Well here we are, Lent, week three.
While the world is gearing up for Green Beer Day on St. Paddy’s in the coming weeks, we Catholics are dutifully putting our heads down (rubber to the road?) in a season of fasting and abstinence.
We give up chocolate. Or social media. Or for those real champs, coffee.
But it’s a season of self-denial.
Fitting then, the reading this week was a refresher of the Ten Commandments.
Or is it?
Growing up, I always used to think of the Ten Commandments in, admittedly, kind of a negative light: They were the list of “can’ts.” All the “no’s” that Jesus instructed us so that we could live a life of no fun.
The Negative Nancy/Party Pooper passage that colors a lot of outsiders’ opinions on our faith.
Clearly, you sign up to be Christian and all of a sudden your life becomes boring and blah.
But it turns out, there’s more to the Ten Commandments than what meets the eye.
Lent, every year, is kind of a bittersweet time for me personally, as it marks a pretty somber anniversary in my twenty-something years of life: It was the season that I developed anorexia when I was just 16 years old. I was being a “good little Catholic” and gave up all desserts for Lent. Snowball that restriction and self-denial out for two years, and I’m clinging to life by a thread, having wasted away to 78 pounds, and needing a three-month stay at an intensive inpatient treatment facility where I had to sleep in the nurses’ station so they could check on me in the middle of the night for fear of my heart stopping.
Yeah, so needless to say, I don’t “give up” food items anymore for Lent.
But it’s clear that the healthy, thriving young woman writing this article today is not the same girl I used to be just ten years ago today.
But every year, when Lent rolls around, I spend a lot of time reflecting on the path my life has taken thus far, and truly, in thanksgiving for the healing— mind, body and spirit—that Jesus has orchestrated in me.
This year, hearing the reading on the Ten Commandments, I was really struck in the heart—convicted—reminded of that dark part of my history:
“You shall not have other gods besides me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves…[and] worship them.” Exodus 20:3-5
In my anorexia, I had done just that: made an idol out of my own body, worshiping it, and worshiping my thinness and outward appearance. I had made my eating disorder a god in my mind.
And praying about this week’s reading, the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge. A gentle smack upside the head, if you will. And pulled back the curtain on those stone tablets so long, long ago.
That’s why Jesus gave us a list of “Shall Nots.” They’re not so that we have to live a life of no fun and restriction. He wasn’t being a “Party Pooper.” He gave us those commandments so that we could live in abundance. So that we could be free.
He was saving us from ourselves.
Why should we not worship other gods, such as ourselves and our image? Because otherwise, you’d end up in your version of my experience: in rehab across the country with osteopenia as an 18-year-old girl, with shattered relationships, knocking on death’s door, having had all my hair fall out.
He was being a good Father.
He protects us, His children, from our own demise.
Not a day goes by that I don’t cling to Jesus. Recovery is not just a “one and done” decision, but a day-in, day-out fresh commitment that I make each and every morning. And I can honestly say that my recovery is not my doing, but His.
There would be no recovery without Him and His grace and love.
Which brings me back to Lent.
It’s so important to remember what we’re preparing for during this season. Why we’re fasting. Why we’re going to fish frys and denying ourselves things we enjoy.
Sometimes I like to just close my eyes and envision Jesus on the Cross. And, admittedly, I see Jim Caviezel, a la, The Passion of the Christ, but that’s my journey.
But truly, seeing Him hanging there in agony. And remembering why.
Why? For me.
This is what healed my eating disorder: the moment I realized that my sin—my eating disorder—was a nail on that Cross, and He embraced it because He loves me that much. Embraced it so that I could be free.
That was the moment.
That was when I actually embraced recovery, embraced His love, and embraced the life that Jesus died to save.
That’s what I’m preparing my heart for during these weeks: actively participating in the incredible sacrifice He gave when He offered up his life for us.
What amazing love He has for you and me.
“You liberate me, from my own noise and my own chaos. From the chains of a lesser law, You set me free.” – You Speak, Audrey Assad
About the Author:
Caralyn is the writer and speaker behind the blog, . It has recently been named one of the Top Three Eating Disorder Recovery Sites on the WorldwideWeb. She’s a twenty-something actress and writer in New York City. Having battled a severe case of anorexia and Ulcerative Colitis, she now uses her story of total restoration to positively impact others, and offer Christ’s hope and encouragement for those with eating disorders, and other forms of adversity. Her book, Bloom is now available!