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Archive for the ‘eating disorders’ Category

Emma and I have just done a seminar at Bible by the Beach. Emma told some of her story and I spoke about ‘The Big Story’ around pastoral care and addictions as well as ‘The Carer’s Story.’  Here are the notes I was working from:

A New Name Seminar 1

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Christ is our Identity

15 times “in Christ” in Ephesians. What a preposition: Can’t get closer than “IN”

You’ve died and gone to heaven. Ephesians 2:1…5-6.

“Seated in Christ” – nothing more to do – don’t need to move an inch.

What do we need? To know more of what we have: Ephesians 3:14ff

Don’t try to feel Christ in you – look to HIM.

To the degree you know yourself in Him, you will know Him in you.

Despite your feelings (or lack of them) it’s His relationship with the Father that’s central, not yours!  You can’t trust your feelings, you can’t even trust your faith.  Just know that Christ has faith for you.

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We’re All Addicts

People are not free, rational decision-makers

Ephesians 2:2-3: In pursuing the desires of our flesh we are enslaved to the devil.

You say “I’m not enslaved, I just do what I want.” Exactly – that’s your slavery. You keep feeding your foolish desires though they never actually give you what you want or need.

Human beings are not decision-making machines, calculating costs and benefits and acting rationally.  We’re foolish lovers who abandon ourselves to bad relationships that only enslave.

We’re not bound against our will. We choose what we choose. Nonetheless, we are trapped.

Addictions to substances or behaviours (like exercise or starvation) are obvious manifestations of this truth. But we’re all addicts. Ephesians 4:17-20

Both sufferers and carers need to know that the sufferer is not deciding to be unhealthy to spite everyone. Neither are they able to choose their way out of this. If you don’t understand the nature of their slavery you’ll only end up hating them. You’ll spend your whole time resenting them for their wilful rebellion and/or beating them with the will-power-stick to make them better.  If you don’t believe that we’re all addicts, you cannot love people through their self-destructive behaviours.

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Suffering is not a detour, it’s the way

We naturally think that the ultimate Christian life is one free from suffering and struggle. Of course we have to forget all about Jesus to believe that.

It’s not that God’s up there and we ascend through our strength.

Christ comes down because we have no strength of our own.

It’s not “There’s light at the end of the tunnel, here’s the 17 point plan for how you can get there in the end.”

It’s: “You’re dead in transgressions and sins. Utterly helpless.  And Christ joins you in the mess.”

If you find yourself in this kind of mess: Know that RIGHT HERE is where Christ is at work.  This isn’t a detour, it’s the way.

The Lord knows how to redeem the years the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).  Maybe you’ll be able to comfort others with the comfort you’ve received in your affliction (2 Corinthians 1:4).  But whatever happens, Christ is IN the situation.

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Redemption is Forward-Looking

When a loved one is suffering, it’s very natural to want to say “We just need to get the old Emma back.”  It’s very natural to look backwards.

I’m not so sure this is wise.  It seems to me that redemption works differently.  In Ephesians we get saved out of the pit and raised to a new height.  Salvation moves us onwards. In Exodus, the Israelites were brought out of Egypt and taken to the promised land.  In the wilderness they yearned for Egypt with its decent food and shelter.  But the Lord doesn’t take them back to the old place.  He takes them through the desert to a new place.  Their true home is ahead – a spacious land they haven’t yet seen.  This is the whole pattern of God’s dealings with us – from a garden but onto a city.

I think it’s a mistake to try to return to the way things were. It’s very possible that the way things were got you into this mess in the first place.  As you go through a wilderness time, the goal is a transformed you ahead (not the old you which you left behind.

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A New Name Seminar 2.

Church Comes First

Ephesians 4 comes before Ephesians 5!

We belong to each other in baptism before we belong to our spouses in marriage – or even to our children in families. Modern understandings of “coupledom” are very destructive.  We’re taught to cosy up to each other with a meal for two and a boxed set and we sing that old song from the 60’s “We’ll build a world of our own, which no-one else can share…”  But church has a claim on us before even our spouse does.

So quickly crazy can become normal when you try to manage by yourselves.  Far too often I coddled Emma in the darkness when I should have been moving her into the light of community.  That’s a hard judgement call when she becomes afraid of others and when she needs to know you’re safe.  But you need to be committed to life in community and to moving in that direction.

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One Flesh Gets Twisted

FLESH: Ephesians 2:3 5:31.  Those who deal with addictions will tell you that most addicts have an enabler somewhere in their life.

