Jan Johnson
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Surrendering Hunger

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Surrendering Hunger
by Jan Johnson

Paraclete Press, 2009


Those of us struggling with food issues, compulsive eating, or compulsive dieting, know that working through these things is not a quick process. It doesn't happen in a week or a month or even a year.  It doesn’t happen after a visit to a dietician or going to weekly support group meetings. . We work on these issues every day, several times a day.   We are on a journey.

The meditations in this book are designed to add strength and hope to the daily journey.. I have based them on verses found throughout the Bible because my own walk has awakened me spiritually to God as the loving parent presented there.

If you're a little fuzzy on the spiritual-growth terms used, the glossary defines some of those, too. If perhaps you once had faith in God but now you're not sure, this book allows you to take a second look at faith and the nature of God's character.

I have used the masculine pronouns he, him, and his throughout this book to refer to God because adequate pronouns do not exist. The Bible says that God's image is both male and female (Genesis 1:27), so I believe that God's personhood is also both male and female. I regret limiting God by using only masculine pronouns, but I trust that "he" understands and I hope you do, too.

Do I Trust God?

And the Lord God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die!'—genesis 2:17

From the beginning, eating has been a problem for humans. But in the garden and even now the problem is much deeper. I'm not sure whom I trust and don't trust My impression of God is so distorted that I don't trust God easily. Can I trust God to love me as I am? To value me in spite of my failures?

I have allowed other powers in this world to tell me what God is like. Teachers and friends valued outward actions instead of inward motivations; parents, being only human, did not portray the unconditional love of God. I need to know God better and find out what he's really like. As I do this, I can put my trust in God who, most of all, deserves my trust.

Thank you, God, help me put my trust in you and brush away all those other images of you.

The core issue in my life is not my eating problem but my lack of trust in God.

 DAY 2
I Didn't Do It!

The man said, "The woman you put here with meshe gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it"... The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate'.' —genesis 3:12

I have been like the man in this passage—putting the blame on someone else. I can take responsibility for my compulsive overeating, my short temper, and my laziness.

I see the results of blaming others:

    • blaming others distracts me from examining my own defects of character;

    • blaming the same people over and over makes me dislike them more;

    • blaming others keeps my life in an uproar; it robs me of any serenity I have.

For my own good, I stop blaming and start admitting when I'm wrong.

God, help me recognize when I blame others, and help me admit my own fault in the matter.

Time spent blaming is time wasted.

Releasing the Anger

Then the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?... [sin] desires to have you, but you must master it"—Genesis 4:6-7

I'm like Cain when I'm angry. I try to bury my anger and put on a happy face. But like Cain, my face is downcast and I can't seem to shake it unless I work through it. But that is too difficult, so I secretly numb my anger by overeating or starving. Then I can put the happy face back on for a while, although I never know when my anger will leak.

God intervened to help Cain deal with his anger. I often feel the same nudge from God myself. I'm learning that when this happens I can work through my anger in ways that don't hurt anyone else. I talk it out with a friend or at a support group, I journal about it, or I take one of my rather loud prayer walks. Then I've released it and I'm free of my anger and my need to overeat or deny myself excessively.

Thank you for prompting me to surrender my anger to you.

To admit and then let go of anger is to find life, a day at a time.

 DAY 4
Getting Beyond Myself

... and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.—genesis 12:3

Am I working on this area of my life just so I can look good and impress others? Is my goal to have a nice life and not be a pain in the neck to anyone? Do I exist only to look within myself all day?

Yes, I need to look within myself, but also beyond myself. I see that God put me on earth to benefit other people. I tried to help others in the past, but my obsession with food handicaps me. I thought more about satisfying my neediness than how I could serve others. My prayers were filled with pleas to relieve my own problems rather than  inquiries about how I could follow God's will in every aspect of my life.

As I surrender to God, I rediscover God's purposes for my life because he teaches me how to get my needs met in healthy ways. I'm free to truly care about other people.

God, help me see that I am distracted by my weight problems instead of being
challenged to serve you with my whole life.

Self-improvement is never a big enough reason to change; fulfilling God's purposes is.

