It was past midnight and the freshman dorm was quiet. I could hear the faint snoring of my roommate in the bunk bed above. I was wide awake. I hadn’t eaten for three days and my stomach was growling.
I reached for my wallet on the bedside table and extracted a few singles. There was a vending machine in the lounge down the hall. I’ll just get some crackers, I told myself.
But one by one an array of candy bars clunked to the receptor. Soon I was back in bed, under the blanket, unwrapping a Milky Way bar.
There was a rush of satisfaction at the first bite of stretchy caramel. One bar eaten. Then two. I knew I should stop. But within minutes all that remained were crumpled wrappers and shame. How many I had consumed was unclear.
I reached for my wallet and pulled out more singles.
The year was 1976 and eating disorders did not yet have a name. I rode a rollercoaster of bingeing and purging. When bingeing, I found hiding places across campus, skipping classes, avoiding people. When purging, I was on the running track, furiously clocking in the miles. I had diuretics and diet pills at my disposal. I starved myself for days on end.
That summer, it became so bad that my parents put padlocks on their kitchen cabinets. They sent me to a hypnotist and a psychologist. They threatened to send me to a mental health facility in Vermont.
How could God love someone like me? It was unfathomable.
But He did.
And eventually I reached for His hand to pull me out of the pit. His hand had been there all the time.
As I gripped that hand, the rollercoaster slowed down. I recall small victories – the time I ordered one slice of pie at Baker’s Square – ate it slowly – and did not return to buy the whole pie. The day I sat in the school cafeteria and ate a peanut butter sandwich in full view.
Forty years later, I still over-exercise. And when I step on the scale, I brace myself on the bathroom sink. But when the number pops into view, and the desire to over-control threatens to overtake me, God says,
You are more than a number. I love you.
The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.
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