Jen Matthews

Oxford, UK

No longer ashamed

I was about 15 and had just been out to dinner with some friends at one of those 'all you can eat' Chinese buffet restaurants. I had eaten a lot and felt really full and guilty. I was angry with myself for being over-indulgent and greedy. I felt ashamed of myself, ashamed of my body and the way I looked. I also felt like God would be angry with me. I had become a Christian and had read in the Bible about how being a Christian resulted in people living good, self-controlled and humble lives. I developed a mindset and a way of living which mixed together wanting to please God with fears around my body image and a desire to be the perfect weight.

For quite a few years I obsessed about my weight and restricted what I ate. My friends and family were worried about my health, but I couldn't see the problem. I was scared of gaining weight. I was also scared about not being a 'good girl' in the eyes of God. One day, a Christian friend spoke to me about how God had 'freed' her from an eating disorder. I hadn't thought about what was going on with me in those terms, but I came to a realisation that I was trapped in this way of being and definitely did not feel free.   

Slowly I realised that God saw everything in me - all of the messy bits - and that I couldn't hide or put on a perfect exterior.  God tells people to come to Him as they are and to receive His love and forgiveness.   It felt really exposing to think that God could see all of me, and vulnerable to admit that I had an unhealthy relationship with food. But as I began to admit these things to God and to myself, I was released from shame and striving for goodness.

Jesus says that He takes away our shame. I still struggle at times with some of my old ways of thinking, but I have a deep sense of God's love for me that enables me to really enjoy food. I am no longer trying to win God's favour, but instead have a relationship with Him.     

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