Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Identity is in Christ.

In the world of eating disorders, we so often struggle with this thing called identity.  Identity:  a person’s global role in life and the perception of his or her sense of self. Some might simply say that identity is who someone is.  For people who suffer from their eating disorder, they often make their illness their identity.  I am anorexic. I am bulimic.  Instead of I am a person anorexia or bulimia.

I know that this was true for me.  I found my identity in my eating disorder.  I thought of myself as a purging anorexic, as the number on the scale, as the number of calories I ingested or the hours I exercised.  And when I was in treatment, I was a recovering anorexic.  When I reached the point in my treatment when I was weight-restored and eating regularly, I had an identity crisis.  I had for so long defined myself by my disorder that I forgot any other way to define myself.  I had no idea who I was, and a person cannot live like that.  

I struggled for a really long time before I came to find my identity in God.   

Who does God say we are? Looking at Genesis, we can find that we are three things: 

1) Revelation receiver
2) Made to mirror God (Genesis 1:26-27)
2) Blessed to be a blessing (Genesis 1:27)
3) Humbly honored (Genesis 1:26)

Let's explore this a little bit.  As a revelation receiver, we are given the ability to communicate with God and have Him communicate back to us.  We allow God to speak.  As humbly honored, we are more than just mere animals, but not so powerful that we don't need God's help.  

We are made in the image and likeness of God.  Because of this, you are not more valuable or less valuable than anyone else.  All of us equally bare the image and likeness of God.  All of us are made to mirror God. 

As people who are made to mirror God, we are made to do for God exactly what mirrors do for us--reflect the image of our self.  God is loving, forgiving, truthful, merciful, generous... and when we are also loving, forgiving, truthful, merciful, and generous, we are reflecting God.  Just as Jesus did.  Jesus was the perfect, sinless mirror.  We should ask not what this action will make me look like, but how can I reflect who God is.  

We are also blessed to bless.  If you read Genesis 1:27 closely, you can see that Adam and Eve didn't do anything to be blessed by God.  Not a single thing.  God blessed them right from the start and actively loved them with a father's affection.  He began with a blessing.  

The same is true for us.  It begins with the blessing of Jesus.  The blessing of an unchanging identity in who God made us to be and who Jesus is.  Our identity is received, not achieved   And we are continually blessed by God--things He provides like food and clothing, spiritual gifts, lessons that he teaches us--whatever God teaches you, whatever God does for you, whatever God blesses you with is so that you can teach, do, and bless others in return.

If God was the only spiritual being at force in this world, all of those walking with Jesus would be secure in our identity in Him.  But we aren't.  Satan interferes with our ability to believe God's truth.  

See, Satan wasn't satisfied with his identity under God.  He wanted to be just as powerful, if not more powerful, than God.  So he sought his identity elsewhere and now he is a liar and deceiver and killer.  

In Genesis 3:5, Satan offers an alternative identity statement to Eve than the one that she was given by God.  Satan was then and still is now responsible for the lies.  But the lie alone did nothing.  It was Eve's belief in the lie that led to the fall, her sin of commission and Adam's sin of omission, both resulting from believing the lie.  And still today, we are responsible for our belief in the lies that Satan tries to feed us.  

For me and many others who have suffered from eating disorders, a lot of these lies had to do with my worth, my value, my appearance.  I believe lies that said I wasn't good enough, thin enough or pretty enough.  I believe lies that said that if I skipped this meal/purged that/ran for x hours/weighed x amount then I would be loved.  

The true power of a lie is that it doesn't need to be true  to destroy you.  The power is contingent upon our belief in it.  Have you ever noticed how Jesus was able to resist temptation, withstand suffering, and face trials?  I'll give you a hint: he knew his identity.  Over and over in the gospels he comes back to his true identity.  We don't do that.  If I'm thinner, then I'll be loved.  If I drink a little more, I'll be more courageous.  If I get a 4.0 this semester, I'll be successful.  It all comes back to believing lies about our identity. 

But knowing our identity doesn't mean that our lives will be free from pain and suffering.  It only means that our lives will be pain and suffering proof if we put our identity in Christ.  If we remember that God made us.  That Jesus loves us.  That there is no condemnation in Christ.  

Any damage that we do to ourselves, like eating disorders, is rooted in our false understanding of identity.  It's the definition of idolatry given in Ezekiel 14:3--the problem is in our hearts.  The problem is when we take a good thing and make it a God thing.  When we expect our identity to be achieved.  
Our identity is received.  

In the Bible, people are placed into two categories--idolaters and worshipers.  We are made to worship the Creator and steward created things.  Idolatry is what happens when there is an inversion.  

Because idolatry is so deeply entwined with our hearts, people violently defend their idols.  They find them hard to change because they promise something 'better,' like happiness and a perfect life if my weight is x or I look a certain way or earn a certain grade. But idols make promises that they never keep.  They lie to us.  Lies don't bring life; they only bring death.  

