When I was a child, my stepfather would punish me by taking away food. I was allowed to eat but, only things he thought I would not enjoy. So, if my mother would cook pancakes and eggs for breakfast, I was not allowed to eat the pancakes or drink the orange juice, because I might like it. I would have to eat a plate of eggs with a glass of milk or water. I didn’t mind eggs, but he knew how much I loved pancakes.
I also was not allowed to sit with the other members of the family during meal time. I was made to sit in the kitchen and not participate in their conversations. I would sit silently and listen to the laughter and “fun”, knowing I was not allowed to be a part of it. These punishments happened all the time and, sometimes, lasted for weeks or months. It happened at family reunions, holidays and birthdays and occurred until I was able to pay for my own food. At 14 years old….
Fast forward some years to when I was in my early twenties. My, then, husband abandoned me and our infant daughter. It was one of the darkest moments in my life. I was never really sure where our next meal would come from. I was fifteen or so pounds underweight. We lived in a homeless shelter for a while. Food was more valuable than money in that place. People physically fought over food stamps and cans of Spaghettios.
Fast forward twenty years, here I am, nearing forty. I intentionally go to the grocery store without a budget, so I have the freedom to buy whatever I want (although I generally spend the same amount). I keep cabinets and pantries full of food “just in case”. And (despite many a valiant effort) I’m still a good forty pounds overweight. I’m embarrassed to even type that. It feels like a colossal failure.
I’ve had to examine and reexamine this complicated relationship I have with food many times over the years. It even spawned a sermon I did entitled: “What Are You Hungry For?” Mainly, I was preaching to myself, hoping y’all would get something out of it!
Ok, but seriously.
Recently, I was faced with the threat of hunger again. My wife and I moved our family across the country to Houston, Texas. Long story short, when we set out, we had more than enough funds stored away for the transition. But, through a series of crazy events, we ended up having access to very little of it. Of course, this all unfolded after we’d driven fifteen hundred miles away from home.
The fear was crippling, breathtaking, paralyzing.
A heavy familiar heavy pain resurrected within me. I couldn’t help but ask God: “Why do you keep taking me through this? Don’t you know how much this hurts? Why do you keep allowing this to happen to me?” Sure, some people could probably eat rice and beans for a few weeks and laugh about the whole thing later.
And, I think that’s why I keep going through it.
It’s the idea of what I refer to as wounds and scars. A scar is a wound that has been healed. It’s a physical reminder that we have sustained trauma or injury, but have recovered. It’s a sign that we can be hurt, but can be healed, too. The skin is stronger there; even tougher than it was before the trauma. It would be easier to injure perfectly intact skin than to re-open this scar. Sometimes, we even like to show them off, so people know what we’ve survived.
But, a wound is different. It is a physical reminder that we’re damaged. It’s open, gaping, bleeding, hurting. We try to protect and cover it. It’s ultrasensitive. The slightest touch causes searing pain, so, we don’t show it to anyone. Wounds are embarrassing and sometimes down-right nasty looking, so we go to great lengths to keep it hidden. Heck, we don’t even want to look at it.
On this leg of my journey in life, I realized that, all these years later, I am still wounded. I hurt physically, emotionally. I’ve been living with it so long, though, that I think I forgot how to function without it. I’ve grown used to the limitations, the pain, the dysfunction. I’ve let it become normal. I function within the dysfunction.
But, I have scars, too. Places that sustained serious life-threatening injuries but are now healed. Places that have been damaged and are not just restored but stronger, tougher. Not so easily broken, anymore. So, that got me to thinking…
How did my wounds turn into scars?
Well, the first thing was to find out the underlying cause, the thing that is keeping this wound from healing. Is the wound a symptom of something, a deeper issue? Are we treating the symptoms instead of curing the cause? In my case, food is obviously not the issue. It’s a result of the trauma I suffered both as a child and as an adult.
The next thing is to get appropriate help. Carpenters have a saying: Use the right tool, for the right job, the right way. I’ve sought the help of more dieticians, personal trainers, physicians and nutritionists than I care to acknowledge. I’ve learned a lot along the way and none of it was fruitless, but my wound is still there. That’s because the primary problem does not lie in my eating habits or caloric intake, it’s in my mind and in my heart. It’s in my pain, my trauma.
So, for the first time in my life, I plan to talk to a counselor about the link between food and the painful events in my life. I know it won’t be an overnight fix. I have no illusions of grandeur, but I know this is the right tool for the job. No disrespect to my future therapist.
Lastly, trust the process. Healing can be a long and painful process. You have to be willing to expose your painful places, examine them and tolerate the treatment. Sometimes, it will get a little worse before it gets better. That’s all part of the healing and is necessary to get that scar.
I want a scar. I don’t want to live bound and restricted, anymore. I want to be free indeed, not just free (John 8:36). If you are still reading this, I bet you want to be free indeed, too. If you have wounds, you most likely have scars, too. That means you can heal. Not just heal, but be stronger, tougher and better than you were before.
Take a few minutes to write down some answers to the fill in the blank statements to help you get started.
- I first noticed this wound___________.(When)
- I’m finally ready to take off the bandage and look at my wound. It is __________________ (Describe condition of wound)
- Sometimes I use __________ and ___________ to cover my wound, but it doesn’t help it heal.
- Select the one the best represents the pain level of your wound:
- I ________________ to dull the pain, but it’s only a quick fix.
- I think the root cause of my wound is____________, so I will need to _______________ help it truly heal.