When I woke up on Sunday, I knew this day held great hope for me.
Ever since coming out as non-binary and pansexual, the spiritual warfare in my life has been real. By God’s grace and provision, I have been just getting by.
But I knew that this wasn’t all that He intended for me. I’m not to live a life on the defensive, just barely blocking any attack of the enemy on my mind, soul, and body.
Neither am I meant to live merely a life of defensive theology, barely approaching the feast table of the Lord, collecting whatever crumbs I can salvage — but one of abundance, seated among the saints.
Psychologically, coming out is no small task to process. And I had no expectation or sense of preparedness for what would happen next, because the command to do so had only come the night before. Talk about short notice!
For the next few days, even as people reached out to congratulate me, or to thank me for encouraging them, I experienced a wrenching anguish was not fully my own.
I would weep for hours, with the pain of rejection tearing at my soul. On behalf of queer folk made unwelcome in the church, those told they were unlovable by God, and those persecuted and made into objects of hate — I cried out.
I also felt immensely alone. Although I was met with support, I was not met with solidarity. Some people simply didn’t know how to respond to my declaration of faith in an identity widely perceived as incompatible.
After going to my first LGBTQ event, I did not feel like I was really one of them — neither are there many faithful Christians who share my experience and who have not been chased out of church. Somehow, my task was to be the bridge between these two worlds.
I had few peers at the intersection of faith and queerness. Thank God I had any at all, because the minority stress would be too much to bear alone.
Resolved to spend the rest of Lent in adoration of Easter, I found that though I took hold of the joy of the season, the attacks did not subside.
My fatigue had become so extreme that I spent most of my time horizontal. Physically, my body had become limp. I could fall asleep anywhere, at any time, and staying in public spaces did not help me stay upright or awake.
One time, I even found myself lying down (asleep) between two library shelves, thankfully unnoticed, for the better part of an hour.
Out of necessity, I had to duck out of my classes to rest in a separate room (not that it was more comfortable), coming back just before the lecture finished. I put several assignments and a midterm on hold. On a good day, I could clock two hours of productive work.
The biggest red flag though, was around food. Unnoticeable at first, I began to skip meals left and right, until I was essentially starving myself.
I could eat again at any time, I unconcernedly thought. But as my restriction fed into my fatigue, and vice versa, I began to wear my belt as more than just a fashion statement. I didn’t need to monitor my weight to realize something had gone quite wrong.
My therapist gave me the best counsel I could have received at that time: to cry out to God under my distress. Otherwise, I faced imminent implosion.
“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth;— Job 7:11 (ESV)
I will speak in the anguish of my spirit;
I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.”
So I did pour forth complaint, groaning for the impossibility of the task before me, the burden of a broken world, the uncertainty of my identity.
The only anchor holding me fast was the faithfulness of God, and who He says I am.
Like I was saying, on Sunday morning, I believed the day held high hopes for me. God poured comforts into my lap from the very get-go.
Early in the morning, I received two major encouragements, one after another. By the time United Pursuit’s “Never Going Back” showed up at the top of my Daily Mix, I was already waiting in great anticipation for the day.
That day, the sermon was on hope, and the passage was from Matthew 6:25-34.
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Here we were, coming around full circle. As I was working through my last relapse over two months ago, I had visited this same passage.
Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
There is more to life, wrote my best friend in the hallway leading to my room. My heart broke, remembering the tears in her eyes as I struggled to choke down a minimal meal of liquids and vegetables.
Indeed, there is so much more to life than the physical body, and the food that we put in it. Why worry about these things, when God has fashioned our lives for so much MORE?
I don’t have a problem with understanding these truths. When I put on my belt, I also remind myself to put on the girdle of truth, then the breastplate of righteousness.
Being willing then, to walk in freedom, why did I still gag at the sight and mention of food, like there was a lock around my chest?
*For the sake of privacy, I will be using code names (Ja, Se, Jn, En) when detailing my process of deliverance.
Ja took me to dinner, and I held a staring contest with the scoop of rice that was before me.
Giving up, I brought the plate back to my room and lay in bed.
This couldn’t continue. Even if I only took one bite, I knew it would be better than skipping yet another meal that day.
But the first bite felt no different than bringing dirt to my lips.
My body began to convulse, and many long minutes passed before I was still again. Just picking up the spoon again for the next bite sent me into another wave of gagging, and I had to try multiple times before I could bring another bite into my mouth. It was repulsive, and my non-existent hunger could not overcome the activation energy I needed to keep going.
Finally, I reached out to my prayer community, confessing my weakness and admitting my need for support and prayer.
The sun was beginning to set outside my window, painting the sky in beautiful pastels. For the first time in months, I pulled out my violin, and after tuning and warming up, I began to play along with my worship playlist.
A few songs later, I heard a knock on my door. Se had been chasing the same sunset I was watching, and had ended up at my dorm!
Se and I chatted a bit, then we made our way upstairs to Ja and Jn’s room. After the three of them created a meal accountability schedule with me, En also joined us to study.
