telling Jesus His death was not enough.