It may be of good use to private Christians…to preserve in writing an account of the providences of God …the constant series of mercies they have experienced, especially those turns and changes which have made some days of their lives more remarkable. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible)
The idea for this blog came from the book of Numbers: a book about wanderings.
At first glance, Numbers 33 looks like a simple and boring list of places. It lists 42 march sites, way stations, resting places – where the Israelites camped after their escape from Egypt.
To us, of course, these places are mostly obscure and un-pronouncable. (Kibroth Hattaavah and Kehelathah, Makheloth and Hashmonah: say those names three times fast – go!) But these places were real, and they were part of God’s calculated campaign to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land.
I’m migrating to a new blog shortly, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, because a stage of my life ended – the stage that prompted this original blog – when I put my dog Gracie down last July.
I wrote the following post on the day I said goodbye to her, and I think it’s finally time to share it:
By the time it was over, I felt like I’d swallowed a gallon of seawater, then cried it out drop by drop – I, the person who started out hating dogs.
She’d been my first dog, by my side for 8 years, while I struggled to stay afloat after sinking into starvation and depression, while I learned how to live in the world and navigate adulthood.
Rationally of course I knew she was “just a dog”. I berated myself for grieving so profusely over an animal. I’d always known this was inevitable, that I’d have to say goodbye someday.
So why was I sitting here in my bathrobe at noon on a weekday, with frozen spoons on my eyes, after crying for a solid 6 hours?
It wasn’t just the tears I’d cried into her fur. Or the joy she’d brought to a recovery process that was often painful, slow, and frustrating. It wasn’t that she followed me from room to room, or the way she greeted me when I opened the door at the end of the day; the click-click of her little paws on the tile, the plash-plash of her white feet in the rain puddles, the miles I walked with her or the nights I spent comforted by her presence curled up next to the bed, nose to tail.
I remembered how we charged out of the animal shelter the day I brought her home. It was a new adventure – I’d never even liked a dog, much less owned one! I was fresh on my own after more than a year of depression, sickness, moving home, rehab for an eating disorder. And now I was healthy, I was ready to finish college and re-enter the current of the world, pick my life up where I’d left it.
And Gracie helped me through it. I did it – I made it through eight years to the other side of pain I thought was impossible to conquer. I knew I’d have her as long as I needed her. And now, perhaps, I didn’t.
I wasn’t crying for all those memories, and the empty bed and food bowl she’d leave behind, and the walks I’d have to now take by myself. Really I was crying because I looked in the mirror of my sadness and saw a different person.
I was crying because I saw that grace had changed me, even when I still felt so flawed. When I feared having to continue life without this crucial distraction and beloved companion, I didn’t feel strong enough. I didn’t think I could do it without her. She was my routine, my joy, my warmth, my pick-me-up, she kept me from feeling alone. Without that, would I slip back into the hole I’d been in? Would I let the riptide of obsessions and the fears suck me back out to sea?
That’s why I cried. Because I realized – it wasn’t ever my dog. It was God the whole time. He was the one beside me, giving me strength, bringing me joy, teaching me wisdom. He was never leaving, and his goodness would never cease to manifest itself in my life.
How good had he been to provide the precious gift of joy throughout the years that were washed with tears. The pigment of joy had allowed my tears to create watercolors.
It was sad, but it was so, so beautiful. There would be more adventures ahead. I could face them. There would be other dogs to love. It was time for me to charge ahead out of the confines of my own limited view of life, and see what else God had planned for me.
You are surrounded by a crush of people. A man has fallen at your feet in the dust and the heat. Everyone is sweaty. Your disciples are with you. As you listen to Jairus pleading for his daughter, others are calling to you and jostling forward. Maybe your disciples are trying to push people away from you to give you space. I am in this crowd, standing on tiptoe, straining to see. Suddenly you turn, and you say, “Who touched me?” But the look in your eyes and the tone of your voice are gentle, not aggravated or annoyed, as if to say, “I know you, but I want to see your face anyway. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 5:29 says the woman felt in her body that she was healed the moment she touched Jesus’ garment, yet – He sought her. He looked in her eyes, called her daughter. In that moment, she met Him. Her healing was not associated with the dusty hem of a garment, viewed briefly as she stretched her weak hand through a confusion of other hems and sandaled feet. Her healing forever would be associated with the person of Jesus. He wanted to see her face because then, she would see His face.
I love this story. I love what it says about Jesus. And I have identified with this woman; bleeding inside, looking desperately to other, powerless “physicians” that only gave more suffering. I believe that both the bleeding and the healing are gifts. How many physically healthy people were in the crowd, standing right next to Jesus, yet not reaching for Him? I am learning to see the bleeding in my own life as a gift that causes me to reach for Him, to press through the crowd, whatever it is that wants to block me from my Father.
I was physically sick when these verses first spoke to my heart; I felt powerless to reach what I knew would heal me. Then, I identified with the woman’s weakness and the bodily suffering. Now, I identify more with being in the crowd – I long to touch even the fringe of His cloak, but there is a pushing, loud, crazy crowd of thoughts in my mind. Call them distractions, fears, obsessions, even good things – but all of them are a mental throng that I am not strong enough to quiet.
