While attending a ministry conference in Nashville earlier this month, I was able to engage a few of youth workers on the topic of eating disorders and youth ministry. Most of our discussions were fairly common on the grounds of where is God‘s place in all of it and how can caloric consumption be a measurable addiction as we all need food to survive.
While packing up for an evening session I struck up a conversation with a rather hesitant youth leader from North Carolina. He said that while he was passing by earlier, he overheard me sharing my testimony with another leader and he felt lead to share with me a story of one of his youths.
He went on to say that earlier this year one of the males in his group came forward to him after years of sexual abuse as a young child. The student recalled how his mother would always refer to him as being such a cute kid, so when the abuse started, he began to eat as much as he possibly could in order to gain weight. The leader went on to explain that the student’s thought process was to gain as much weight as possible in the hopes that if the cuteness went away, so would the abuse.
The leader concluded by stating that while a series of events has ended the student’s physical abuse, the student has created a situation where he is about to enter adulthood morbidly obese. He wanted to know my thoughts on how he could help his student and what he could possibly say. I shared my thoughts with him and I would like to share them with you.
First: Unfortunately, the more I speak with people the more common I find that stories like this exist. While there is nothing good about the occurrence, it does help to remind people that they are not alone. One of the worst feelings while going through anything traumatic is isolation, so I encouraged him to just be open and listen.
Second. Addressing emotional obesity does not have an overnight solution. Emotions, like the weight itself, take time to compound and as such will take time to deconstruct. With that in mind…
(Third)…the only way true deconstruction, or healing, can occur is with the relevant influence of Jesus Christ. I know how “churchy” that sounds, but the bottom line with any abusive or addictive situation is the reality that it is surrounded with darkness and the only way to alleviate that darkness is to add light. But I feel that light in a spiritual sense needs to be administered in the way that it does in the physical sense.
What I mean is that most people (myself included) while waking up from sleeping do not like to go from pitch black to 130 watts. Most people get the light that comes in through the window….then maybe they go to the bathroom and they use that light to illuminate the room and then once they have woken up or come to a place where they are ready to receive the light, then the 130 watt overhead can be flipped on. Just not first thing.
I concluded my thought with him by stating that while # 3 is where we all should strive to be, the arrival to and subsequent travel through #1 and #2 are different for everyone. What is paramount, is that we all strive to show the world Christ’s light through our lives, our decisions, and most importantly, through our reactions to life’s everyday diversions.
The deeper we get into the obesity crisis in America the more we will realize that it is no longer a caloric input vs. caloric output battle. This is a battle of the heart. It’s a battle that needs to leave yesterday behind and acknowledge that today is the new tomorrow. Philippians 3:13-14