From the beginning of my college experience my prayer has been that God would grant me the gift of humility. I struggle with pride, an addiction to competition, and an eternal need to be the “best of the best”. Additionally, I prayed for opportunities to grow in my faith, to share my love for Jesus with others, and to minister to those who do not believe. Little did I know what my God of provisions would lay on my “plate” in the middle of the spring 2017 semester.
I should preface with the fact that I have struggled with an eating disorder (ED) for several years. When I first accepted this I “did recovery/treatment” on my own. After all, I was “perfect Alexa” and I definitely didn’t need “help”. This was my freshman year of college. I saw a therapist and have continued seeing one over the years. I had maintained my “recovery” for the most part during this time, but I honestly wasn’t fully recovered. I wasn’t honest with myself or others about the life I was living. I was in denial because I thought that this was the only way I could be happy. Honestly, it was about the most unhappy way to live.
Eating disorders are tricky boogers. They are “real, complex, and devastating conditions that can have serious consequences for health, productivity, and relationships” (NEDA, 2016). Eating disorders are a daily struggle for ten million females and one million males in the U.S. alone (EDH, 2017). They have the highest fatality rate of any mental illness, yet seem to be one of the least understood or accepted by our society. Only one third of those suffering with Anorexia Nervosa (the Eating Disorder I personally struggle with) obtain treatment. Thus, it was challenging for me to seek help of any sort.
I noticed some of my disordered thoughts and behaviors creeping back in throughout my junior year of college. With the pressures from school, health, daily life, and many “unknowns” my dearest friend (ED) snuck his way back in.
I confessed my struggles to my therapist, who to my surprise, suggested seeking a facility in which I could receive residential treatment from. Again, “perfect Alexa” doesn’t need help. But, oh she sure did. I took a deep breath and dove into the pool of humility. I found a treatment facility that would accept me, filled out many papers, talked with several authority figures within my college, and with many, many tears left Boone for a while. Throughout this entire process I prayed many angry prayers, prayers pleading for help and discernment, and eventually prayers of gratitude.
I was frustrated that the ED had found its way back so easily. I was angry that God didn’t stop it or “protect” me from it. I was grateful for my doctor, therapist, family, friends, and other supports. The most potent feeling throughout all of this, however, was humbled. I was no longer able to be proud of the ways I could “fix” everything and be the most successful. I had to swallow a large gulp of my bitter pride and I did not like that.
Answered prayers can be tricky, you know. I wanted to be grateful for this “answer”, but at the same time it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping for when I asked for the courage and strength to be humble.
God knows more about me than I know about myself. How could I pretend like my ideas for my life and the “timeline” I had planned out was greater than His Will?
There is opportunity for connection, understanding, growth, empathy- so much!- when we trust God with all of our situations and truly believe He has a plan and purpose. He is not done! Even when life feels like it is over, He gives new life. The One who IS life, gives life freely! This is one lesson I learned from a nurse at the beginning of my treatment journey. I have come to understand that I can glorify God in the way that I handle the leap of faith and humility as I continue to recover and share my story.
Before I left school one of my dear friends met with me on one of my lowest nights. She did not know I was in need, but simply came by to say goodbye. I was so grateful that God sent her to come to me when He did. My friend is still exploring the idea of faith and expressed her admiration of my spirituality during our conversation that night. She openly asked questions and I openly answered them. Afterward my heart was radiating with the beauty of God’s Light in me and the joy I felt. I honestly do not think this conversation would have happened if I hadn’t made the choice to submit to and obey God by humbling myself and seeking treatment. Without doing so the friend would not have visited me to say goodbye and I’m not sure if we would have ever had such a vulnerable conversation.
The day before I left for my treatment I kept getting an overwhelming “vision”. I have always loved the idea of God and His Angel Armies.
“I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left.”1 Kings 22:19
I kept envisioning the Lord and His Angel armies gathering and going out to battle for me. The fight was against this world and all it was saying to me. The eating disordered thoughts, distorted body images I was seeing when I looked at myself, my insecurities, the pressure to be perfect. All of these struggles I was trying so hard to fight on my own, finally I was surrendering and allowing God and His Angels to fight for me.
“The Lord will fight for you while you [only need to] keep silent and remain calm.” Exodus 14:14
I was determined to live like these Angel Armies were at battle for my soul. I wanted to show everyone what God will do if we work for Him and let Him move in our lives. My prayer was to be an example of a life lived for Him alone.
On my first day the clinical director won me over to the program. She explained that my identity is in who God calls me- His Daughter. She explained that He has big and amazing plans for me. We talked about God’s grace and the beauty of it. I know that God sent her to me and planned this conversation from the very beginning. It had a very strong influence on my trusting the program and surrendering to the idea of treatment and recovery.
One thing I have learned during my treatment is how creative God is. His creativity is INFINITE! Humans are all so different and we have different experiences. However, it is interesting how God will use two totally different people with very different experiences to arrive at very similar outcomes. Many of the ladies I have met at the facility have had very different lives, come from diverse backgrounds, and struggle with a variety of challenges within the label of “eating disorder”. Yet, we are able to bond, connect, and love one another so deeply because of the outcome of our experiences! God never ceases to amaze me.
The bonds I have formed with my “sisters” in the program has been so intimate and precious. In these types of relationships there is opportunity to share openly with one another, as well as, ask questions and learn about each other’s passions and values. This being said, I have praised God for every opportunity to share about my faith during this process. Several ladies have asked me why I believe what I do, and I have been blessed to share my love for Jesus with them. Some of these conversations were left with tension, skepticism, and frustrations but most ended with what I believe to be a seed planted and curiosity piqued. I’ve even had one lady join me in attending church. This new friend told me that she identifies as Agnostic when I first met her; now she is exploring the idea of Jesus, our Lord and Savior! I gave her a devotional that I had an extra copy of and my heart absolutely explodes every morning as I witness her curled up on the couch starting her day with it.
God is so good. He has blessed me with so much throughout my treatment process. It is one of the hardest times I have ever been through in my twenty one years of life, but one of the most rewarding and satisfying experiences. I have learned how to be kind to myself and am developing skill sets that cultivate healthy relationships. Every part of treatment has all helped me grow in my faith and shine Christ’s light in the world all around me. Sometimes the biggest blessings come from the circumstances we least expect to have any sort of good in them.
I am still walking on my journey with the Lord. The process of recovery from an eating disorder is ongoing- a choice I will have to make every day. The same goes with my faith and obeying the call the Lord has placed on my heart. Every single day will be a choice and I choose humility, obeying God, surrendering to the Lord, and living my life for Him- ministering to everyone I know. What a blessing it is to choose this- true life from the True Life Himself. Zepheniah 3:17 says “The Lord your God… will renew you in His love,” and this is exactly what He has done and is continuing to do as I walk with Him on the path of humility.
The Holy Bible
Alexa is a student at ASU and plans to be a special education teacher. She is a Daughter of God, runner, reader, nature lover, learner, and coffee addict. Alexa values community, vulnerability, tight knit relationships. When she isn’t lounging in a coffee shop with her nose in a book, you can find her exploring trails, listening to Jesus jams, teaching and learning from children at church, or spending time with those she loves.