But He knows the touch of faith, even the faintest brush of a fingertip on a hem. After all, He planted the faith in the first place. And I wonder if, when Jesus felt the touch of that bleeding woman, He smiled to himself because He had been waiting for it.
Imagine a nail. Imagine a mallet. Now imagine you are the nail, and the mallet.
The mallet smashes the nail into the wall. Then it bashes it again and again until the nail is as far into the wall as possible. But the mallet keeps banging and whaling that nail.
Take THAT! Maybe THIS will teach you not to be such a gluttonous idiot! Maybe after THIS you’ll do what I say! STAY IN LINE, you
UGLY! FAT! LAZY! STUPID!
The poor nail isn’t going any further into the wall; all the bashing isn’t accomplishing anything except damaging the wall, probably.
I was seriously nasty to myself this week. I beat the tar out of Meredith for a few relatively minor incidents of emotional overeating.
That kind of self-bashing wears a person out. And it’s pretty demotivating.
Which is why this morning I had a slight…meltdown. Why go to work, when I’m such a loser?
So I just hit snooze. Over and over.
Snooze, you Loser. Snooze, you Fatty. Snooze, you immature, disgusting, attention-seeking, irresponsible, irrational, untalented BUM!
I finally stopped after – wow…after two hours and 45 minutes, the final 15 minutes being the 15 AFTER I was supposed to be AT MY DESK. When I finally got up, I called my dad and cried.
When I asked my therapist about this episode, he told me he sees it all the time: “The Old Self dies hard,” he said.
It puts up a fight, when you’re so close to a breakthrough, to a true change.
Thinking about my Old Self brought a 2006 incident with eerily familiar undertones to mind:
“I was so mentally unstable I called work to say I would be late and I ended up not going. In the afternoon before work I binged – not as badly as I could have, which is at least some measure of comfort – and tried to purge. But sometimes I can’t make myself vomit, and this was one of those times. So I was just full of rage and started jamming my finger repeatedly down my throat in anger, even though it wasn’t doing anything. I tried to get ready for work – my eyes were swollen and bloodshot, snot was coming out of my nose, my jeans were falling off and I didn’t care.”
My Old Self is the one that gives no grace, punishes, abuses, hates and wallows.
The Old Self is a tenacious little devil because, frankly, self-hatred and pity parties are easy.
Getting up, shaking it off, taking a shower, and rolling into work – albeit a little late – is
I thought I was done having days like today. Yet I’m always surprised when they happen again, as if I honestly believed – and apparently I did – that I would never binge again,
never wake up nauseous from it the next morning,
never cringe at the thought of having to face the fact of my body by moving and dressing, never throw on a pair of baggy, wrinkled pants and a top without showering, putting on makeup or walking my dog, not caring if I’m late for work.
Never fight the urge to relieve the self-persecuting thoughts by leaving the office and going back to bed.
I’ve lived this exact day – and lived for it to be over – many, many times.
Last night my dog bagged another dead squirrel. At least, I think it had been a squirrel. It was more like a furry grey thing that had been flattened and flattened and flattened and flattened and then baked and rained on and baked and dried into jerky.
This I had managed to successfully avoid for a month, having mentally marked its place on my walk route. Despite several close calls, twice a day for weeks – weeks!! – I kept Gracie from nabbing this carcass. Until a few seconds of distraction last night, a little too much slack on the leash, and it was too late. Gracie won. I threw a tantrum on the sidewalk involving stamping, jumping and screaming. (The woman walking behind me was glad to catch up and pass us, I think.)
All I could do was stand there glowering and fuming and horrified as Gracie chewed and crunched. I did try batting her in the face with the poop bag, thinking maybe I could surprise her into dropping it. That didn’t work. (Only one thing has ever induced Gracie to drop a dead animal, and that was the opportunity to chase live geese up a hill. Those circumstances are hard to reproduce.)
Walking home – I promise this is coming full-circle! – hot, mad and slightly hoarse, I decided the squirrel incident was a good analogy for my struggles. (OK, so the metaphor might be slightly stretched, but that’s fitting for a person whose personality is prone to extremes.)
I worked so hard to keep Gracie away from that dead thing! Just like I worked so hard to keep myself from slipping. And the longer I’ve gone without a slip, the more discouraging it is when I mess up – again.
I react to myself the same way I reacted to Gracie – with surprise, disgust, frustration, and anger – because I have an illusion that recovery means my eating disorder has magically disappeared. Really, though, it means I’ve by degrees learned to manage it, like walking my unpredictable, hyper, crazy dog. I face-planted a lot at the beginning, but now I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer hear that hilarious “who’s walking who” comment. AS OFTEN.
Dogs are still dogs and eating disorders are still eating disorders, even if I’m not being dragged around. Relax your guard, give them an inch – and they’ll take a dead squirrel.
Recovery for me simply means that even though this still sometimes happens, it does happen less.
“For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” 2 Corinthians 5:4