Sick? Sinners?

Continuing on from a recent post on whether eating disorders are sin or sickness… I was going to write a bit more about this today, but after reading M’s brilliant comment I think the most helpful thing to do is to publish it instead.

Here’s what she says;

I was reading John 9 and I wonder if that could help a little. The disciples ask Jesus who sinned and Jesus’ reply begins: ‘it is not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him…’.

Because we live in a fallen broken world, we sin and we also are sinned against. We also live with the consequences of sin- seen in unruly gardens that do not want to be tamed, in illness and unjust suffering, in people that although created in the image of God in order to glorify him grasping for control and rejecting him, in brains that don’t quite think rightly and are in fact incapable of thinking rightly all of the time! Sometimes the situation we are in is the direct consequence of our sin- we are reaping its reward. Other times we are simply living out lives in a broken world. So when we are charged for tax evasion it’s a case of the former. When we get cancer, it’s the latter. Job helps us to understand this better too.

I wonder whether that can be the rub for eating disorders. Because if we say that it is more akin to the first example, we are saying that it is all chosen, rebellious behaviour. And I don’t think that is right- at least in part because I see the actions of others around me- they can begin to restrict food intake to exert some kind of control, but it doesn’t become an all consuming passion, and I’m convinced that is not because in that regard they are any less sinful, but a combination of situation, personality and faulty thinking lead some into the snare and trap of an ED.

Yet on the other hand, if we say it is just like the latter, we deny that while there is complicated faulty thinking and hard wiring going on, that there is some choice in behaviour and actions. Incredibly difficult, yes but the anorexic can chose to eat, despite the internal dialogue and fears. The bulimic can chose not to purge, despite the fear and shame and desire to numb pain and uncomfortable emotions. The overexerciser can chose not to run for 2 hours but to sit with the overwhelming anxiety and flood of feelings. Yet for them to do that is often so very difficult- in a way that those who have never been in that headspace find impossibly hard to understand. The agony of an internal dialogue that screams at you that you are a fat, lazy b**ch. That you don’t deserve to eat. That you are so worthless and hopeless that it would be better for everyone if you starved to death quickly. That tells you that it’s not really a problem and that you are making more of it than you need to, so it is actually the right thing to lie when someone asks if you’ve eaten. That tells you that if you just work harder, read your bible more, pray better that it will be fixed. You get where I am going.

So where does that leave us- as you said, both sick and a sinner. It’s only because we live in a sinful world that our thinking can become so marred and ugly. But yet it is my own personal sinfulness that is also at work. To emphasize one at the expense of the other is so damaging- because it either absolves me of all responsibility or else heaps all the blame on me – neither if which are true.

How thankful am I that the one who works in me is the Lord and giver of life, who raises the dead to life and is doing a mighty work in me by the power of his spirit to recreate a precious child into his image and likeness.

Amen, sister.

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