We idolize items.  Cars, homes, name brands of jeans, even colleges.  We spend money we don't have to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't know.  

We idolize our duties.  Being a student, a mother, a Christian.  We put doing good things like volunteering and serving into the place of God.  This is bad.  Doing the right thing with the wrong heart is idolizing.  We try to find our thing and then be the best at it because we believe that what we do determines who we are.  This leads to cockiness by many who believe that they are the best and also depression by the many who believe they are failures.  It's exactly the opposite: who you are determines what you do.

We idolize others.  What will they think of me if I do this?  What do they want?  What do they need?  How can I make them happy with me?  I want them to approve.  I want them to like me and never leave me.  I want to make them think this about me.  I want to be included.  I want to be accepted.  I want them to praise me, and if they do that, my life is worth living.  But if they criticize me, I want to die.  It's so common especially among those with eating disorders.  People pleasers...willing to change our identity so that people will like us.  

If you idolize, you will demonize.  I have to be thin to be accepted.  So obviously fat people are not accepted.  Or even at a simpler level: I love Ohio State football.  I hate Michigan.  So if you love U of M, you're the devil.  Or if you think that wearing leggings as pants is acceptable, your the devil.  As if anything contrary to what you believe--or what you think people want you to believe--automatically makes that other person the devil.

We live in a world where we are always creating an identity and someone is always criticizing it.  And all of a sudden, we're becoming people that we aren't.  We are forgetting that our identity is in Christ.  That we are daughters and sons of the King.  That we are already accepted and loved.

Then we idolize our sufferings.  We suffer emotionally. We suffer relationally. We suffer spiritually. We suffer financially. We suffer physically. And when we suffer, either because of sins we commit or others commit against us, we can have our worst day be our defining day.  But here's the thing: you are NOT your worst day.  You're righteousness is in Christ, not you.  

I have anorexia.  I have depression.  I have weak bones.  I am orthostatic.  These are thoughts that I allowed to define me.  But if you really love someone, you cannot allow their suffering to become the source of their identity.  Identity is made in the image and likeness of God.  Yes, these things are a part of me, but they do not define me.  They EXPLAIN me.  

I eat every two hours because I have to follow a meal plan and because I suffer from anorexia.  I isolate myself because I suffer from depression.  I take calcium supplements and watch what I do because I have a low bone density.  I drink caloric beverages and move slowly because otherwise I will pass out.  I love Jesus more because he redeemed me from this.  

We are not our worst days.  We are not the worst things we've done.  We are not the worst things that others have done to us.  We are what Jesus has done for us.  

A lot of times we try to take serving others, we try to take recovering from an eating disorder, we try to take serving others, we try to take good things and put them in God's place.  But good things in God's place are invariably things that fail.  And when, not if, but when we have placed our identity in these thing and when they fail, we will look for someone to blame.  I am a failure.  Look what you've done.  God, You said You loved me.  We become self-centered, other-centered, or God-centered in our blame.  

And when things fall apart, when our identity idolatry fails us, we have two options.  Turn to Jesus.  Admit that we have idols, that we don't allow Him to define our lives.  Or pick a new identity idolatry. 

And as someone who has constantly bounced from one identity idolatry to the next, I'm running to Jesus.  Because in him, I am redeemed.  In him, I am set free.  In him, I am a new creation.  


Friday, March 22, 2013

Losing Faith in Humanity.

I have two very important and exciting blog posts that I am currently in the midst of writing. Their about really awesome topics that I'm super passionate about.  But I've been holding off on finishing them because I have been swamped with work this week.

Tonight, I have to write about something that's very heavy on my heart: Steubenville.

Everyone knows what happened in Steubenville last August.  It's been all over the news lately.  And if you haven't, I'm pretty sure that you live under a rock.

But if you haven't, here's a great summary of what happened, what I'm so upset about, and what you're going to read in the following paragraphs. (Or you can read more about it here.)

How the media is covering the verdict. ABC News made excuses for the rapists. This is what CNN News said on air:

“I cannot imagine how emotional the sentencing must have been…a 16 year old, sobbing in court, regardless of what big football players they are, they still sound like 16 year olds. What is the lasting effect of two young being guilty in juvenile court of rape essentially?”  Candy Crowley, CNN.  Not one word about the victim.

“…Incredibly difficult to watch as these two young men who had such promising futures, star football players, very good students literally watched as they believed their life fell apart.”  Poppy Harlow, CNN.  Not a word about the victim.

(For more, see: I Am The Blogger Who Allegedly "Complicated" The Steubenville Gang Rape Case)

But mainly, my beef is with the real people. These are real tweets from real people on the day of the verdict:

 “There is not justice in Steubenville today.  The girl asked for it and wanted it, in my opinion They gave it to her. No crime. Appeal!”

