Man’s mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimensions. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.
I first saw these words framed and placed on the wall of my ophthamologist’s office in Logan, Utah. Dean and I had moved there after life turned upside-down as a result of our daughter’s eating disorder and co-morbid mental illnesses. We were Evangelical Christians and unbelieveably ignorant of the physical realities of being human. Our world was black/white, all/nothing and either/or. Being Christian and having an eating disorder invade our family blew the hell out of our life’s paradigm for living.
Prayers prayed, advice given and judgments made about why our daughter was in the situation she was in had to be continually dealt with. Doing so brought us to our knees on multiple occassions. Once we found the strength to stand, we found ourselves in a continual battle royal with friends and family who offered us a strange mix of tangible support and bizare prescriptions for her healing. One thing our faith community did very well was to concoct answers for life’s pain from the air and/or the Bible and often present their “wisdom” with a sense of authority as if it was God speaking to us.
As I watched my daughter slowly dying before my eyes, I finally made a call to get her out of town and into treatment. ONLY when we finally arrived with her in the hospital did we find solace. A top notch psychiatrist looked us in the eyes and spoke truth to us that what H was dealing with started in the NICU of the same hospital. Her expertise and guidance FINALLY gave us real direction.
After a week in treatment, the therapist told us that our daughter said she felt safe there but not at home. She began to ask us if we knew why she felt that way. What do you say? How do you feel? What do you think? You simply begin to question EVERYTHING and when you do, the truth either answers your questions or your daughter dies. It is really that simple.
Wave after wave of healing light has come to us since those early days but it has not been an easy path. It has required more strength, more deep soul searching and energy than we EVER could have imagined and the journey has transformed us. As Holmes declares in the quote I shared at the beginning of this piece, our minds were stretched from their original dimensions and we simply cannot go back.
Recently it has come to me that although we can never go back to the faith we once knew, that faith, especially in its earliest days, is still the glue that holds all that we are together. It is not the same in that we are no longer full of certaintly about the details as much as we are the underlying structure, the reality of God in our midst. We have been through so much, really too much for any group of nonprofessionals in the field of eating disorder recovery or mental health to begin to deal with. However, even there, among the professionals in our local community, we found gross ignorance where treating eating disorders was concerned. Had it not been for the insight given to me when I was sitting at my dining room table with my Bible open and tears falling on the pages, I would never have had the courage to purse treatment that I knew was going to cost well over $150,000 before it accomplished its purpose. God is very real and alive to me. Religion is not. It is now that simple.
The reason I made the title of this blog entry about judgment is because I have realized that though I have been through the many events that went along with all of this, what I must confess and turn around is the intense judgment I have put onto the Evangelical faith as a whole. I lived in that faith for almost 30 years before any of these events took place and it was there where I met God in very personal ways. I was an idiot much of the time in the way I often thought that I had answers for others, in the way that I thought of myself as enlightened and above others who didn’t really get it like I did. Ya, that was me, BUT the me that was in that place was also very sincerely in it. I loved worship and I loved praying with people…reading the Bible…loving and serving others. By focusing on the actions of those who were misguided or ignorant and treated me badly, I have discovered that I run the greater risk of become exactly like them by judging them and the overarching faith they participate in so very harshly in return. By declaring the far right Evangelical unworthy of my tolerance at least, but my embrace as a human child of God at best, I have discovered that in way too many ways, I have become much like the ones I have judged so severely. Didn’t Jesus utter the words, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do?”
IF you are reading this and you have felt the sting of my judgment toward you, please forgive me. Though I am no longer an Evangelical because much of the doctrine and practices no longer make sense to me, and though we will likely not agree on many things, I do think it is safe to say that we both have as our aim to love God with our whole heart and to love others as ourselves, don’t we?
As I move on from today, it is my aim to embrace those from my past as fellow travelers and not as my enemy. I am forever wounded and will bear the scars for life because we were within a razors edge of losing H as a result of our ignorance and misguided faith. I will not easily trust specific people unless they are able to seek to rebuild that trust with me, but no longer will I judge you so harshly. It would seem that God has spoken to my heart and that is simply not possible anymore.