We asked Cara Smith, a former member of St Helen’s who is currently working at a church in Kent, to help us think 'Christianly' about a battle that she's faced and that some of us will be facing.
What was your favourite game as a child? Hide and seek was always the one me and my siblings loved. Not sure what it was that made the game so popular with us. Maybe the thrill of the chase when you were The Counter; or maybe it was the sense of danger we got from being hunted down (even if the person hunting was your five year old younger sister!); or the challenge of squeezing yourself in the smallest space…but over the years I’ve seen that hide and seek is still a favourite of mine. Somewhere along the way, hiding went from being a game, to a controlling habit in my life. Over the years the Lord has shown me how lots of my behaviour and attitudes are motivated by my desire to hide. I have a 'telephone voice' to hide behind; a Facebook profile to only reveal life’s edited highlights; I have the saying “I’m fine” to hide behind because I don’t know how else to describe the mess and chaos that is my life.
But I also hide by the way I abuse food. Lots of people have different reasons for why they do too. Maybe they are trying punish themselves. To harm themselves. Or change themselves. Or to numb themselves. Or to go from numbness to feeling something. Or to have a feeling of control. I abuse food because it gives me a way of hiding myself from people. The thing that is deep inside me. The blackness at the very heart of my being that is too hideous to let anyone catch even a glimpse of.
So what helps? What coaxes the shy hider out from behind her projected self? What helps me to break the habit of a lifetime and acknowledge my abuse for what it is?
Clear love: when my church family want much more for me than an end to my problem. Instead they pray that the Lord would use what I’m doing to teach me more about the depths of my own sin, but also that I would grasp the breadth and length and height and depth of the Love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18). When they remind me (repeatedly) that my eating disorder does not negate the blood of Christ or even make me some kind of second class Christian. (Romans 8:38-39)
Clear signposts: when my brothers and sisters know that they can’t help me; they can’t change me or make me better. They can only be with me in it. And instead they show their confidence in the one who can and does and will make his people more like his wonderful, glorious son. We can’t change people. I really need to remember that; my instinct is to try to solve any problems that my mates bring to me. I can’t even change myself! What makes me think I can transform another person?! But what we can do is point people to the one who can transform. In fact if we aren’t pointing people to the person of the Lord Jesus, as he has revealed himself, then any transformation will be shallow and fleeting. Only he by his Spirit through his Word can be doing a deep, lasting and significant work in us…regardless of what we struggle with and temptations we face.
It’s only as I see the Lord Jesus and hear his words in Scripture that I have my heart captured by him, instead of my wrong desires. Only then do I stop being so caught up on myself and hiding and come out in the open to bask in the glory of the Son, and long to see others have the privilege of knowing him too.
I can’t hide from him, even when I am successfully hiding from others. I don’t want to hide from him. He sees me as I am, and yet still bids me come…
'Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'. Matthew 11:28
If this is a battle for you personally, please confide in someone you know well at St Helen's. For more details about eating disorders and to find help: http://www.b-eat.co.uk/