Faith Life, May 2018

Finding Myself

Finding Myself

by Julia Summers

In early October of 2017, I was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I have battled against my eating disorder since I was a freshman in high school, but it became dangerous in my senior year of high school. Throughout the past three years, my anorexia and the image I have of myself and my body is how I searched for my identity. Rather than judging myself by my heart or the kind of person I am, I based my value and worth on how thin I could be. A vicious cycle of self-starvation and pain is how I lived my life for three years. Actions to save my life were not taken until I could no longer physically live with my disorder.

Against my will at the time, my parents made the difficult decision to admit me to a treatment center in Arizona. Naturally, I was terrified and angry. I was unwilling to recognize that I had a problem with eating and with food. The restricting and self-loathing was second nature to me and I was unable to see what everyone else clearly could.

October 14, 2017 was the day my heart shattered to pieces. I arrived in the blazing heat of Wickenburg, Arizona and was admitted to Remuda Ranch, a treatment facility for women with eating disorders. I cried and yelled and felt pain like no other as my parents were driven off the campus. I questioned how God could abandon me, and how my parents could see my pain and allow me to suffer by staying alone in Arizona. I begged them to take me home, to not leave me. I still clearly remember how distorted and disturbed my thinking was those first several days. I cursed God and I told my own father that I hated him. I told the one man in my life that would do absolutely anything to save my life that I despised him for what he did. My eating disorder had become my identity. My brain was no longer my own. For so long, my voice could not be heard.

At the ranch, there are three houses that patients move through. I started in the first house, which was the critical care unit. I was to live in this house, named Ocotillo, until I was more physically stable than when I arrived. At Ocotillo, I was culture shocked to say the very least. The basic freedoms and lifestyle I had been living in were completely stripped from me. Simple, daily routines that I normally would not think twice about soon became a privilege. Standing up, walking from one room to another, or even using the restroom whenever I wanted was something that was out of reach for me. Although I can see now that all the limitations and rules put in place were for the good of my recovery, I was angry, confused and hurt at the time. It took weeks to finally accept that I needed help.

It was not until I moved into the second house, Mariposa, that I started to make strong efforts to recover. I began to recognize my mind as separate from my eating disorder, and discover who I was without my anorexia and my self-destructive thoughts. This was one of the most daunting elements of my recovery, and is still something I struggle with now. I remind myself daily that my eating disorder does not rule my life. It does not have the right to dictate my emotions or decide whether or not I put up a fight against it.

The choice to live is up to me, and after the first few weeks in Arizona, I decided my life was worth living. I learned that my identity is not found in the way my body looks or a number on the scale. It is found in God alone. He is the only one who has my name written on his palm, and who is guiding me through every storm. He will never leave me, no matter how lonely or abandoned I may feel.

I was not alone in Arizona, and I am not alone now. He has always been by my side, and he always will be.

Julia Summers, 18, is a senior at The Dunham School. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, she plans to attend Louisiana State University in August. Writing is one of Julia’s passions, a way for her to express herself. She also enjoys being outdoors and experience God’s creation through nature.

May 2018, Pastor's Perspective

Who Do Others Say You Are?

Who Do Others Say You Are?

by Rev. David Melville

Pastors make certain their parishioners are familiar with the day Jesus asked, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) But I take the question further and include you and me in the equation. Who do others say you are? Are they accurate in their assessment? We can fool others, we can even fool ourselves, but we can’t fool God. God will know come Judgment Day.

I hope others see Christ in you. I hope you identify clearly with the Risen Christ. “Easter People” should be more than students, disciples, fans or even experts on Jesus. “Easter People” should stand out as identifying as closely with Christ as possible. Indeed, in our baptism we are said to go into the waters (die) and rise out of the waters (live) … with Christ. To be a Christian is to receive a new identity; in baptism we put on Christ.

We all wear many hats, and we can have more than one personality. (Just don’t have too many!) Most people have more than one talent, and more than one thing we’re good at. But in the end, one description about us should stand out above the others: did we deny self for Christ (Mark 8:34-35), and were we in the world, but not of the world? We are to be set apart; we are even to be, if necessary, peculiar.

Don’t we all know people who seem to be at one with Christ … or pretty darn close? There is just something about them; that “something” about them is explained as living Christ-like through the power of the Holy Spirit. To offer one example, Baton Rouge businessman Bill Peters, in my view, is identified with Christ. He was when I met him at the LSU Baptist Student Union nearly 50 years ago, and I saw the same identity when I re-connected with him after moving back to Baton Rouge in 2014. He is set apart.

Perhaps other national newspapers do likewise, but I do know that the New York Times presents selected obituaries in the form of what basically is a lengthy news article, with a headline summing up how the deceased was known to the world. A several-decades-old life is summed up in a headline. My obituary won’t make the New York Times, and whatever newspaper I wind up in will simply print what my family pays them to print. But every once in awhile I like to imagine what one-liner would be attached if I were eulogized in the good old New York Times! I invite you to do the same. Decide how you want to be identified and work every day to live according to that identity. At a minimum, be identified as very loving and as a person who was somehow in the world, but not of the world.

It is sad, frustrating and amazing to read an obituary of a Christian and never read a reference to church affiliation or the importance of Christ in the dearly departed’s life. It seems this is the case with increasing frequency. We learn about a man’s hobbies, favorite sports teams, that he was the life of the party, and that he loved his grandchildren very much. These identities are all fine if they are secondary to his love for and his identity with Jesus. But you have to wonder if church or spirituality is not even mentioned …

In the Broadway production of Les Miserables, the main character, Jean Valjean, is a convicted felon who turns his life around and becomes a Christ-like figure. But in one song, he asks, “Who am I?” and realizes that to some, he will always be identified as “#24601,” his prison number … even though he had become much, much more.

My nonprofit, Christ in the City, will present Aaron Beam at an ethics luncheon on Wednesday, May 2 at the De La Ronde Ballroom in downtown Baton Rouge. Aaron served prison time for corporate fraud, and in his efforts to help businesspeople attending his speeches, he always reminds them that, “Though I stopped my fraud and paid my debt to society, and am trying to do some good things now, I will always be a convicted felon.”

But Aaron Beam is much, much more.

For tickets, call (225) 397-6393.