I’ve been thinking a lot lately about wake up calls. No, not the kind you’d request during a hotel stay, but instead the moment when something happens to you that changes your life forever. Mine occurred several years ago with a smack upside the head. Yes…you read that right but it’s not what you think. Allow me to explain…
I’ve written about my experience with an eating disorder and its ups and downs in relation to my mood swings. Several years ago when I stopped using alcohol as a coping mechanism and first received my bipolar diagnosis, my eating disorder decided to show up as a replacement coping skill. I’ve always had ED tendencies and thoughts but I have experienced many years on and off throughout my life when — including now — I did not act upon those urges.
However, one evening when my husband had to work late, I found myself alone on the couch, after putting my two toddlers to bed, facing the beginning of what was about to become a doomed rollercoaster ride. I knew from my racing thoughts what was in store for me and as my mind and body became restless the thought of escaping unscathed seemed absurd.
So what did I resort to in order to combat the inevitable? Food. I ate whatever I could get my hands on. I don’t specifically remember much except that it was a binge of monumental proportions that I wished would last forever. But of course eventually it had to end and when I stopped eating the comfort I had momentarily experienced vanished.
It didn’t take long for guilt and disgust to consume me. I panicked as I thought about my weakness and all of the calories that I had stuffed into my body. It had been many years since I had purposefully thrown up — mostly because I was determined to be healthy during my pregnancies and while nursing. But here I was alone with nothing to stop me.
I’ll spare you the details but suffice it to say it was a very desperate and self destructive moment. When I was finished I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I was instantly horrified to the point I began gasping for air. Most of the blood vessels in my eyes had burst. My eyes were painfully swollen and black and blue marks faintly littered my skin.
Immediately I panicked. What the hell did I just do? What was I thinking? What if one of the kids had seen me? How will I ever explain this to my husband? Did I truly hate myself that much? Am I that out of control? What if my heart had exploded? What if I had died choking on my own vomit? I was frozen in shock staring at my reflection trembling with self hatred and regret.
Suddenly a thought interrupted the panic from out of nowhere. “God just smacked you upside the head.” It startled me at first but then I knew with every fiber of my being it was true. Now don’t get me wrong. I do not believe God actually hurt me or caused those injuries to happen. God does not do that. That is not who He is. However, that thought relieved me because right then I knew He was there trying to protect me. There was no way around the fact that what I had done was terrible. The evidence was in the mirror.
God speaks to us in a still, small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-13) But what I always ignore is the fact that it is up to me to listen for it. The majority of the time I’m stubborn, prideful and quite frankly don’t want to stop and listen. I prefer to take matters into my own hands. But where did that philosophy get me? On my hands and knees on the bathroom floor while my kids slept because I didn’t take a moment to simply ask God for help. To be completely honest I didn’t want His help and He knew it. He could have prevented my eyes from exploding but He knew I’d only continue right back down the destructive path I had left behind many years ago. He knew there were so many wonderful opportunities in store for me that I could not yet see, but it was up to me to choose the right path and I clearly demonstrated I was unable to choose wisely.
The situation could have been so much worse. Medical complications from bulimia include torn esophagus, arrhythmia, weakened heart muscle and heart failure to name just a few. God saw where I was headed if He didn’t intervene. He knew I needed a serious wake up call. He knew I needed hard core evidence that I was making a terrible choice and I am so grateful for that. My ‘smack upside the head’ was God watching over me, knowing what would happen; not stopping it, but allowing it in order to wake me up before something totally devastating happened.
Never once did I think God was punishing me. When everything became real in that moment when I was forced to face myself, something profound happened that changed me. I saw everything — all the consequences that would one day be my reality if I didn’t decide to change right then and there.
I looked as though I had lost a boxing match. I soon had to face my husband and I had to figure out a way to explain to my kids why I looked this way. Those tasks seemed impossible. I was completely broken. I started to cry, finally asking God for help while promising to never binge and purge again.
This time it was not an empty promise. I chose to heed the warning that my wake up call delivered and I have not had the urge to ever do that again. There have been times since then when I have wanted to purge, but the memory of my reflection in the mirror reminds me of my promise and I know without a doubt that God has taken that choice off the table for me.
I’m not sure why this has been on my mind or why I felt it was necessary to write about. Maybe to get me to stop and consider current areas of my life in which I need a wake up call? Where have I pushed God’s love and guidance aside and decided to go my own way? What have been the consequences? Do I really want to keep shoving God aside? Have there been other wake up calls in my life that I haven’t recognized or refused to listen to? Do I need to revisit them?
Whatever the reason (and I know for sure there is one) I am certain God already knows it. He wants to draw me closer to Him so I can experience His love and protection. Just like the parent who has to watch their child fall in order to learn how to walk but stays close by to prevent catastrophe — God is right beside us knowing what’s best for us and when it’s necessary to step in. Sometimes we don’t realize it until we grow up, look back and see how obvious it is. I’d bet if we all reflect on the defining moments of our lives with an open mind we’d clearly see God at work trying to get our attention.
In what area of your life do you need a wake up call? Where do you need God to intervene? What prevents you from asking for help? Then the million dollar question is — When He calls you to wake up will you listen?