Anorexia, anxiety, Christ, Church, Common Sense Christian Counsel, Counseling, depression, eating disorders, Epistle to the Philippians, Family, God, Grief, Jesus, Mental health, Soul Healing, Trust, Word
That was not the first time I was treated to my very own, personal deliverance session. A long time ago (I believe it was after I graduated from high school, but am not sure – it may have been during) there was another meeting, not so unlike the one I described a few days ago. This one took place in the home of my youth leader. I was going through a lot at the time, as most adolescents are, and was struggling with both depression and anorexia. There was a belief in our local Christian community that anorexia was caused by demonic oppression, and that I was at the very least, oppressed, if not possessed. Not sure about all of this, not being privy to the adult conversations; I only remember getting into the youth leaders’ van one day, and seeing a small paperback book on the seat, I picked it up and said “What’s this?” My youth leader took it quickly and said “Nothing”, but not before I saw the title: Pigs in the Parlor. He wouldn’t let me see it, but I remembered it. There were a lot of odd things said about me at the time; some was said directly to me, which made my social anxiety worse, and my sense of shame and embarrassment increased. So did my depression. I had only recently shed the back brace I wore for several years, and my biological father had also disappeared. Reasons enough for any adolescent to have identity issues.
Anyway, I really did have a difficult time. All I remember about this particular meeting was that my parents drove me to the youth leaders’ house one night. I remember that many people were in the room, including my pastor and his wife from our other church. (We went to two different churches from 1978 until 1985, for reasons I won’t go into right now.) I sat in a chair in the middle of the living room, which seemed dark to me for some reason. The all-important wastebasket appeared in front of me, as it did many years later, with the same explanation: some people throw up when the demons come out. And so I sat, frozen, while they all prayed and sang in the background. “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus” is the only song I can remember from that night, only because they sang it over and over for a very long time. I now hate that song, and feel so guilty about it. But when we sing it, as we did tonight in church, it puts me right back into that living room, into one of the darkest periods of my life. I don’t think anyone noticed I wasn’t doing very well with all of this; I sat and stared at the floor, as I usually do when scared or nervous. The appropriate medical term would be shock. I can’t remember all of what happened that night, partly because it went on for a very long time, and partly because I was exhausted. I have always thought that if there had been at least one clear-thinking adult in the room, they would have taken me out and left. The overwhelming emotion associated with all of this was fear. No, terror. This is a horrible, horrible memory; the damage this did to me is indescribable. What it did to my ability to relate to any kind of spiritual authority with even so much as a grain of trust is irreversible. Suffice it to say, I trust God, and God alone.
I honestly think that my youth leaders, and pastors, and everyone meant well; I just think they were misguided in their thinking. I’m not alone in my experience, either. Many young girls who struggled with eating disorders were thought to be under the influence of demonic oppression, and were subjected to similar experiences. There were some highly esteemed leaders, both in and out of the church, who had some strong ideas about the etiology of anorexia; there still are. I have some strong opinions myself, but can only speak with a fair amount of certainty to what it was all about for me. Certain mental health ‘experts’ believe that eating disorders and childhood sexual abuse are intrinsically linked; I say not so. Not always. Causation and correlation are too different things. The Sidran organization had a brochure out several years ago in which they stated that they treat anorexia as an expression of unresolved grief; this is the closest I’ve found to what fits me and my own experience.
I don’t fault the church. They were reading the books and ‘research’ that were available at the time. The elders’ wife, who made the same erroneous mistake some twenty years later, was also reading books written by people who seemed to have a great deal of credibility. I think she also meant well, in her heart. But when you sort things out, and take an honest look at the facts, I had good reason to be sad, scared, anxious, and depressed. Most of us do, at various times, and not everything is caused by demonic activity. The elders’ wife was reading a book written by a man I actually agree with much of the time. He has written some really good stuff. However, it became a problem when she had me start repeating prayers after her, and ‘renouncing’ and ‘binding’ things that were listed in the back of the book, some of which actually were a part of my life before I became a Christian, but not after. I did it, because I tend to be outwardly compliant to a fault, but realized I actually didn’t (and don’t) agree with all of this in my heart. To my thinking, the day I became a Christian, all of that was under the blood of Christ in that moment, and my spirit was completely renewed. Satan no longer has any claim, or power over me at all. I believe that when we put our trust in the death and resurrection of Christ, our regenerated hearts are no longer under the influence of Satan, or his demons, and that Christ alone has not only removed any trace of generational sin from me, but that there is no curse that can control or oppress me, at all, ever. Do I still sin? Yes. Do I need deliverance, as a Christian? No. Is my mind completely renewed? Of course not; that comes through reading the Word, and growing and maturing spiritually over time. Barring an untimely death, I’m only halfway through this thing. But the book bothered me. So, I stopped ‘doing the work’ and eventually frustrated the hell out of the elders’ wife. I’m not interested in sitting, week after week, doing work I don’t actually need to do.
Sometimes, but not often, I speak up and say so.
I think a little common sense and a lot of faith goes a long way.