Eating disorders create a Law. If we only eat this while exercising like this, we would live a perfect day. We create our own moral code. These foods are “clean.” These foods are “unclean.” Thin is “right,” fat is “wrong.” Anorexia rigidly adheres to the Law. Bulimia purges mistakes against the Law. Compulsive overeating surrenders to never attaining the Law. Each disorder becomes enslaved to it. The Law is partly created from food rules. Don’t eat after 8pm. Don’t eat sweets. Purge after you binge. Then there are the rules that have nothing to do with food. Never get below a B in school. Run a 5 minute mile. Never disappoint my family. Always appear happy.
There’s a perfect law in the Bible, too. Eating disorder law offers a perfect body, God’s law offers a perfect body, mind, and soul. His law also offers purity and perfection – if it is followed flawlessly. Never tell a lie. Circumcise your boys. Don’t ever worship anything above God – including thinness. But like an eating disorder’s law, God’s law is impossible to follow perfectly. “For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it,” reads Romans 3:15. “The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!”
You will never be perfect. You can’t. You will never have perfect grades, perfect sport performance, perfect eating, perfect exercise, a perfect body, perfect kindness, perfect strength, perfect self-esteem, or even a perfect recovery. As long as you fight to fulfill your Law (or God’s law!), you will always be striving to fix yourself. But sooner or later, you will always fail. Laws are unforgiving. They have no wiggle room. Either you are perfect, or you are an outlaw.
But you don’t have to fight anymore.
Take a deep breath. Imagine what it would feel like to surrender the war. To lay down the voices (fat ugly failure die). To release the Law. Does it feel warm, June sunshine melting the last chill of spring? Does it feel abruptly empty, like the walking downstairs in the dark and thinking there is one more stair than there really is? Don’t say, it’s impossible or I’d get fat. Rest for thirty seconds. Tell yourself the story of freedom.
You can be freed from this law. You can be just as perfect when munching a brownie as when munching a carrot. You can be just as valuable when running for three minutes as when running for three hours. You can be just as pure when vomiting your binge as when diving into another box of Oreos. You don’t have to purify yourself through fasting, vomiting, laxatives, or overexercise. Purity that can’t ever be torn away is already at your lips. This is a perfection that can’t be screwed up by an extra slice of pizza, or even an extra pie of pizza. This is a purity that can’t be improved by fasting for a week or weighing your gloryhallelujah goal weight.
God has a path to perfection that rises above the law. “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord,” Paul writes in Romans 5:20.
We’ve experienced death coming from law. The death of our dreams, our identity, our hope, our friendships. We can also experience life through Jesus Christ. When his grace rules over us in place of our eating disorder’s law, we are completely covered by his perfection. Our disasters are scrubbed away by Jesus’ strength and forgiveness – not our desperate measures to erase ourselves. We are enfolded in his love, and his love covers our sins, making us pure, righteous, and beautiful, no matter what sins we commit against the law.
Recovery Notebook Exploration
What rules do you believe in? Watch yourself over the rest of the day to see if you discover more. You can tell if a rule by your response when you break it. Are you overwhelmed with self-revulsion? Do you scrabble to justify yourself? How do you respond to others when they get in the way of you fulfilling your Law? (Personally, I’m tempted to hang them up by their toes and carve their heart out with a spoon).