The God exchange; because the first one didn’t fit
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.” – Susan B. Anthony
This Susan B. Anthony quote is pretty well known. I understand her point. I don’t disagree with it as a social or political commentary. But I have to say, what my God wants me to do rarely coincides with my personal desires. “You have to stop eating sugar,” was not on the top 10 list of things I wanted to be told at 28 years old. But it’s my own fault. I had asked to be saved from misery. (I did not know at the time that I was asking God. I was asking anyone and anything.) But He did not come down and whisk me away to paradise with a new body. (Yes, I refer to God in the masculine. No, I do not believe God is “male”. It’s just easier that way.) He said, “Then stop eating yourself to death.” Followed shortly by “Stop lying.” “Respect other people’s boundaries.” “Honor your commitments.” “Grow the fuck up!” (Yes. God swears. My God does anyway. And has an excellent, and sometimes dark, sense of humor.)
I should maybe explain that the God I have now is not the God I grew up with. The God I grew up with was a mean, spiteful God who required that I give worship by being miserable. If I was enjoying it, whatever it was, God disapproved. He was scary. I was evil. Life was cruel. And that was the way the world worked.
As I got older, God became less frightening, but there was still an unsatisfying disconnection between us. I didn’t know what He wanted from me or for me. I didn’t think that God wanted me to be happy. I thought He wanted me to be “good”. And I wasn’t even sure I knew what that looked like. Plus, “good” never seemed all that appealing. What God wanted for me seemed at worst painful, and at best boring.
I didn’t know how to listen to God growing up. But at that time in my life, I was living in a sugar fog. Sugar is a drug for me. It literally gets me high. And I spent my life copping. I was high all the time. I do not remember most of my childhood and early adult years. I was blackout eating daily. And I was obsessed with food. Thoughts of food took up 90% of my mind 100% of the time. And the other 10% was for trying to navigate my life moment to moment. This involved a lot of lying, cheating and stealing to get by. Mostly to avoid getting into trouble with other people or to get my next fix. I knew I didn’t want to be dishonest, but I didn’t know how to stop. What I didn’t understand was that there was a baseline for all of my dishonesty. It was sugar (and food in general). Food and dishonesty were inextricably linked. I had never been honest about food. In order to get some integrity, I had to stop lying about my eating.
When I would do something dishonest in my life, it filled me with feelings of guilt. I would numb these feelings with sugar. But I was ashamed of how I ate. And how it made me fat. And how I couldn’t hide how I was eating because it made me fat. But I couldn’t stop. And I didn’t want to admit it. So I would lie about it. (Of course, my body always told on me. But I was so fucked up on sugar all the time, that I always managed to “not know” this.) And dishonesty around food made all other forms of dishonesty seem workable. Even normal. But then I would feel guilty. And ashamed. So I would numb those feelings with more sugar. It was a vicious cycle.
What saved my life at 28 was choosing to put strict boundaries around my eating and then be 100% honest about it. This rigorous honesty about my eating made integrity in my life possible. Integrity in my life made it possible to stay within my food boundaries. It was a virtuous cycle.
So how did I manage to find my way into this virtuous cycle? Well, frankly, it was a miracle. It was a gift from God. I really believe that. But there was work involved. So the practical answer is that I did it by being honest one meal at a time. And by adhering to the rules I had around food one meal at a time. And every meal made the next meal easier. Every time I told the truth about food, it made it easier to tell the truth in my life.
And the other thing that made it easier, was that every time I kept integrity around my food, I felt like God was proud of me. I knew that I was doing the right thing. When I was eating sugar, there was no room in my head for God. There was no room for listening for divine inspiration. There was no room for hope or dreams or love. But when I stopped eating sugar, and got control of my compulsive eating, I found that I had all of this room in my head. First, it took about a year and a half of no sugar for my mind to clear. (Yes. It took that long.) But then I looked up and found that I had all this life in my life. And “good” finally had a meaning. It was not boring at all. Or painful. It was just about integrity. It was just about being honest.
Then all of a sudden, I started to realize that God wanted me to have a great life. Not an ok life. A fantastic one! That once I had a clear head, I could hear God. And He wants me to be happy. Really happy. And free. He wants me to have all of the things I thought the God of my childhood didn’t want me to have. My God wants me to have fun! And love! He wants me to love my body. And my mind. And my life. He wants me to laugh and sing. No, He doesn’t tell me what I want to hear. He tells me what I need to know to have a beautiful life. I’m starting to realize that God wants a better life for me than I want for myself. And I’m interested in taking Him up on that.