I guess it’s time, I thought as I biked along. And in my spirit I knew I was ready to face my shame about overeating.
I meet with Karen, my spiritual director, regularly. The sacred space we share allows me to get a sense of what God is doing in my life. Over the years I talked with her about a number of things. But the one topic I managed to avoid until now was my attachment to food.
“I know I shouldn’t eat so much, but when it comes right down to it, I like eating. It’s pleasurable and gives me comfort. Relaxing with a snack and a book is my reward for a hard day’s work,” I told Karen. “But I’m gaining weight and my clothes don’t fit. My cholesterol is too high and the doctor said weight is a factor. And, it may sound silly, but to me overeating is unethical. Why should I eat more than what I need? I have all these good reasons not to overeat, but it doesn’t stop me from doing it”
“What do you long for?” Karen asked.
“I want to be freed from this compulsion. I know it doesn’t glorify God, but that doesn’t seem to matter. I just turn my back on God and eat anyway.” Tears came as I spoke. “Every time I overeat I feel my heart hardening. I wish I had a softer heart.”
“Is there an image that would represent that desire for a soft heart?”
I closed my eyes and waited. After a while I opened them and said, “I can’t picture the desire. All I know is that it is fragile and Jesus is holding it with me.”
“A fragile desire that Jesus is holding with you,” she said and nodded. “How does that feel to you?”
“I like that Jesus is with me. That I am not alone in the struggle. It reminds me of the quote by Richard Rohr, ‘God looks for the places in us that are trying to say yes.'”
I was about to grasp onto hope, when it dissipated. I teared up again. “These are all nice thoughts, but my desire for food is so much bigger than my desire for God. I am afraid it will be crushed.”
“Is there a prayer you could pray for this fragile desire?”
Then I saw it. Not right away. First the words came, then the image. I pictured Jesus holding a baby bird in our open hands. It was cheeping away, wanting to be fed. That vulnerable little bird represented my desire to love God more than anything else.
“I could ask God to feed my desire for him so it grows bigger than any other,” I said.
Karen smiled with wonder.
“Every morning when I pray ‘I open my heart to you,’ I can picture that little bird in our open hands and ask God to increase my desire for him,” I said with renewed hope.
I could do that.
As I rode my bike home from Karen’s I asked God to increase my fragile desire. Many times a day I ask him to do this and, as I do, I know he feeding that hungry desire and filling my heart with his love.
“… for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:5b TLB.