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Dec21ThuWhen I felt overwhelmed and defeated by an eating disorder, God renewed my hope. December 21, 2017 by Kali Burrows
In October 2016, I was a chaperone for a youth retreat at Camp Sunrise in British Columbia. At the final chapel service, the speaker said something that grabbed my attention. “God is telling me there are people in this room who are broken-hearted, and have been crying out to him for help. I’d like you to stand up.” My heart started pounding. I usually shy away from moments like this, afraid of being vulnerable. But I slowly stood up.
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I was born into a big family in the small town of Campbell River, B.C. My parents are Salvation Army officers, and I have always known Christ as my Saviour, Father and friend. But adjusting to new people and places as my parents moved appointments wasn’t easy. And, as many people do, I experienced hurt in different ways. At a young age, I began struggling with depression and disordered eating.
I grew unhappy and anxious about the thought of going to church, and found it difficult to trust those closest to me who wanted to help. This eventually led to partying, unhealthy relationships, isolation, a problem with lying and a serious eating disorder.
In November 2015, I entered a faith-based, residential program for young women facing life-controlling issues. I graduated the next summer with healthy coping skills, a new understanding of forgiveness and grace for others and myself, and the truth that there was hope for my future. I was thankful for this first step in healing, and I was excited to move forward and away from my past.
But when I found myself in the hospital a month later, the hope I had found was lost in a sea of discouragement and disappointment. I felt defeated and broken. I began crying out to God, telling him I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, and asked him to help, heal and speak to me.
So when the chapel speaker asked us to stand, I slowly got to my feet. He told us to put our hands out in front of us, and then to our hearts, allowing God to heal them. When I put my hands on my heart, I experienced a feeling I’ve never had in my life—a burning sensation that seeped throughout my whole body. It was the Holy Spirit, healing the heaviness that I’d been carrying for so long. Through tears, I was overcome with a deep sense of joy and peace.
Afterward, one of the campers, a fairly new Christian, came to speak with me. I assumed she needed advice or someone to pray with; instead, she told me God had something more to tell me. “He wants to free you from the void of authenticity you’ve been feeling,” she said. I had also been praying about my desire to be authentic in my relationships and with my story, but my need for control and struggle with perfectionism often got in the way. We both cried as we realized the significance of what God was doing, not only for me, but for so many other teens and young adults in the room.
As I told family and friends about that night, I couldn’t contain my joy and new-found hope— hope not in me or my plans, or in other people, but in God. As I have put my full trust in him, my faith has deepened. Although I’ve continued to face challenges this year, I am reminded of the promise of the Holy Spirit. I am not alone in my brokenness.
I have had incredible parents, mentors, pastors and friends speak into my life over the years and each of them has allowed me to step into the gifts God has given me. Working at Camp Sunrise, and now for the youth department at divisional headquarters, has given me the courage to talk about Jesus, form new and unlikely friendships, do things that challenge me, mentor others and share my story.
God has given me a loving corps family, Boundless Vancouver, where I am able to be my authentic self. Church has become a place of growth, safety, encouragement and life. I have continued to learn the importance of surrender, generosity and mission as I have connected with my Infinitum community and hub group (infinitumlife.com).
When I have moments of fear, doubt and brokenness, I am reminded of David’s honesty in the Psalms: “I cried out, ‘I am slipping!’ but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer” (Psalm 94:18-19 NLT).