We brought our emails, books, essays, and Wellesley work ethic, and sat in piano music silence for well over an hour.
But we were stirred to prayer when we got an urgent text: our sister was in the ER.
And after we had covered her with prayer, I began to wonder aloud if my afflictions were demonic.
Already poised to action, the four surrounded me, and prayed in tongues for a few minutes. (Just by “coincidence,” I was in a room full of people with their own prayer languages!)
Se saw a clock stopped at 1 o’clock. “When the relapse/recovery cycle never seems like it will end, it can actually stop.”
So, we proceeded with the process of deliverance. “If nothing happens, that’s great! But if you do have a demon, you’re safe, because you have the Holy Spirit.”
Dang, I was nervous that I might actually have a demon. But I knew that I had not been given a spirit of fear.
(Looking back, I realize how the whole time, our entire situation was within God’s control. His peace is so tangible — we weren’t scared of some wimpy demon!)
The book led me through a process of declaring, confessing, repenting, forgiving, and commanding the demon to come out!
Then Ja advised me to not speak, to keep breathing, and to keep my airways clear. When they laid hands and began praying for me, I began to moan, gag, and convulse, in every order and combination possible.
NOTE: I would to make it clear that I was fully conscious and in reasonable control of my body, and that I could speak if I wanted to, because I was not possessed, and this was not an exorcism. I was allowing the demon to manifest, so that we might expel it from my body.
As followers of Jesus, we have all been given authority over demons, and they are compelled to obey what we ask.
By Christ’s authority, Se and the others commanded the demon to answer how long it had been there. For a while, it seemed like we were getting nowhere.
Ayyyyyye— ayyy, ayyy, eeeee!
It was stubborn, but eventually, we agreed that it sounded like “eight.”
“Well, I’m twenty, and it started when I was twelve, so that’s eight years.” The answer it provided was in accordance with my personal biography.
They asked if it had been eight years.
Ueeeh, wahh— yyye, yehhhhh… Yea!
Then they asked for its name.
Ahhhhhh…. aaay! No-no-no-no….. ai, ai, ai, noooooo!
“Yes, tell us, we command you to speak, in Jesus’ name.”
We didn’t want to assume it was anorexia, and not anxiety or hate, or any other “a” or “h” word.
Finally, one asked. “Are you the spirit of anorexia?”
Brrr! Wauuu… pfff! Ye-ye-yeeaa — ahh!
Man, I was tired. My abs had been contracting for over an hour, my throat felt hoarse and dry from hollering and gagging, and it was late in the night. “Should we keep going?”
Se suggested that we go at least until 1 o’clock, as she had seen in the vision. There were only 48 minutes left, so we were making good time.
We all took a water break. They then proceeded to cast the demon out through authoritative prayer.
More heaving. A good bonding experience, I thought. Can’t go back now!
I continued to confess, and to break agreement with any lie I may have partnered with.
Things were beginning to slow down. Ja had me repeat these words after her:
“I renounce the lie that my worthiness is dependent upon my appearance or performance. I renounce purging or starving as a means of cleansing myself of evil, and I announce that only the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ can cleanse me from my sin. I accept the reality that there may be sin in me because of the lies I have believed and the wrong use of my body, but I renounce the lie that I am evil or that any part of my body is evil. I announce the truth that I am totally accepted by Christ just as I am.”
Then we called her father, and he led me through another prayer. “If you could speak these words with no problem, there’s no way you can still have demonic activity within you. Because when Jesus approached demons, they were terrified, and you had no such reaction. So, I think that it has been cast out, and that you have been delivered.”
Praise the Lord! The spirit of anorexia, which had been inside of me for eight years, had left me, and (I have good reason to believe) for good.
But was it really?
Jn passed me a packet of almonds, and I held three of the nuts in my hand. It would have been impossible for me to eat them earlier that evening. Would I dare try now? What if nothing had changed?
After giving thanks to God and putting one in my mouth, I realized that it was indeed appetizing, and that I wanted to reach in the bag for more.
We took “communion” with cookies and juice, and anointed our hands for physical protection, before parting ways.
Here I am now. It’s the beginning of a new week. And my face is beaming with joy.
Sure, my digestive system and physical health may take some time to recover. I might be sleep deprived, with lots of work to catch up on. I may be tempted to return to my old ways, but I am sealing that door shut by the help of the Holy Spirit.
Sunday was indeed eventful. God loves using the Lord’s Day! But clearly, so much of the timing and circumstances were orchestrated weeks, even years (and biblically, an eternity ago), in advance.
And at least for today, I live like the sparrows and lilies of the field. I do not spin nor toil, yet the Lord delights in clothing me with righteousness. He feeds me with satisfaction for my body and soul.
The previous storms of identity crisis are calm. Today, I can just be, and rest in the knowledge that I am loved and accepted, by the blood of Jesus.
What delight, to be the child of the One who made the universe! To acknowledge my body as His handiwork. And to please Him by partaking in His goodness.