“Disgusting outcome on #Steubenville trial. Remember kids, if you’re drunk/slutty at a party, and embarrassed later, just say you got raped!”

(Writer’s note: Let’s remember that victim was passed out, unresponsive, and some people even thought she was dead when reading this tweet.)

“Steubenville : Guilty. I feel bad for the two young guys, Mays and Richmond, they did what most people in their situation would have done.”

What the public is saying about the victim:

 “Steubenville football players found guilt. [sic] Too bad the girl can’t also be sentenced for being so stupid and putting herself in danger.”

 “Fuck that whore seriously. Bottom line she’s a whore. She GOES. She would have fucked anyway because she got trained before SOBER” [sic]

“she’s the town whore anyways. She’s hasn’t stop [sic] drinking yet. Just pray, cause God’s gonna get her worse then anyone can”

This 16-year-old girl was brutally raped, urinated on, then forced to experience the shame and embarrassment of having videos and pictures passed around to the entire world, and she’s still being blamed for it after the perpetrators have been found guilty.

Not just that, but her life is being threatened.  Two girls, who are now also in jail, made threats to the victim on Twitter, menacing her with homicide and bodily harm.

All because she was raped and she reported her rape.  Which, by the way, is still illegal, in case anyone has forgotten.  I’m pretty sure the media has.  And a lot of the population has, too.

Because otherwise, why are we still trying to support the men who rape?  Why are we still blaming the victim for being raped?  Why is rape, as one tweeter said, “what most people in their situation would have done?” And why are we accepting this kind of attitude in our society?

This is rape culture.  This is a problem.

You would think that by 2013, rape victims wouldn’t be blamed for being raped.  That the rapists would go to jail and no one would care that they were star athletes because they raped an innocent girl.  This is what life without rape culture would be like.

But we don’t live in that world.  We live in a world where people are more upset that the careers of their star athletes are ruined than the fact that their star athletes raped someone.  Where it’s okay to rape and urinate on a girl who is passed out and then send videos and pictures of it to your friends.  Where it’s automatically the victim’s fault that she was raped because she was drunk.

This is 2013 rape culture.
I’m pissed about it.
You should be, too.

This is one woman's reaction to all of this: I Am So Sick of Teaching Our Daughters Not to Get Raped

I agree with every. single. word. said in this blog post.

It is still rape culture when we are teaching our daughters to not get raped instead of teaching our sons not to rape them.  Coming from someone who has experienced serious sexual assault on different occasions in her lifetime, I'm sick of being taught this.

It's time for us to teach a new lesson.
It's time for us to stand up and teach our sons.
It's time for us to put an end to rape culture.

So, I was feeling pretty down about humanity tonight--really upset about how people exist, and then my youth leader from home shared this link on Facebook: Another Example of Why I Don't Want to Live on This Planet Anymore.

Just read the comments.
Read the comments and be sickened because these people are rejoicing over the fact that PEOPLE died.  People that just as easily could have been them.
I don't understand.

After reading this, reading reactions from the Steubenville trial, and seeing how badly people are treated in the Greek system here on campus, I really just don't want to live on this planet anymore.

I think I'm going to buy an island and only let nice people live on it.
Or move to Canada.  I think the people are nicer there.
Or at least more human.

So, I'm super depressed about humanity.

There's hope!
We have Jesus!

And we have parents, like this amazing mom, who are standing up and teaching their sons to be men.  Not just men, but GODLY MEN who treat women and girls as the DAUGHTERS OF GOD that we are!
I am super excited.
Read this article. Please.

After Steubenville What Our Sons Need to Know About Manhood

After you've read this article, share it with the parents in your life who are raising young children.  Share it with your church families.  Share it with your kids, your kids-that-aren't-actually-yours-but-might-as-well-be.

Start conversations about respecting other, about humanity, about treating people as CHILDREN OF GOD.
Because ultimately, that's what we all are.
And we all deserve to be treated as such.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Philippians 4:4-9

Last night I can to the realization that I was happy.  Not happy in the superficial I-just-got-a-new-car/pair of jeans/cell phone/whatever way.  But the kind of happy the seeps deep down into the recesses of my soul.  Happy like Narnia after the Long Winter came to an end and the Golden Age began.  Happy like the end of It's a Wonderful Life.  If you don't remember, here's a reminder. :) 

But here's the thing, nothing changed for me. Nothing.  

Nothing and everything is the same.  Because here's what I've learned: 

God provides a joy and peace that exceeds earthly happiness on a far greater scale than anything this world can give me. 

I don't need money or grades or success or a boy or approval.  I don't need any of that.  

Jesus is all that I need.  My God truly is enough. 

This is my mindset:

"Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies." 
Philippians 4:4-9 (MSG)