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  • Writer's pictureLaura Kae

Relapse: an opportunity for God’s grace

Victory! How absolutely incredible it has been to experience victory over one of my adulthood-long struggles. For the last couple years I have rejoiced as I have realized I am free in a way I never knew it was possible for me to be.

You see there is this area of my life I have struggled with for years. It all began as a teenager with a twisted body image. I believed what I was told about my body, which is that though I fit in the same clothes I do now, I was fat. So I began what only could have been unhealthy dieting. I learned to enjoy the feeling of hunger. I guess it made me feel in control. I began to associate it with being good.

The battle changed in my young adult years. Somehow it turned into me being unable to finish a plate of food without a gag reflex when I was under stress. I could eat, as long as I did not finish everything before me. The battle was entirely mental. I knew it, but it did not change my reality. I can still remember the last time I fought that fight. I remember where I was, so I remember it was almost three years ago. God got me through it and helped me finish my meal. It was about the same time I quit my career and began to freelance part-time – often never knowing where my income would come from each month. Often having a base income, but never having a base big enough to pay my bills. Always needing to depend on God to provide.

I stepped into new victory. For the first time in my life, I was able to have a real food budget without starving myself – without quitting eating because of fear or control. Always else my budget had a line for groceries with an amount so high I could never imagine being able to spend it. Without this crutch, I never fared well; so I was joyfully surprised to learn I could actually budget and eat at one time!

Somewhere about this time, I went on my first extended fast. I rejoice I am now able to fast without it becoming a food issue. It can remain a spiritual one. No, I will never be able to go on a bonafide, extended, juice-only fast on account of health issues, but I can go on hard partial fasts, which do the same thing for my heart. It was a huge victory in my life! I am so thankful for it. I must be careful in it, but I am so grateful for the heart changes God has worked in me through fasting.

In all my victory, I began to forget I ever had a struggle. People do that sometimes. Everything is going so smoothly, they forget to do the right things – like put on their seat belts, lock their doors or carry pepper spray. Sometimes they forget to protect themselves. That is what happened to me.

It all started a couple months ago. See, everything in my life has begun to go so well. Well, not literally everything; but many, many things have. I began to be afraid. How was I ever going to maintain following God? How was I ever going to keep up with everything happening? What if God’s promises were true? What if He really did plan to prosper me? What if I kept being successful? What if I was unable to save enough money for a new laptop before my dinosaur crashed? What if in all my job and life transition God quit being enough?

I never really noticed it happen. Probably because I had forgotten it was a struggle. I had begun to stand confidently in my own strength in regards to my eating instead of relying only on His.

Then one day I saw someone I had not seen in about a year. “You have lost a lot of weight” were her first words. I ignored the flag as best I could. I mean I knew some of my clothes were much looser than they used to be, but the dryer just wasn’t doing a good job anymore. (Makes sense to you, too, right?) Then about that time, I talked to someone I had not spoken to in almost a year. They were in on my struggle with food years ago. “How is your eating?” “Good,” I lied through my teeth, while I knew I was lying; but I did not want to let her down or talk about it. I did not need another area of my life to work on.

Then God did the unignorable. He sent me someone to sponsor (mentor), who struggled with food. Now I had to deal with it because it did not take more than two meetings for me to know I was about to become a really big hypocrite unless I started changing my life. I went to the grocery store. I decided to do as my friend and just make one better decision every week. Help the change be manageable.

A week and a half later, I remembered to mention my issue to my counselor – in the last five minutes of the session. She was not at all undisturbed by the ensuing conversation. Neither was I. I love people who can care without trying to fix me or my situation and do so without making me feel less for my struggles. An interesting word kept coming up. I must have said punishment at least five times in those five minutes. In our next session this week, we are scheduled to talk about it. Apparently I believe when life goes well, I need to punish myself for having fun and being happy. When my life is successful, I must be punished for it. This time the punishment manifested itself in my eating or rather lack thereof. I do not deserve good things.

I came home from the session feeling pretty defeated about the situation. There were two things I realized in the first hour or so back at work. One was my processing with God how incredibly weak I am. Can’t there be one issue I do not have? Can’t there be one area of my life in which I am not weak? How am I ever supposed to live a fruitful life in all this weakness? I knew the joyful answer to these questions was the benefit of my incredible weakness is I must walk close by His side. If I do not, my entire life will very quickly become extremely toxic and unpleasant. Mostly my emotions. I hate life without God being what centers my emotions.

There was another celebration in my fight. As I dreaded the weeks of struggle while re-overcoming my eating problem, I realized this time I could step into victory in a moment. I could choose not to fight the battle that never used to be a choice. Five years ago, it was a battle I needed to fight. Today it is one I have already fought. I am not the same as I used to be. I do not know Him or worship Him in the same way.

My victory is not just that for so long I was victorious; but my victory is that when I slip, I can instantly step back into freedom. Guilt and shame do not have to make eating a struggle for months. I can have freedom starting in the moment I realize my bondage.

So I never fought the fight. I just stepped into freedom. I went to the grocery store again, and I was right I could have freedom instantaneously. My God is bigger than all my trust issues. I have most certainly gained weight and eaten three meals a day ever since.

It feels really good to know I am not who I used to be just because for two or three days I acted like I used to act.

Yesterday I had to teach the lesson on relapse at Celebrate Recovery. God always has a sense of humor with timing. There are seven ways CR teaches to guard against relapse. I had so many of them in my life that I became complacent. The one I was missing? Listening to His voice and believing what He says about me. He says I do not have to be punished. Jesus Christ was punished for me. He also does not reward success with punishment but with more reward. It is time I start believing my God!

Have you experienced incredible victory in any areas of your life? When you relapse, are you able to receive God’s grace and turn from your sin? What steps can you take to break the cycle of shame and guilt in your life?

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