Redeeming the Pain of the Past

When I was in high school and college, I threw up almost every day. It’s a long story, but I had a paralyzed stomach that wouldn’t process food and I developed all the behavior of someone with a severe eating disorder. It was a physical, emotional, and spiritual problem. I am so grateful to say that I experienced tremendous healing over the course of many years of work–healing that was physical, emotional, and spiritual in nature. By the time I graduated from college, not only did I no longer throw up my food but I enjoyed food, felt grateful for the health and strength of my body (at least most of the time), didn’t weigh myself and didn’t obsess about food or body image.

But then, five years ago, after giving birth to three children and discovering the delight of Chardonnay and neglecting exercise and continuing to enjoy french fries and pizza and nachos at a rate that doesn’t go well with an aging/slowing metabolism, I was gaining weight. And I felt crappy about myself.

Still, the only way I had ever lost weight in the past had been through an eating disorder. I wasn’t willing to go back there. I would rather end up 50 pounds overweight with knee problems than go back to the emaciated, hospitalized kid I was my freshman year in college.

Thankfully, a few friends intervened and said gently, “Maybe there’s a different way.” Somehow it was shocking to me to consider that starvation/bulimia and indulgence/weight gain weren’t the only options. There was another way. To eat healthily. To enjoy food. To eat french fries and drink Chardonnay, sometimes. In moderation. To give thanks for the goodness of it.

I did lose weight, slowly. But this new approach to eating (and drinking) and exercise also seemed like an opportunity for redemption. I went back to a place that in the past was a place of pain and destruction, and it became a place of healing and wholeness, of blessing for me and for others.

There are certainly painful experiences of the past that should never be revisited. But there are also painful experiences from our past that we are given the opportunity to return to in order to approach them differently, that we can ask God to redeem.

The dictionary shows two definitions for redemption. One, there’s “the action of saving or being saved.” Two, “the action of gaining or regaining possession of something.” God is all about redemption from harm, healing (which in Greek is a word closely related to saving) the wounds of the past, about regaining possession of what has seemed lost forever.


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