Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Badass Journey of Self LOVE

There is a scene in the movie "What about Bob" that captures my seminary journey. In it, Bob experiences "death therapy." He is exposed to his deepest fear, and he moves beyond it. Theologically, we call this "non-being" and "facing finitude."

So, I think about this scene often, and especially in the last couple of weeks. I have written about the fact that I have been struggling with health issues this summer. Sudden hearing loss. Dysautonomia. Now weaning off of prednisone. I haven't struggled this much since I had the traumatic brain injury in 2011. Yet, it has been balanced by the most incredible gifts. I have continued to walk through school even in the midst of discomfort. I have allowed other people to see me going through the challenge - no hiding. And my work in ministry continues to THRIVE - perhaps now more than ever before.

But the transformation comes with it's own version of "death therapy" - in other words, the things that make me feel like I am standing on scary ground.

OK, sounds silly, but I might get my first B since i was a freshman in college (Calculus). And before that it was 7th grade (Shop). I could end up getting a C this quarter. I have no clue. It could be an A when all of my final projects are in. The truth is...I have no idea. NON-BEING! HA!

But seriously... grades have been a source of compulsion for me for much of my life only to be replaced by the "gold stars" that come with high work performance. Don't even get me started on how i went through my last two years as an undergrad....just to hear the computer say "congratulations". only heard "STARman" (University of Washington) say CONGRATULATIONS when you got a 4.0. Confession - I got addicted to it.

I know it seems silly, but we all have our things. Grades are one of the big ones. The other is my body. I have talked about having an eating disorder before on this blog. It started so simple - a comment by my boyfriend at the time that he didn't like my body. He said it in a way that was cruel, angry, and devastating. Truthfully, he was having his own body issues - a muscled guy eating 1200 calories a day to lose weight rapidly because he was dissatisfied with his appearance. At the time, I weighed 126 pounds. I was healthy, but I was turning into a woman. I didn't look 16 any more.

When we got married, we lived under the paradigm that I needed to lose weight. Note that my wedding dress had a 26.5 inch waist. Shortly after the wedding, we signed up with a top personal trainer and nutritionist. My trainer was a former Marine Drill Sergeant. He taught me how to train for hours and hours in the gym bootcamp style. I kept my calories restricted. I dropped to 14% body fat. It took me years to finally learn what was happening - Anorexia. Exercise Bulimia. Orthorexia. In total, I spent 15 years like this.

Throughout the entire process, I received the external validation that I craved. People constantly told me how amazing I looked...yet it wasn't REAL. My health was deteriorating. I had to get my gall bladder out due to rapid weight loss. I developed hypoglycemia. My metabolism was shot. I had chronic neck and back injuries from over-training...and more....

But then I got an injury to my brain. This is the kind of injury that brings veterans and professional athletes to their knees. I went up to 200 pounds after the injury because my hypothalamus was affected, and there was NOTHING I could do about it. The intellect that I relied upon for external validation in the form of grades (and subsequently work performance) was no longer the same. No one knew when I would be "better" or even if I would ever recover. No one is prepared for that kind of walk into the unknown. Talk about "death therapy." This is facing NON BEING at it's finest.

After a few months, my husband told me he didn't love me any more and that our marriage was fundamentally broken. Rock bottom. But that was where the truth emerged. I am lovable - fundamentally, completely, lovable just existing on this planet. There is absolutely nothing about me that needs to be a "certain way." I found my anchor. It was no longer about other people's opinions or external validation - it was about God. As a child of God, I have inherent value. And if I have that value, so do others - even and especially those on the margins. Thus began my walk into the Call of God - and I have since learned that my walk is with people undergoing transformation...people in the mess of life...people experiencing great suffering....people that don't want to be SEEN in it, but there is nothing they can do about it.

Letting go of the idolotry of other people's opinions is a badass journey. It's easy to just say that I just don't care about what other people think. But it's not a switch that can be turned off. Just like every other part of me, I just love the part of myself that yearns for acceptance, LOVE, appreciation, validation. It is in that yearning and in the unmet needs that God pours out God's grace. It's like Augustine said - "Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, Oh God."

Being so willing to relentlessly follow the Call of God that I am willing to let go of EVERYTHING is where my happiness resides now. This is the concept of self-emptying, and it allows me to follow the nudges of the Spirit when it moves.

Thus, I am going through another transformation. I will be honest - It is frightening to me. My body is swollen from prednisone and I don't recognize myself when I look in the mirror. My intellect is also rewiring also, as I develop new ways of thinking and processing theological information. My ability to perform academically has been challenged for sure. Yet, this is how I am called to walk through the world at the moment - exposed - for everyone to see.

This is my "What About Bob" moment. And the question is...Am I willing to let go of external validation and allow God to work?

I say Yes to God.

We all have a path to walk. This is mine. And I finally have the courage to post some photos from these times in my life. Shining a light for everyone to see is a part of my ministry. It is with an abundance of courage that I shine a light on this.

Photo taken last week reaching out to some homeless friends.
Following GOD's CALL now.
These are my people. This is my CHURCH.
In the midst of my eating disorder.
Back then, I thought I still needed to
lose weight.

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