There are all sorts of dynamics that come into play when destructive behaviours flare up and if you’re close to the sufferer then it’s quite possible that you are some part of the problem.

Giving an addict what they want is not love. FEEDING HALF TON HUBBY is a chilling example of how an enabler can give the addict everything they want in the name of love.  It was the story of Patrick Deuel who weighed half a ton and his wife who could bring herself to stop feeding him. He was in hospital on nil by mouth and his wife would smuggle pizzas into the hospital. Why?  She said “Because I love him and it’s what he wants. I can’t say no to him if that’s what he wants.”  This kind of “love” can kill.

When Emma and I got married I basically thought that love meant saying “Yes” to my wife, no matter what.  If she wanted poison… well, what’s a loving husband to do but give her poison?  That’s a stupid analogy but only because it highlights the stupidity of what I was doing.  I took no lead in casting a vision for what healthy desires and directions might look like in our marriage.  In the absence of this Emma demanded more and more of her own way and I conceded more and more to drives which were ultimately self-destructive.

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You Need to Change

Ephesians 4:14-15 – we’re all being told lies every day.  We need “truthing in love” in church family to fight the lies. And that means that the carer needs to repent too.

This is hard to hear, but it’s vital. BOTH of you need to repent.  Can I suggest talking to a trusted Christian friend about the details of how you’re handling all this?  Don’t just get your friends to tell you There, there it must be so difficult – of course its difficult and of course you need sympathy and care.  But give friends permission to speak the truth in love: to challenge you on how you’re handling things.

When I did this in Christian community, I started to see a pattern emerging…

IMAGE: Dancefloor – Emma edging towards the dark edges, I would follow to coddle her from behind.  I should have spun her around and danced her into the light.  (It would mean kicking and screaming and tears and accusations – and that would mean I’d have to repent of my need to be “Mr Nice Guy”.  But that’s ok – I need to repent, and we both need community).

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Prayer is Warfare

Ephesians 6:10ff

Headship means being a prayer warrior.  This one’s for husbands but it has implications for others…  There are few other things I’d articulate as implications of headship, but it seems to me that prayer is top of the list. The LORD thunders at the head of His people (Joel 2:11) and husbands make war at the head of their wives.  When I’m prayerless Emma suffers.

And remember community. Some of the most powerful help we ever received as Emma was at her worst was going to another Christian couple’s house and praying on a Monday evening. They didn’t know much about eating disorders. Emma was able to talk about her struggles, talk about what the NHS were doing, talk about what was hard and we took those requests to God. It’s incredibly powerful to open up your needs before God and before church family.  It’s a total reversal of the condition actually.  The condition is about solitary, self-sufficiency. Praying with others is about a corporate expression of dependence and community.  Very powerful!

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It’s now on Youtube:

Here’s our response to the numbers of thumbs-down given!

I should probably point out that Emma’s is the most thumbed-UP video too. Which is nice. She did great!

 

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wedding cake topper

Click for source

On Thursday I wrote a piece on Emma’s blog about how I coped through her illness.  I hope it might help others too.  Here are the headings…

The Priesthood of Christ is vital for you both

You are their vicarious hope-r

You must believe in the bondage of the will…  

A theology of the cross is vital…

A theology of the cross is not the same thing as “Misery loves Company”…

The goal is not getting back to how things were…

That feeling of impotence is inevitable, it’s good and it’s bad…

You will need to change…

Giving an addict what they want is not love…

Firm, buoyant love is the tone to strike…

Don’t do it alone…

Headship means being a prayer warrior…

This is not a distraction from real life, this is it…

Read the whole thing…

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No?

Seriously, why not!?

It’s not just her hubby, check out any of these reviews.

Mark Meynell

Anita Mathias

Ruth Field

Kath Cunningham

Admiral Creedy

Emily Paterson

 Matthew Currey

Not to mention the latest by Steve Jeffery.  It finishes like this:

A New Name is subtitled Grace and healing for anorexia. But it’s about far more than that. It’s for anyone who wants to know how broken people tick – regardless of exactly where the breakage is – and how, by God’s grace, they can be put back together again.

This book is not only for anorexics and dieticians, or even just for “counsellors.” It’s for anyone who cares about badly messed-up people and is willing to live through a tiny taste of the pain they experience in order to help them deal with problems far too big for them to handle alone. It’s for anyone who thinks they might not be a perfect friend or parent or sibling or Pastor, and who wants to avoid making some potentially life-wrecking mistakes (other people’s lives, as well as their own) before it’s too late.

