This past weekend, I was blessed beyond measure with the opportunity to further my connections, my knowledge, my ambitions, and above all, my faith.
I traveled to Nashville, Tennessee for the 10th Hungry for Hope Conference hosted by the Christian nonprofit for eating disorder and body image healing, Finding Balance .
To put it lightly, the whole weekend was utterly surreal. At times, I have to keep reminding myself that it actually happened. It was like I was on my own little mountaintop in Franklin, surrounded by people who think and speak like me. It was inspiring. It was motivating. It was humbling…and I want to remember it fully. Not only do I simply want to remember this incredible experience, but I want to apply it. I want to use it, take it back home with me, and expand on it. The mission of Finding Balance is so vital—a center for Christ-Centered connection, community and healing. This summit is currently the only Christ-centered conference of its kind in the nation.
My reasons for attending this conference were multifold:
I wanted to be a part of an event that combined my two top passions of faith and eating disorder recovery.
I wanted to connect with other like-minded professionals and survivors.
I wanted to learn from strong faithful leaders in this field.
I wanted to get a taste of this work and see if I really could picture myself working in the field.
And of course I wanted to escape my busyness to find the Lord there, and receive clarity and peace from him.
It is safe to say that all of these things were manifested over the course of this weekend.
The Lord was definitely present in that small little factory in Franklin. A few years ago, I never would have traveled all the way to another state to walk into a room full of strangers and purposely immerse myself in a subject area that was once so painfully personal. But that just goes to show how powerful God’s grace is and how capable His healing is. Never once was I triggered by listening to the difficult stories of other ED warriors or from receiving teachings about mental health treatment. Instead, I was overcome with empathy and compassion. I observed and listened from a redeemed soul as if I were already a licensed professional. I know deep down that this is indeed my mission field, and God has persistently strengthened me and brought me to a place mentally, emotionally and physically where I am ready: I am ready to serve on the other side and not just share my story, but continue it.
I had a deep conversation with God during the worship concert Friday night led by Rita Springer. I began by asking God why I was there. There was of course an obvious excitement of having my niche of people all in one place and intriguing chance to learn more, but originally I was supposed to be on a mission trip in Nicaragua this weekend. That trip ended up being cancelled due to unpredictable civil unrest in the country, which is a tragic occurrence I am placing in the hands of the Lord. Yet even before this official cancellation, I faithfully made the decision to attend this conference after receiving a call from the Lord pulling me to an opportunity within the states. I knew God had opened up this door, but why? Why did He want me there aside from my own interests? And so, God proceeded to speak.
God gave me several answers to my question, which was somewhat unexpected. He revealed the reasons one by one before inviting me into His Word:
I am here to be reminded of the truth.
I am here to receive His love.
I am here to be reminded of how He pursued me and how He saved me. I was reminded of how He shook me with his spirit in high school so I could carry Him with me to college—where He lit a spark inside of me to burst in flame for Him.
I am here because He planted a seed for a lifetime of growing.
“God, you found me…” I cried. “You found me amidst my confusion and darkness.”
“Of course I did,” He answered. “Now, what are you going to do with Me?”
At this moment, I honestly didn’t know how to respond to God’s question. That was the answer I hoped He would blatantly put before me. A little disappointed in my lack of spiritual discernment, I remembered a piece of advice that a keynote speaker had made that morning: “Steward the words of God,” she encouraged. In other words, go back to the truth.
Realizing I had this truthful blueprint right at my disposal, I reached into my backpack and pulled out my bible; my small travel bible I carried on-hand in college and that has been with me to Nicaragua and back. I decided to look up the verse printed on the Finding Balance bookmark that was waiting for me on the table that morning. Galatians 5:1 was the scripture, which I admittedly did not have memorized.
Then the word of God spoke:
“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm…and no longer submit to the yoke of slavery…” (Gal 5:1)
I underlined this powerful verse which began my reading quest through each underlined verse in my bible through the book of Ephesians.
