We all have secrets/baggage; things in our life we prefer not to talk about. It may be attached to guilt, shame or pride and that’s why we choose to keep it hidden. We are afraid of what people might think if they only knew. I feel like sometimes we hold onto baggage like a security blanket that we never want to get rid of. The truth is, I have a big piece of baggage that I have kept a secret for a while and I am finally ready to let it go. Many prayers were said before I made the decision to write this so I pray that it inspires you to let go of some of the baggage you carry in your life.
Recently I have been studying the book of Matthew (again). It simply summarizes Christ’s birth, His walk on earth and His death and resurrection and gives us scriptural evidence through narrative history, parables and sermons proving that Jesus is our healer, our protector and our Savior.
Ironically, one of the first books of the bible I was encouraged to study when I first began my spiritual walk was Matthew. God certainly has a sense of humor as He sends me back around to study the very book that saved me only a handful of years ago. Let me explain:
When I was in 8th grade I remember sitting at the lunch table at school with my friends, staring at my bag of food, frustrated with a situation that had happened at home that morning. Situations seemed to happen a lot at that time. I was angry and I didn’t know how to handle those feelings. I believe it was the angriest I had ever been up to that point in my life. I remember getting up, throwing my lunch in the trash and sitting in a bathroom stall waiting for my next class to start. I went about my day, quiet and distant, went to basketball practice and went home still angry not understanding why I couldn’t let go of this feeling.
It was a subtle change at first. I would ‘forget’ my lunch at home, lie about not having money and tell people I just wasn’t hungry. I was 14 years old, no one even had a clue… not even me! I was a perfectionist, an extreme-ist and always had been; strived to get straight A’s, worked out extra hard to be the best athlete in whatever sport I played and always tried to please everyone! It was a sickness that had led to my sickness.
I was really good at hiding it too. Like I said, I didn’t really know that what I was doing was wrong but I was smart enough to know that I loved the way it made me feel. I was in complete control over ME! I made it through 8th grade and no one knew my secret. At the time I was living with my mom during the week and my dad took us on the weekends and I was a master at telling stories. So even they didn’t have a clue. Victory!! I started at a new HS where I made new friends, had new coaches and new teachers. By about mid-freshman year I knew exactly what I was doing and I had mastered my problem… although I didn’t admit it was a problem of course. I joined the swim team in the fall, basketball in the winter and softball in the spring. The following year I joined the cross country team, basketball team and the track team. And from April through August each year I was playing AAU basketball. I was active every chance I could get. I appeared to be a happy, motivated, hard working kid that loved life. This went on for two more years without anyone knowing (at least I was never confronted during this time). Then the summer going into my junior year of high school I hit a breaking point. I had torn my ACL for the first time in a summer league basketball game going up for a lay-up. I was ‘out of commission’ due to surgery and rehab that summer and my little problem grew worse and worse. At the time, basketball was my passion, my emotional escape and my life. I was determined to get back on the court as quickly as possible and I knew I made a lot of people angry with my ‘rushed’ recovery because I came back way too soon. I was pretty stubborn to say the least. And because of how I was destroying my body, I was not physically strong enough to come back yet. If you have ever had an injury that stopped you from doing something that you love, you know what it feels like. I only had control over one thing at the time – and it was the only thing that kept me going. It was around then when people started to recognize something wasn’t right and that maybe they should say something. Due to some family struggles, I had been spending a lot of time sleeping at my best friend Jessica’s house. I remember sitting in their living room with Jess and my AAU basketball coach (at the time) and mentor today Dave Chatmon (Jess’s dad) and I knew something was up. They were the first to confront me and I remember getting up and leaving, denying everything and being so angry with the both of them. Anytime the conversation came up from them I avoided it. And it wasn’t until I was sitting in my HS Varsity coaches training office (a few months later) the day before a big game that it hit me. They ALL knew! They told me, “Kristen, we know you have an eating disorder and that you have been starving yourself. And you need to get help!” My secret was out and I didn’t know what to do. I feared the worst and the worst happened. I was told that I would be sitting out of every game and every practice until I got healthy. I was told I needed to see a psychologist, a counselor and a nutritionist before I could get back on the court again. In that moment I had lost all strength. Every emotion I had let dwell inside of me for years came out in the form of tears. They were now in control of MY life.
Have you ever been told you have to do something in order to get something that you want so you do it just to please them but later it comes back to bite you in the butt? Well that’s exactly what happened. I followed protocol, ‘admitted’ I had a problem, ‘fixed’ the problem and a couple months later (just before the season had ended) I was allowed to practice and play again. Although you and I both know, nothing had been fixed… they only put a band-aid over the problem to cover the wound by making me do things I was not ready to do.
During the next few years I had only minor struggles with my ED. I was so focused on college, playing basketball year round, working and trying to get a fresh start in my life that I managed to escape from my little secret for a while and get my life in order. I had bought a house, started a business, my basketball career was going well, I finally picked a profession (after changing my major 3 times) that I wanted to get a degree in. Life seemed to be going well!
Let me remind you that during this time I had no clue who Jesus Christ was. I had never picked up a bible, rarely attended a church and didn’t have any spiritual mentors in my life.
Around my junior year of college so many things were happening. I was working full time on 3rd shift from 8pm until 8am 3-4 nights a week, I was going to school full time from 9am-3pm with some night classes, I was playing college basketball where our practices went from 4pm-6/7pm every day and games 2 nights a week and on weekends and then I was having to go back into work after practices. I was also making strong attempts to build a business. There were multiple days on end where I wouldn’t sleep at all. I’m sure I shaved off of few years of my life during that time. On top of that my grandpa was dying, my mom was going through major personal struggles, my dad’s alcoholism was at it’s worst and I didn’t know how to handle any of it anymore. I had lost control of the life I had neatly put back into order just a few years back.
