“But now there is one more invitation: to let go of the last handhold-the handhold of the self we have created in response to the wounds of our life in an imperfect world-and freefall into what seems like the utter silence of the void.”
-Ruth Haley Barton
I knew these words were for me.
I poured over them as I sat in my living room chair, cup of coffee in hand, winter sun rising out the window behind me. After 16 years of struggling with an eating disorder, I knew the end was at hand. But I still needed to let go of that last handhold of control: my obsessive preoccupation with my weight and the belief that it defined me. I had been in counseling for 12 years, and while I had made significant progress, in the depths of my soul and mind, I was still far from free. I was daily plagued with guilt and lies about myself and about food and exercise. Even though I had reached a point in my healing where I was no longer acting on those thoughts, my mind was my worst enemy and I couldn’t escape it.
In the last year of my eating disorder, I had decided to wage a full on battle against the lies, empowered by a beautiful story the Lord had given me during my prayer time. I am very visual and as I was writing and praying one day, a beautiful and tragic story unfolded in my mind. I envisioned myself as a prisoner in a dark castle lured and held captive there by an evil prince who was symbolic of my eating disorder. Through this story, God gave me clarity into the lies I had believed about myself and the thoughts that were still holding me captive. He revealed to me that he was the King who had come to rescue me from evil, but I had to chose to walk with him out of the castle doors. I had to let go of wanting to constantly control my weight, and leap into the frieghtening unknown with my trusted Savior. He showed me that lack of trust in his care for me was what was keeping me locked up–even after all these years of therapy and talking through the roots of my issues. I knew what I had to do. It was time for this dark ugly season to end and for a new season to begin. I said Yes to my King and to a new beginning. It was time to leave the castle, and as scared as I was put my hand in God’s hand and let him lead me out to freedom.
As any of us with any lifelong addiction or struggle know, walking out is never as easy as just walking out. There’s a web of lies that has held us captive, and we have to face those lies again when trying to reach the gates of freedom. I knew the journey out of the castle wouldn’t be easy, but I had been working on this for 12 years, suffering for 16 years, and I was up for the challenge.
As a part of that challenge, I flew across the country for 6 days to go to a retreat on the Pacific Ocean, where I learned even more about myself, my relationship with food and my relationship with God. It was brutal and amazing, painful and beautiful. Half of the retreat was spent in silence, alone with our thoughts and learning how to quiet them. The other half was spent in teachings, support groups, learning how to be still, enjoy our food, and most importantly let go of the stories we keep telling ourselves that are no longer true. In those six days, God showed up in bigger ways than I could have imagined. He wove together the facets of recovery I had been working through for many years. He clarified the stories I was telling about myself that were complete lies. I was not unimportant, not enough, or defined by my weight. Instead he whispered to me of worth and value, and told me that I am beautiful just as I am . I am enough. I came home feeling like a new season of recovery had begun. I felt freer than I ever had in my sixteen years of suffering from an eating disorder. I knew that there would always be triggers or situations that I would need to counter with the truth, however I was confident that a long season of pain was ending and new season beginning .
One thing I have learned about the end is that sometimes it’s the hardest part of the journey.
That the “last handhold” of our struggle is the one we have a death grip on, the one we are most afraid to let go. We believe we need it in order to maintain control, so we hold on with all that we have, making ourselves sick. We usually face a great deal of resistance when we do try to let go. I had to let go of my disordered thoughts and discover what they were protecting me from. I had to let go of my obsession with weight as a barometer of my worth. I had fight to believe the truth instead of so easily falling into the traps of lies. The evil one doesn’t want us to realize we are holding on, and when we do he does everything in his power to keep us captive. But the fight is worth the pain. It is a good fight, and once the battle has ended we are more ready than we ever thought we would be to face the new season God has in store for us. We are ready for a new beginning, springtime after a long winter.
“See the winter is past, and the rains are over and gone. The flowers are springing up, the season of singing has come”
Song of Solomon 2:11
Megan Rathbone lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia and has been married to her highschool sweetheart for eleven years. They have four children ranging from age four to eight, two with special needs. Megan works at home balancing doctors appointments, therapy sessions and school schedules for her four kids, and enjoys reading, writing poetry and drinking coffee to decompress.