Here’s what I think people (including me!) want to hear. A short explanation of what eating disorders are and who they impact. A description of the warning signs. The names of specialists who’ll deal with the messy bits. A list of practical suggestions on how to support those affected. The problem – and then the solution.
I’ve got these things in my notes. That’s what people expect and that’s what’s easiest to give.
But it’s really not enough.
Last time I looked, my idols didn’t respond to good sense. Think about it. You’re in the grip of something bigger than you; something that gives you life and purpose and identity and control. It makes you powerful and it sets you apart. It’s your secret and you’ll kill anyone who tries to rip it from your breast. Now tell that thing that if you put on weight people will ‘worry less’ and you’ll have ‘more energy’. Tell it to eat a piece of cheese and start to love itself. Tell it to keep a journal and burn some candles. And watch as it chokes itself laughing and tells you to go to hell.
Practical advice is useful, but it doesn’t reach the heart. It might curb the excesses of your behaviour, but it leaves you the same – or at best, a higher-functioning sinner. A church building doesn’t make our meetings Christian. And if all we’re offering is worldly wisdom, then let’s leave it to the experts: they have more resources and can do a far better job. Plus, eating disorders are physical or mental conditions, right? Entirely separate from soul care, (whatever that is).
I’m being flippant, but there’s a serious point. Jesus isn’t just a nice add-on for people who have got it together. He’s everything – or He’s nothing at all. What we offer to those with eating disorders is what we first receive for ourselves: a Person, not a programme.