Angela says, “So I began to believe that if only I was thin, then I wouldn’t be inferior – if only I was thin, then I wouldn’t be rejected – if only I was thin, then someone would like me, maybe even love me. And so I began trying to starve myself from the age of 12 in a desperate attempt to be loved and to gain acceptance.” Angela eventually found the acceptance she longed for.
I love you just as you are
For many years I struggled with low self-esteem and a poor image of myself. I dreamed about being someone else, I just didn’t want to be me. I looked at myself in the mirror and went away disgusted and without hope. But there was a day when that all changed… I discovered that God truly loved me for who I am. This is my journey from hopelessness to hope and to freedom which I found in Jesus Christ.
Growing up I was raised in a Christian family. My parents would tell me stories about God’s love and the amazing miracles that were performed in Jesus day. They were stories that I enjoyed hearing as a child and I believed with a child-like faith. I believed that stories like these and the miracles I read about were only back in Jesus day. It’s not that anyone told me “oh those sort of things only happened back when Jesus was around” but it was because I never saw or experienced these things in the church I grew up in. So I believed with a child-like faith that he was real but I had never had a personal experience of his power and love. However, when I got to about the age of ten, I began questioning if God was really real. I couldn’t see Him. I had never felt Him. So how could I know whether He was really real?
Meeting God for the first time
When I was about 13 years old I experienced the presence of the power of God in my life for the first time. I was just lying on my bed listening to a song. The song lyrics were saying “Who is this king of glory that pursues me with His love, and haunts me with each hearing, of His softly spoken words, my conscience, a reminder of forgiveness that I need. Who is this King of Glory who offers it to me?” I remember that as I listened to that song these questions arose in me, “Who are you God?”, “Who is this King of Glory that they are talking about?”, “If you are real God show me?” – and then as I heard the chorus “His name is Jesus, precious Jesus, the Lord Almighty, the King of my heart the King of Glory”. I began to cry as I felt the presence of God in my bedroom and I knew from that moment on I would never again be able to doubt the existence of God, which turned out to truly be my saving grace in the years to come.
Scared to be myself
For most of my life I was a primarily quiet and shy person. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, but because I had learnt through my life that people couldn’t be trusted, that people would put you down and hurt your feelings. I felt that they didn’t really understand me or care about what I had to say. There were so many experiences of rejection throughout my life which had caused me so much pain that as I got older I began to shut people out. It would take me a lot longer to make friends and open up to people because I was so afraid of getting hurt.
When I was 12 years old my best friend began telling me that I was fat and made jokes about my weight and the way I looked. I thought “this must be why I have always been rejected, the reason why I have always felt inferior to everyone else, it’s because I’m are fat”.
So I began to believe that if only I was thin, then I wouldn’t be inferior – if only I was thin, then I wouldn’t be rejected – if only I was thin, then someone would like me, maybe even love me. And so I began trying to starve myself from the age of 12 in a desperate attempt to be loved and to gain acceptance.
Please don’t look at me
Going into my first year of high school I was very quiet and closed off. I was constantly afraid of what people thought of me. I used to walk looking at the ground, just praying that nobody would notice me, that nobody would see me. I just wanted to disappear because every moment I was around others I felt uncomfortable and judged. Almost every minute of every hour of everyday all I could think about was how I looked and how I needed to lose weight. I needed to be better, I needed to be different, if I could just be perfect then I would be ok. Thankfully – well at the time I believed that it was unfortunately – I had to eat dinner so that my Mum wouldn’t know what was going on.
A lot of people started to tell me that I was losing weight and it sort of made me feel good while it upset me at the same time. I didn’t want anyone to know about my eating disorder, my shameful secret. I was afraid that if they knew they would stop me from starving myself. That was my greatest fear because I was so afraid of being fat. There is also a lot of shame in admitting that you have an eating disorder. Unless you have been through it – it seems impossible to understand. I admit starving yourself seems unimaginable to those who have not suffered from it, yet there are so many women, young girls and even some men that can fall into this trap in order to gain acceptance and approval.