“What am I going to do with You, Lord?” I stuttered. “What am I going to do in response to Your reckless pursuit for me? This…this is what I will do, Lord…
I will stand FIRM in freedom.
I will no longer submit to the yoke of slavery. My eating disorder enslaved me God, but YOU have set me free. I will live freely for You, Lord.”
So why else am I here?
I am here to celebrate freedom.
I am here because I can feel God here.
I am here because I am Hungry for Hope.
I hope for a life of freedom for others.
I hope for a future for me somewhere in this field.
I hope in a GOD who heals.
I hope in HIS divine plan.
I hope for healing for others.
I am here so that my empty cup would be filled with the fullness of God.
At this moment I glanced up at the worship lyrics projected on the screen:
“Make me your vessel,
Make me an offering,
Make me whatever You want me to be…”
I kept expressing that word “want” to God. I have been telling Him that I want to work in the field of eating disorders someday. I just have been scared that my wants may not be His wants. But in that moment, God reminded me that He lives inside of me. He reminded me that I am free, and therefore free to make decisions and go after what I want. I am no longer conformed to the yoke of slavery. Because of Christ, I am free to want. And with Him within me forever, I don’t need to be afraid of wanting the wrong things.
“Lord, please let my desires match your desires, because you live inside of me. I am yours, Lord, living in a new life of freedom. I am free now … free to be whatever YOU want me to be. I’m free to choose, free to want, and free to dream. I choose YOU, Lord, each and every day. I want to make you proud and I dream of an abundant life with you. Because of you, I will NEVER return to a yoke of slavery. Even if I pursue your work in this field, God, I need not fear of falling behind bars again. I know you will take my burden, Lord. I know the challenges come after the vision, but that You are greater. I know that wherever I go, Lord, I am YOURS.”
And so, I continue this walk as He shines the lamp for my feet. Slowly but surely lighting up my path. I may be hesitant about my next steps but God is always sure.
With this light, I have highlighted several points which I hope to take away from this incredible weekend and use in my life back home. It is my honor to share these reflections with you. My prayer is that the Lord would open your hearts to what He wants you to see, hear, and feel.
Hungry for Hope 2018 Takeaways:
- This event was real. My connections were real. My encounters with God were real. My visions about future goals were real. My emotions were real. God’s truths are real.
- I am free to live this life in joy, in peace, and with enthusiasm. I am free to chase after my dreams.
- Identity in Christ is the foundation of our being. Rediscovering this identity is the first step in the healing process.
- When we re-establish our attachment to God and thus to our true self, all the other pieces will begin to re-attach
- God is the only One who has the true power to heal. But He can use us as his vessels for healing
- Science and wisdom of the biological, psychological and physiological functions come from the Creator of this universe (Heb 11:2)
- God himself is in fact a relationship in perfect union (the Trinity). He created us in His image of having a mind, a body and a spirit. We cannot neglect any one part. God wants us to be intimately connected with Him.
- Coming into alignment with God involves you seeing yourself as worthy enough to receive His healing
- Sometimes behavior change is not sufficient for lasting change. We must spend time with the One who made us and who can change our hearts, and therefore our minds and our behaviors following.
- “What we fear determines what we trust. What we trust we glorify, and what we glorify we herald.” -Kelly Needham
- “Hoping in the Lord is not naive, but a lifesaver. Hoping in the Lord is not weak, but brave.” -Rachel Hockett
- Proceed with God by looking back on the truth of His word and the unforced rhythms of grace
- The Bible does not just call us to live out of scarcity. You must first accept the fullness of God. You must first love yourself. In order for you to “deny yourself” as scripture encourages, you must first find your true sense of self. You cannot lose something you do not have.
- Practice discerning “description vs. prescription” when reading God’s word
- “Jesus did not come to make you nice—He came to make you NEW” -Jimmy Needham
- Sometimes the purpose of a season is all about simply building your faith and becoming closer to God
“Then you will know the TRUTH, and the truth will set you FREE” ~John 8:32
“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for; the conviction of things not seen” ~Hebrews 11:1