“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” – 1 Peter 5:10
February 2015. That date marks the beginning of a journey toward healing and wholeness that, in the deepest places of my heart, I never thought would take place.
Ann Voskamp was speaking at the IF:Gathering Conference (via live stream where we were listening in the comfort of my family room) and these words poured out from her cup to fill mine.
“Pray and ask God, sincerely, for 100% restoration of your mind, body, soul and spirit.”
Time stopped for a few thick seconds as it registered. Those heavy moments when God is prompting you and you know that you must respond.
As I pondered this prayer, I was quickly reminded of the physical pain that I had in my back and knees that had been there for decades. I prayed, fervently, as Ann had challenged, asking God for 100% restoration. I had an idea in my head about what I was praying and begging for, but God would begin to unfold a much more grand and elaborate healing and restoration beyond anything I could even dare to ask for or imagine.
Shame. It was a familiar place. I truly believed that it was all gone. But, God was opening the prison door and beginning to root out another shame-place that I’d held onto for far too long.
Twenty four years after surrendering my life to Christ, and God is still in the business of wanting greater freedom for me as He does for all of His children. In His incredible mercy, He began this restoration by pulling down a wall that I had built in my relationship with my husband. I’d allowed my past sins and wrong choices to create a wall of shame that kept me from loving my husband with the fullness of my heart. I certainly have loved my sweetheart for all of these years of marriage, but not with my whole, healed heart.
It seemed almost sudden, the changes in me, as God destroyed that wall and open that protected area of my heart. A sudden flood of love for my husband that I had never felt or experienced, came flooding into those formerly gated places of my heart. God’s mercy and desire for me to gain healing was overwhelming.
Gratitude filled me as I experienced a newness, a freshness, and an unfathomable love for my husband that I knew God had orchestrated through a much needed deliverance from shame.
Just a few short months later, another step toward deliverance from shame began. This one, a much deeper rooted, self-chosen prison that I had lived in for most of my life. I had been making attempts in my own flesh to pull this one out, to break free, for at least 39 years.
It began when I was 10 years old, or perhaps even before, but this is the memory that stands out the most. At age 10 my parents sent me to Weight Watchers with a neighbor. I can still see the room in my mind, that first meeting, and still can recall the palpable feeling of shame as I walked to the scale. Even today it is difficult to think of that day as the pain of it brings tears.
My childhood was full of expectations to look a certain way and eat a certain way. The shame continued as I struggled with weight control throughout childhood and into my teen years. I had daily habits of hiding in my bedroom to eat ice cream, taking money to go to the corner store to buy candy and having constant thoughts of what I would eat next. Years of being on and off diets plagued my life.
Fast forward to my high school years. Back in those days, the lunches were one of two choices– you packed your lunch or you got the tray that you could purchase in the cafeteria. There weren’t any other choices. No A La Carte. My father was a teacher at my high school and had a special relationship with the head cook of the cafeteria. So when this sweet cafeteria lady brought my big salad to me when I came through the line, once again, embarrassment and shame filled my heart. Students couldn’t get those. Only teachers. It was a kind and generous offer, but it was a signal to all of my friends that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to lose weight, again.
Moving into college I dieted on-and-off, always trying to find that elusive fix to this deeply rooted issue that I would realize much later in life was a spiritual heart condition that only God could heal.
God was working in and through all of my struggles and attempts to find the answer.
Over those 4 decades of dieting I certainly learned habits that were virtuous and helpful in their own right, however what I would come to learn was that programs are merely the guidelines but unless they are applied with a spiritual heart change, at the core, it becomes another prison and further bondage. My efforts were still to achieve an outcome that would please everyone else– man, myself and our culture, rather than simply to please my God.
Marriage and motherhood brought different struggles as it was not only myself that was disappointed by my food addiction, but it was my husband and children as well.
Lost years of fun physical activities cannot be regained, but God is redeeming the next years. The Now.
All of those years are not a total loss because God was using those past hurts and wounds to lead me to the here and now. I’m seeing, as God is unpacking it all, that sometimes and in some things, God delivers instantly and brings freedom right away.
However, in other areas of our lives, He waits. He works. He forms. He knows the perfect amount of time to mold and shape our character to catch up to our calling. Our transformation can come in steps, phases, and moments. I believe, based on how God has moved in my life, that it’s because He’s keenly aware that we can only absorb so much at once.
Each lesson builds, preparing for the next, and then sometimes a big lesson comes, one that rocks you to your core and once again we see how magnificent and merciful our Saviour is. He opens our spiritual eyes and ears to what it is that He desires for us and that is freedom and 100% restoration.
Finally, it makes sense.
It is interesting to note that just about a year prior, sometime in 2014, I recall a conversation with God that went something like this:
“Oh Lord. I am so DONE. I have fought to lose weight my entire adult life and I am DONE. Clearly this is a distraction from the work that you have for me to do and I see that it’s simply going to be a thorn in my flesh. I will accept it and deal with it and continue to praise You and worship You with all that I have in me.”
There. I had laid it down. The fight, the struggle. Moving on.
No more focus on weight loss, excessive exercise, unfulfilled expectations from others about the way I should look, and fighting to be something that thought I clearly I was never going to be.
One time, the Lord and I were chatting, and in my spirit I was heavily convicted about the physical state of my body. God speaks through His Word, primarily, and I have come to understand that that is why it’s so important that I read, pray, study, memorize, and meditate on His Word.
That is how I know Him.
He also speaks through other believers who know His Word. They can be a source of Truth to me on this journey. And, finally, He speaks into my prayer and thought life.
On that day in August of 2015, He spoke loudly and clearly. He spoke,
“you are being selfish by not caring for your temple. Both for Me and for your husband’s sake. Your husband loves you and you are not loving him well when you cannot and will not join him in activities that he loves. He is your best friend. Also, I have work for you to do that you cannot do unless your temple is healthy.”
And there it was. Conviction from my loving and precious Father.
Broken, tears pouring down my face, convicted, and yet I knew it was all from a place of love from my Lord and my Savior. Of course He is right. And I knew it.
Those words were stinging and yet full of Truth. Convicting and yet loving. It was time. Having tried in my flesh and failed many diets over the course of my lifetime, I did have a working knowledge of what needed to take place. However, I did sense that this time it was different.
The difference was that God was leading the way, not me. I didn’t take the step in my flesh, but from a conviction from the Holy Spirit.
And so began another leg of restoration on September 1st, 2015. What has unfolded over this last year has been miraculous, merciful, and freeing. The miraculous part I noticed early on.
Unlike previous attempts to gain self control in my fight with food addiction, this time, God miraculously took away the magnetic pull to sugar. What was an overwhelming desire to want to overindulge with sugar, was gone.
Nothing short of a miracle.
Also, right from the start, a miraculous joy and desire for physical activity and exercise that infiltrated my heart. Again, nothing short of a miracle.
Prior to this spiritual heart transformation, my old attitude was to avoid exercise, grumble and complain when asked to go for a hike or walk, and to look for any excuse not to exercise. Those two shifts were miraculous changes in the desires of my heart and they were obvious clues to me that God was on the move and that He was bringing about the restoration that I’ve cried out for…
♡ Here’s Part 2 of this Proverbs 31 Woman story, click this → Could There Be Self Control Without Grace?
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