I have a personal mantra. The general idea is: “Be a good example…or at the very least a cautionary tale.” So, it is with a good measure of trepidation that I tell you that lately, I’ve been that cautionary tale. I’ve been overeating. I am kind of embarrassed to speak that into cyber-space, but really only the truth will do in order to help others, right? If we feel isolated, alone and a freak because of the way we feel, we tend not to reach out to others for help. Who is safe, anyway? Who can we trust with our hearts, our secret thoughts…?
This goes back to the last couple of years. For me, here’s where it starts. I am hungry. That is my general default. But it’s not what you think. I wake up hungry. Always. So even though I’m hungry, and even though I live in a country where food is as plentiful as the air I breathe, I won’t satisfy my hunger for a couple of hours yet. For me, it’s not an actual “Oh, I got busy and just forgot to eat breakfast.” thing. It’s usually “When I get my husband and kids out the door, I’ll eat breakfast” kind of thing. Or “I can stick a load of laundry in before I sit down and eat” thing. I’ve decided I like to defer. You know why? Because it gives me a measure of control. I am captain of my own destiny. In a world marked by chaos and confusion, people having a say-so of my schedule and who, conversely, don’t want to cooperate with my plans, I.have.control. Read into this, perfectionism. It all boils down to perfectionism and control.
Let’s talk about my diet. What I have been eating is literally killing me. When I say I’m overeating, I’m not just talking about food. I am talking about something bigger: I “eat my feelings”. My friends and I have been batting this phrase around for a long time, so it’s familiar to me, but might not be to you. Bear with me – you’ll see what I mean. Because I decide to wait for breakfast, I will start snacking as I get the kids ready for school. I start off with a small bite of comparison. I look at the lunch I have packed for my kids and think to myself. Yikes. “Too many carbs” or “not organic fruit” or “this is too much sugar”, or whatever demon the latest nutritional news source is talking about. Comparison doesn’t taste good, but because I am hungry, I keep snacking. Then I realize, comparison left a bad taste in my mouth, so I decide to try and wipe out that taste with a different taste. So I unwrap some “resentment”, take a big bite and think “Well, I am doing the best I can with three teenagers who are about to eat me out of house and home!” I am currently feeding an athlete, a very healthy eater and one who, apparently, has a vegetable/fruit aversion and is probably throwing away that “not organic fruit” anyway. Oh! And because of our current culture of leaving reviews for everything and everyone that serves us, my children are not shy about critiquing my efforts. They honestly believe this helps me. What?!? Another bite of resentment. I notice that someone left the jar of “reproach” open, so before I replace the lid, I take a spoon, get a big bite and mumble under my breath: “You try doing this all school year and see what you come up with!” or “All I ever do is drive you places and go to the grocery store to buy food that you will either complain about or wipe out the first day!” So then, my efforts to love on them and serve them by feeding them healthy food becomes a battlefield. At this point, I know “mad” is hiding in the cookie jar for an extreme emergency, so I go over, look both ways, take off the lid and reach in. “Everyone in my house is so ungrateful! Why do I even bother? I’m just going to ______! (I fill in the blank with whatever heinous thing I can think of.) That will show them!” The kids leave for school, but I sit in my chair, with the cookie jar, and keep bingeing. This can last untold minutes or even hours unless something or someone interrupts me.
Perfectionists eat their feelings. Or starve their feelings. Or work their feelings. Or mask their feelings with spending, alcohol, smoking or any number of unhealthy lifestyle choices. I’m sure we are all thinking of our own way we deal. It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman or a mother or a father or don’t even have kids. Allowing your feelings to be the boss of you is not the way to go. Not if you desire life to the fullest. So this is/was, could possibly still resemble me some days. Let me show you the better way.
I wake up. I am hungry. There’s a song lingering in my mind. I make a mental note of the name and the artist because I’ll need it later. I stop before my feet hit the ground. I say a quick prayer to God thanking Him for the safety of the night and the peace of the moment that is “right now”. I pray that I don’t go borrowing trouble from the next thirty minutes or an hour or even later in the day. I just thank Him for right now. Because I know that Jesus and His Holy Spirit are there with me, as well, I say good morning to Them, too. I ask them to help me plan out my day and for favor to get the ultimately most important things done, whether or not that means my to-do list gets satisfied or not. Hear me: the most important things (to God) only, please. Let the other junk just fall off or go away entirely. I.release.control. I go find my phone. I look at my “Jesus Calling” devotional and find a few other Bible verses that apply. I then go find that song from earlier and start playing it loudly in the kitchen. Today it was Casting Crown’s “Just Be Held”. This is the message that Jesus was singing over me as I slept last night: “Stop holding on (to your control) and just (decide to) be held”. I drink some water, then say a quick “Thank You, Lord!” for the invention of coffee and start my morning. Immediately afterward, I make a healthy smoothie for the kids and take half for myself. Immediate mood enhancement! When they wake up, I can greet them with a smile on my face and in my heart. I can greet them with love that is now not just my own, but the Father’s.
I don’t have to stuff things down anymore. I am in overflow mode. You see, God longs to feed me every morning with His word and His love. He is still in the business of providing manna. Strength, love, help and hope…just enough for each day, yet always enough to fill me up and to overflow to others. Jesus longs to be invited to hold my hand and walk me through every situation of my day. He wants to give His play-by-play commentary of what is really happening in my life. Not in a condemning way, but in a loving, teaching, coaching way. In a “You’ll get ‘em next time, Tiger!” kind of way. This gives me confidence. Confidence in the fact that I am doing the best I can. Confidence that I have a heart lined up with God’s word and fueled by the Father’s love. Confidence in the grace and saving mercy of Jesus and the constant, caring presence of the Holy Spirit.
What about you? Is what you’ve been eating making you sick? Try a better diet. Not one where you have to be “perfect” in order to see results, but the one where you just show up with yourself and nothing else but God and things change. Show Him your diet journal and ask Him to help you.
~ Debbie Bouckley
Taste and see that the LORD is good! How blessed is the person who trusts in Him! ~ Psalm 34:8 ISV
May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. ~Psalm 19:14 NIV
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~Ephesians 4:31-32 NLT