The way I ‘should’ be
There is such a strong push in our society for people to have the right body, the right friends, and the right clothes. I know of guys who work out so much that their doctors advise them not to lift weights any more because they will permanently damage their bodies. The same thing that causes a guy to work out also causes a girl to diet – you want to be accepted – and just as guys want to have the biggest muscles, girls want to have the best figures.
There is something inside each of us that aches to be accepted for who we are. So often we take this longing for acceptance to all the wrong things – instead of taking it to God. God is the only person who can heal your broken heart. He is the only one who can take away the pain. And He is the only one that will ever satisfy your need to be accepted.
You are enough
Acceptance is where you are just yourself, 100% yourself, all your faults, all your weaknesses, all the pain included – and you’re OK the way you are. That’s how we are to God. He knows our hearts, He knows what we’ve done, what has been done to us, where we have been and what we have been through and He says “You are mine and I accept you, just the way you are. I created you, I made you and it was I that formed your heart.”
“You are enough! You were created in my image! I knit you together in your mother’s womb! My Word says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. I know your heart. I know your secret longings and desires. I know where you have been and what you have been through. And you are mine and because you are mine I accept you as you are. Why do you keep seeking the approval of your peers when I am here, waiting for you with outstretched arms.”
How will anyone ever love you?
I came to a point where I was convinced that nobody loved me. I believed that I was so ugly, so forsaken, so nothing that not even God could love me. I hated myself. When I saw myself in a mirror I was disgusted. I felt like I wasn’t enough. I felt like I just didn’t measure up, that I wasn’t good enough. I would cry myself to sleep every night asking God why I had to go on living if all there was in my life was pain. I heard in my mind “if you don’t even like yourself, how will anyone else ever like you? If you don’t even love yourself, how on earth will anyone ever love you?”
I believed that. I’ve never hated anyone or anything as much as I despised myself during that dark time in my life.
I came to a point where I just wanted to die. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t just escape this pain and go to heaven. Yet thankfully I could never harm myself or do anything destructive because even in that time of darkness God’s hand of protection was over me.
You belong to me
I remember one time particularly clearly where I had hardly eaten anything for days. I was so hungry that I ate some chips and the guilt that washed over me was tremendous. I was so disgusted with myself. Disgusted that I had given in, disgusted that I wasn’t strong enough. I remember going to the bathroom and I was going to make myself throw up for the first time. I remember being so upset and as I locked the door behind me a scripture came into my head from out of nowhere “You are not your own, you were bought with a price”. I wanted to inflict pain on myself so much. I wanted to punish my body – I wanted to punish myself – because I hated myself so much. And it was like God was saying “No, I’m not going to allow you to do that to yourself because you are mine”. Looking back I see God’s hand of mercy and grace and love all over that moment.
God knew that I needed to know that He was real to get through what I did. If I hadn’t of I probably would have committed suicide, died as a result of an eating disorder, or at least have been hospitalised because of it. It seems extreme but that was the way I was heading if God hadn’t intervened in my life.
Wanting to die
I remember wanting to die – but I could never do it because murder is a sin – and I believed I’d go to hell if I did. And although my life was dark and despairing at the time something inside me told me that it was nothing compared to the horror that you would face in hell. So many people think that suicide is an escape from their pain – but I knew in my heart because of accepting Christ that you can’t escape pain through death.
A speaker came to one of our school chapels and told us about the amazing miracles that God was performing overseas. He was talking about blind people getting sight, and about laying hands on people and tumours would fall off their body. I was just amazed because I had never heard anything like it before. As I listened the Holy Spirit touched me and I began to cry and cry. I didn’t understand why but it was like at that moment God was beginning to reawaken hope in me. He began to touch my heart. He was beginning to break through those layers of pain.
Something inside of me began to believe that if the God of the universe could perform miracle healings on the outside of these people that maybe he could perform a miracle in me and heal my broken heart.