Shortcuts Can Get Me Lost

Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman's son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac. —genesis 21:10

I want to feel better and look better, but I don't want to give up my own desires regarding food. Isn't there a shortcut? I wonder.

Abraham tried to take a shortcut to God's will by having a son, Ishmael, with a slave woman. When Ishmael made life miserable for Abraham's later son, Isaac (the son God intended Abraham to have), Ishmael had to leave.

My eating problem is my Ishmael. It is my scheme to manage pain, feel better, and perform well in the chaos of Me. But it is an unhealthy way to live, and I have to get rid of it.

Even though I may take the long way around to maintain a proper weight, I benefit so much from it I find healthy ways to relate to God, others, and myself. I find my Isaac, God's true path for me.

Once again, I give my compulsions to you and ask for healthier ways to deal with life.

Daily I surrender my destructive shortcuts to God.

Does God Love People who Make Mistakes?

.. .do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there.... Then God opened. [Hagar's] eyes and she saw a well of water. —genesis 21:17, 19

Will God help me get out of this mess I've made? No, I don't deserve it

But God helps those who mess up, too. Hagar was grieving and dying of thirst in the desert because she had made the worst of a bad situation. But God provided a well for her and her son. Even though she was more than partly at fault, he put the well there for her.

I am like Hagar. I am more than partly at fault for my being overweight (or underweight) I have isolated myself; I have tried  to work it out on my own; I have misled others about my problem. Even though I am guilty of these things, God is still there for me. I don't have to be one hundred percent innocent for God to rescue me.

God, I am grateful that you take care of me and meet my needs even when I mess up.

God loves because he's faithful, not because I'm innocent.

A Promise in Stone

This heap [of stones] is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you.... —genesis 31:52-53

Are promises made to be broken? I have broken so many promises to myself to diet or to eat properly or to exercise more. I know the pain of broken promises.

One recovering manipulator, Jacob, and his enemy, Laban, set up a pile of stones to cement their promise not to harm each other. My friends who are struggling with food issues (some of whom may be in my support group) become witnesses of what I commit myself to do and not do. I promise them that I will make an effort to eat sensibly and make healthy choices.   I promise to pray for everyone in the group every day, I promise to start exercising. Their simple presence in my life, like the pile of stones, reminds me of my promise in a concrete way. If I fail, I have these human witnesses to forgive me and help me start over.

Please give me the strength to use the powerful tool of accountability.

Accountability is teamwork, and it puts more strength on my side.

Regret Reduction

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob's hip so that his hip was wrenched [Jacob] was limping because of his hip.—genesis 32:24-25, 31

Like others who have trafficked in eating issues, I have done a miserable disservice to my body. Like Jacob, I am limping. My metabolism is slowed so that weight doesn't come off or stay off easily. My junk-food eating has sped along my hypoglycemia. These limps aren't endearing to me, but I don't regret them either. They are memorials to the great battle I am fighting. They hint at how much more damaged I could be if I don't continue to surrender food to God.

My battle wounds are signs that I am a seasoned person who has acquired wisdom the hard way. I have struggled with God, with others, with food, and with a culture that worships food and thinness. I have overcome because I have surrendered to God my valiant attempts to win the wrestling match with food.

God, help me see my wounds as reminders of how far I've come.

I can live with the negative physical effects of my past eating habits and not resent them or beat myself up over them.  Tomorrow is a new day.

Becoming Willing to Forgive

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done....—genesis 50:19-20

Surrender involves forgiving those who have intentionally harmed me. At first I may forgive because it's the smart thing to do. I know that if I hold grudges, I will overeat or starve to relieve the bad feelings my grudges produce.

As I progress in surrendering my life to God, I see why I'm so unwilling to forgive others: I don't trust God to keep me from further harm. In today's verses, Joseph trusted God and forgave his brothers because he could see how God's plan had worked to benefit everyone. Even if I can't see a master plan, I can trust the Master to reroute someone else's devious plan to my advantage. I surrender my bitterness, not because I trust the person I forgive, but because I trust God.

Help me face my grudges and bitterness and turn them over to you, God.

Today I trust God with my bitterness.


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