I’ve read a few books on different “personal and pastoral issues” – depression and bulimia and bereavement and so on. Some of them have been pretty helpful. But none of them come close to this. Brutally honest, theologically acute and astonishingly insightful. Alternately heartrending and hilarious. And (for what it’s worth – though frankly it seems almost trivial to mention it) some of the most stylish prose I’ve read in years. Buy two copies, because by the time you’ve finished it you’ll have thought of at least one person who needs it, and yours will be so dog-eared and tear-stained that you’ll be embarrassed to let it be seen in public.

I can’t think of another book so consistently and lavishly praised as A New Name.  Get it!

Buy from IVPamazon.co.uk or amazon.com

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Emma’s article on Theology Network is pure gold.  She talks about the spiritual roots of anorexia:

 

…[For the anorexic], salvation means atoning for myself, bymyself: bearing my punishment in my own body. As I seek to recreate myself, my body becomes the scapegoat. I hate it and identify all that’s wrong in my world with this lump of flesh. Yet at the same time, I also worship it, ritualizing and relishing every aspect of my self-imposed atonement.

Through the rituals, I separate myself from my messy, sinful flesh with its overwhelming desires. I will punish my body while I concentrate on the real me – almighty willpower. With my secret knowledge of exercise and nutrition, I can soar above my own fallibility. I can split myself into two and rise anew, born again to a new kind of humanity.

 

Read the whole thing here.

And buy her book here – free postage from 10ofthose until Saturday night.

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If you don’t know about my wife’s wonderful blog and ministry – check it out now.

Here’s the opening to her latest article for the Church of England newspaper:

If you’d met me seven years ago, here’s what you’d have seen:  a ‘successful’ Christian, newly married to a vicar in training. Leader of a thriving children’s ministry. A talented student with a bright future ahead. Someone who seemed to have it all together.

But there’s one part you might have missed: a young woman gripped by an eating disorder that would nearly take her life…

Read the whole article here

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Last week, just as we were tucking into Sunday lunch, a woman eye-balled me across the table and said with real venom:  “I will spit on anyone who calls homosexuality a sin.”  I believed her!  She’s probably the most forthright woman I’ve ever met.  She knew I was a minister (as did everyone else at the table) and she watched very closely for a response.

I’d done some thinking on the topic, so I gave her the edited highlights of this…

The bible thinks of homosexuality quite like the way we think of eating disorders.  It’s a disordering of a person’s relationship to sex and sexuality, the way anorexia is a disordering of a person’s relationship to food and the body.

Are there environmental factors?  Loads of them.

Are only some people weirdly disordered and others ‘normal’?  No, we all exist somewhere on a spectrum of weirdness.

Does the disorder present itself as a straightforwardly chosen lifestyle?  Very often.  In fact Pro-Anorexia (Pro Ana) websites stridently assert that it’s a bold and noble choice.

Is it a choice?  Well, it’s a lot more complicated than that.

Do Christians also struggle with the disorder?  Indeed they do.

Do they slip into this disordered behaviour, sometimes for long periods.  Yes.

Can all Christians expect ‘total healing’ from the disorder?  Well we’ve already said that everyone exists somewhere on the spectrum of weirdness.  Difficulties will often remain throughout life, though some may know large degrees of freedom.

Should we approach the issue with an attitude of fear and condemnation?  Please no.

But – here’s the thing – Can a person be an active champion for the disorder and claim Christian justification?  No.  That would be like having a Christian Pro Ana website.  What a truly horrible thought!  That would be to confirm someone in a deeply disordered and harmful condition and to do so in Jesus name.  Christians are rightly horrified by the suggestion.  Not because they hate those with the disorder but because they love them.

And if you’ve ever tried to help someone with a disordered behaviour you’ll know – you won’t be thanked for trying to help them out of it.  But it’s still the loving thing to do.

So anyway, I outlined this kind of thinking to my lunch companion.  She responded, and I quote, “You are refuted by the latest science.  Scientists have discovered a gay gene.”

I said “Well we can discuss what a gay gene might mean, but I’ve got no problem in principle with a gay gene.  But think about this: they might also discover an ‘anorexia gene’ too.  There’s a very high correlation between certain hereditary bowel conditions and anorexia.  I’d be surprised if they didn’t find that certain genes significantly predispose you to an eating disorder.  It’s still a disorder don’t you think?”

“I suppose,” she said, and then discussed how lovely her gay friends were.  I told her mine were too and we enjoyed the rest of our meal.  Spittle free!

Just thought I’d share the eating disorders analogy with you because I’ve found it helpful.

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