But this time I knew EXACTLY what I was doing. No one that had met me in college knew my past so I knew it wouldn’t be hard to hide it. I had more freedom and privacy than I ever did in HS, I was so busy I barely had time to even think about eating so I knew it wouldn’t be hard for me fight through the physical pain. I had lost a lot of friends because I never had time to spend with them so I wasn’t worried about my friend’s finding out. Before I knew it I had done more damage in 10-12 months than I did in 3.5 years. I dropped 45 lbs in a matter of a couple months (mostly muscle) because I was in pretty good shape back then and working out a lot, I had less than 10% body fat (which is very low for females) and plateaued for a while and experienced every physical and mental health symptom a person with an eating disorder experiences.
This time however, the changes appeared so drastically and I felt so horrible that even I was scared. I confided in one friend during college of my battle and told no one else. I was never confronted by anyone during that year and looking back I know it was for the better. That friend was the first person who started talking to me about God. I was 21 years old and someone finally had the courage to ask me if I believed in Jesus Christ. I don’t remember the exact words she told me but I do remember how I felt after we talked. I wanted this to end, I wanted to be healthy and I wanted to live. I bought my first bible that next year but had no clue how to read it. It was so frustrating. I wanted some passage to jump out at me and slap me in the face while giving me a warm hug at the same time but none of that happened and none of it made sense.
It was around then when I attended another TEAM leadership convention and I was walking through the tool room and found the book, The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren on the ‘discounted books’ table. I bought it and didn’t tell anyone because I was so embarrassed of my ignorance; or probably just too prideful. At the bottom of the cover it read, “What on earth am I here for?” Exactly the question I had been asking myself for years. I was sure this was the book that would help me start my faith walk. At the time I was so obsessed with working out that once basketball season ended I would go to the cardio center on campus and spend hours burning more and more calories. Except after I bought this book I wanted to be more productive with my reading so I figured out how to walk on a steep incline and read at the same time where I would walk for 2-3 hours a day reading this book. It completely drew me in and started to answer a lot of questions I had never understood.
I was recommended through the TEAM training system to subscribe to the AGO faith CD’s (ERM at the time), that too started to put more pieces of the puzzle together. During this entire process I was slowly recovering from my eating disorder and I didn’t even recognize the changes that were happening. My excessive exercising turned into a normal workout routine, I slowly started to forget to weigh myself each day (which that was my controlled accountability at the time) and I didn’t worry as much about every calorie I was consuming. It too was a subtle change, but this time in the right direction. I knew God had a grip on me I just hadn’t yet surrendered to Him.
The friend that I had confided in sent me a text with the verse from Matthew 11:28-30. I read it, “Come to me all you who are weary and overburdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” In this verse Jesus says, “Come to Me.” It’s God’s invitation. I will make your life easier. I will lighten your load. You will have relief. You will have release. You will have rest. You will have rejuvenation. Give Me control and care of your life and watch what I do. Life will get so much easier and less stressful.
It was in that moment that I had given Him control. It was one of the few times in my life up to that point that I found peace. I thought, “if what my friend, the Bible, these CD’s and that book say is true, then I should have nothing to worry about. God has it under control.” The recovery process was so natural that the healing took place with very little discomfort. It seems like it would be almost impossible looking back. I had no support except for one friend who knew what was going on, I had no professional help and I was still living a crazy lifestyle. But it certainly wasn’t impossible with God! I wasn’t angry with anyone, I never had to see another counselor, psychologist or nutritionist to ‘fix’ my problem, all I needed was Christ in my life. He has the power to heal all things!
Just like any addiction, a piece of it always stays with you. In the years since I have been tempted many times due to circumstances that would trigger my ‘control’ meter. I would let my control meter grab me for a week or two and then Jesus would save me again. He always has my back, He always saves me from myself and my poor thinking.
And it wasn’t too much longer after that I was mentoring with LIFE founder George Guzzardo. He knew that I was starting my spiritual walk and helped in the process of understanding scripture and how to read the bible. The time came where he asked me if I had committed my life to Christ in the form of baptism, and if I was ready to do that? I knew I was ready, George didn’t know my story at the time but I knew what Christ was doing in my life and it was no accident. Baptism was the perfect beginning of my journey because when I make a commitment, I keep my commitment. I was blessed to be baptized by two amazing men of faith – Orrin Woodward and George Guzzardo. A moment I will never forget.
My journey is still only just beginning. I have so much to learn and so many people to serve. But the reason I share this is because as I was going through the book of Matthew again, I found that passage that my friend had texted me that led to my salvation. If it wasn’t for my eating disorder, I may have never found a reason to surrender my life to Christ. And if it wasn’t for Christ I may have never recovered from my disorder. We are all led to Him in different ways. So I want to leave you with a couple questions:
- What baggage are you carrying around that is separating you from a deeper relationship with Christ?
- What secrets are you keeping from others that need to be revealed?
- Do you believe in the power of healing?
There are very few people in my life who know this testimony. In fact, if I didn’t think it had the potential to convict at least one person, I probably would not have shared it (it is way too personal for my own comfort). But I have received so much confirmation recently that it would have been selfish of me not to finally reveal it. We all have something that’s hidden deep inside us that we are afraid to let go of; that warm security blanket that we’ve been carrying around for years. It’s time to leave it at the cross; because God is in control and He is the ONLY one who will save you from yourself.
Many blessings on your journey,