The guy gave a call for people to come to the front if we felt God touching our hearts. And without hesitation I just stood up, because I didn’t care what my friends thought of me, and I didn’t care about anything around me, because I just knew that I needed a touch of God, that I needed his healing power in my life.
“I love you just as you are”
As I began to walk to the front God whispered into my mind three words … “I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you”… “I love you just the way you are”. I felt God’s love pouring over me in a way that I don’t have words to explain. I was crying and crying because it was so much love that I couldn’t contain it. It’s something that you can’t even imagine. And it all comes from just coming to that point where you just say, “Jesus I surrender it, I lay my life down at your feet, ’cause I can’t make it on my own’. The way that God touches your heart, the way that He transforms you, the way that He does just amazing things in your life is like nothing that you can ever imagine.
As I was standing at the front the girl who had told me that I was fat came up too. She was standing beside me – she had no idea why I was crying but she turned to me and hugged me. This love that was washing over me flowed onto her. In that moment I was able to forgive her – it came easily – all the pain of those words was drained from my life. I had tried so many times to forgive her – but because I still felt the pain in those words I knew in my heart that I had not truly forgiven her. God gave me the love and the grace to forgive her that day because He knew that as long as there was still unforgiveness in my heart I would never truly be healed.
hungry for His presence
Time to let go
Forgiving people that have hurt you deeply isn’t easy – often we want to hold on to what they have done. We don’t want to forgive them because we believe that if we forgive them that it is in some way saying that it didn’t hurt as much as it did, or we feel that it is letting them off the hook for what they have done, or perhaps as in my case we are holding onto that pain to drive us. I’d been using those words to fuel my eating disorder.
I was holding onto the wounds and in that moment where God’s love ran over me He said, “Give it all to me, give me the wounds, give me the pain – surrender your heart to me”. That’s why He died on the cross – His Word says that He bore all of our pain and our iniquities. He died so that we may have life and have it in abundance.
When Jesus died He didn’t die just so that we could be saved and have life; He died so that we can have an abundant life. And that means a life that is free from pain and hurt. Of course things will happen in your life, but God is there so you can give it up to Him, so that you can place it in His hands. You don’t have to carry the pain and the burden.
Time to surrender
God wants you to surrender; just to lay everything in His hands. Then you will experience the power of God, the love of God, and the peace and the joy of God like nothing in this world. Surrendering is one of the bravest and most scary things we can do. It takes an awful lot of courage to let our defences down and give our all to God.
Plans to prosper you and not to harm you
Satan is so terrified of what we can be. When we have the fire of God in us we are unstoppable. When we surrender everything at the feet of our God, He lifts us up to heights that we can’t even imagine and He gives us a plan and a purpose for our life beyond our wildest dreams. This freaks Satan out – he doesn’t want us to become all that we can be. So he wounds us. But just because Satan tries to get in – just because things have happened in your life – it’s not the end.
The Word says, “God works all things together for good for those who are called according to his name”. That means that when we believe God and choose to follow Him, He will make everything in our life work towards good – even our past.
When we give our hearts to Jesus – He will take all the hurt, all the pain and transform it into something good. Bronwyn Healey was a prostitute and a drug addict until God radically turned her life around. God hasn’t made her past disappear – but He has forgiven her and healed her from what happened in her life. Today she has a Brisbane-based ministry that reaches prostitutes, drug addicts and the homeless. God is using her experience to bring people to Christ and to make a difference in this world. When Bronwyn spoke at the Crystal Cathedral her testimony was seen by millions of viewers all around the world. What she went through hasn’t been in vain. God has transformed her life and is now using her troubled past to help others.
I used to hate myself and I used to live in such fear – always afraid of what other people thought of me. I was deeply depressed, bitter, angry and confused. But God has changed all of that in my life. I am happy being who I am and who God made me to be. I no longer wish that I was somebody else. I am no longer afraid of people. I know who I am and who I was made to be – because I know my Creator and little by little He is revealing to me my purpose in life. A God-given destiny beyond our wildest dreams that is available if we choose Him as our Lord and Saviour.
Come to know your Creator (animation)
The Reason (music video)