Spiritual anorexia. An unhealthy, yet seemingly common, condition.
An anorexic is one who stops feeding self and becomes dangerously thin. Skin and bones. Flesh without meat.
The anorexic’s perception is skewed. When an anorexic sees self in the mirror, they see fat – fullness – breadth -weight. They see substance that is, in reality, not there. Unfortunately, there are many Christians who do the same.
In themselves they see “fatness”, spiritual health, substance – and they often want others to know of their great and divine girth. There’s boasting of more depth in their life, more knowledge, more revelation and insight. Greater relationship with God, greater “fullness of the Spirit”, greater capacity for the “meat” of the Word. These are the points for applause in their lives.
However, the great, spiritually fat and healthy picture that they see in the mirror is in contrast to what others see. In the life of a “full-blown” spiritual anorexic, their own words may be the only things that are, indeed, grand and swelling.
If the fruit borne in day-to-day living does not reflect the heart and character of God then the facade of spirituality is demolished. The supposed substance and meat are stripped off to reveal an unhealthy heart surrounded by diseased flesh and dry bones – an empty life disguised behind inflated words and a swelled head. And when the exterior is peeled away and the heart is truly laid bare, the inner health of a person is ultimately revealed through everyday life and actions.
James 1:22-24 speaks of a person who looks at himself in a mirror, steps away from the mirror, and immediately forgets what he really looks like. Why? Because he listens to “the Word” but chooses not to act on it. Thus he deceives himself. So goes the spiritual anorexic.
But at times we may all suffer from a degree of Spiritual Anorexia. We look into the mirror of scripture and we see the truth about ourselves but distractions, excuses, or personal choice causes us to immediately forget what we’ve seen. We pick and choose which parts we are willing to honestly see and obey. Thus we allow ourselves to be deceived and spiritual anorexia begins to seize our heart.
Is there a cure? Absolutely. But the cure is not a quick or pleasant fix. For to be cured we must be willing to examine beyond the outside, beyond the positive opinions of others, beyond the praise and affirmations that we may receive, beyond the self-elevating views that we’ve adopted.
We must delve into the depths of our own hearts, allowing the spotlight of the Holy Spirit to reveal even the deepest, darkest, innermost decaying chambers. We must be willing to look closely and to see… truth. And then we must be willing to repent. To humble ourselves, admit our pride and our gross exaggerations of self, and cry out to God for Him to heal the disease within.
Here they come. You can see them outside the window of your heart as you attempt to hide. They’re gathering supporters in the dark and getting closer. Carrying their torches and their pitchforks. Their voices growing louder as they come near yelling. Shouting. Thrusting their fires of anger into the air crying “Freak!”, “Traitor!”, “Monster!”. And then the dreaded roar as they rush forward screaming “Kill the Beast!”
Your crime? Struggling. Falling. Failing at something. Causing the way that they see you to change. The expectations that they had of you have been shattered. And so has your image. How dare you defy what they believe about you? How dare you mess up? How dare you embarrass them?
You are now a failure. Ugly. A monster worthy of dragging into the streets and ridiculing – persecuting – abusing in front of the world. You are nothing short of a hideous beast!
Ever experienced this? You fail at something and your heart is shattered and broken. You hide behind your pain because you are ashamed and hurt. Struggling to forgive yourself. And to make things even more difficult, your judges seem to be beating down the door to shame you further. It can make for a challenging recovery.
In those times you can often count the number of those who still love you – unconditionally – even in your “beastly” state – on one hand. But that hand is critical. In times of falling and failure it is vital to keep hold of those who are able to look past the mistakes into your damaged heart and are willing to listen, to love, to help, heal and restore. Whatever you do, don’t push them away. Don’t hide from these. Don’t ignore the hand that is reaching out to help in the midst of chaos and judgmentalism. Grab hold and don’t let go.
And when the fires of anger have subsided – when the soul-piercing shouts of judgment become silent, when the crowd of vigilantes has disbursed and you feel safe again – walk out from the rubble. With a humble heart, and head held high, take step after stumbling step, hand in hand with those who have been willing to endure the chaos that has resulted from your failing. And go and tell.
Tell of the obstacles in your path, that you didn’t avoid, that brought about the stumble. Tell of the turmoil and struggle within your own soul. Tell of the pain and humiliation of falling… of the endurance and determination that led to recovery and restoration. And tell of the wonder of unconditional love that has led you out from the rubble. Your telling may be the salvation of another.
But most importantly remember. As you see another stumble and fall, remember how you hid and watched the angry mob swarm to persecute you and resist the urge to pick up a torch of judgment and join the crowd yelling “Kill the Beast!”