After 40 years, God showed up.

So, Jesus and me. We have had a long and winding journey. I followed Jesus as a Christian for 15 years, from age 14-29. Highlights of this time include:

  • Being at church 5-7 days per week during high school
  • Going to a tiny Baptist university in Arkansas
  • Going to Africa as a missionary for two years after college
  • Working at a Baptist college after returning to the States
  • Being a “small group” leader (the group grew to 30) and mentor to younger Christians

I mean, I was IN IT, y’all. I wore shirts like this:

I was Christian. I could talk it. I could walk it. Problem is, I was plagued with doubt for almost all of those years. Knowing how to talk and walk like a good Christian, how to pray and when to put my hands in the air during worship. All of it just made me feel less and less authentic until I was sick of myself.

Everyone said doubts were normal. Every Christian has doubts. But it seemed only doubts of a certain kind or level were acceptable. My doubts felt extreme, unacceptable. I really didn’t know if any of it was real and had grown tired of pretending.

I have a shameful secret (yes, another one).

When I moved to Seattle in 2008, I started out by getting involved with a church and small group. I grew an elaborate crush on the group leader, who showed a modicum of interest in return. For those who have followed this blog, you know that a modicum of interest is WAY more than anything I had experienced before.

We dated for a hot minute, and then he broke my heart by telling me he had been “trying” to like me in a romantic way. I was done. Done doing everything I was supposed to do. Done being a good Christian. Done pretending that I believed God was all I needed. Done forcing myself to figure out how to “feel” God like every other Christian seemed to. Done.

In February 2008, I dumped God. I rejected Christianity. It was the most opportune time, being in Seattle and far away from everyone I knew. I could start over. I could do what I wanted to do, and didn’t have to pretend that I understood what a relationship with God was supposed to be like.

The first thing I did was have sex with a random guy (virginity – gone). Then another one. The second one turned out to be JJ, so basically I had one up on God…see? The moment I do my own thing, it works. I was just fine. I could handle life on my own.

My attitude

I spent summer 2008 trying to secure a full-time advising job in Seattle to no avail. After several final interviews and 2nd place finishes, I was getting BROKE. At the end of my rope, I accepted a position at a for-profit institution in “admissions” (read: sales). It was a terrible fit, but paid well, so see? Again, I’ve got this.

Then, in September 2008, my dad died unexpectedly, leaving me with no parents. I found myself having daily panic attacks. I quit the admissions/sales job and, with a Masters degree and several years’ experience in my field, I took a job shelving books at Barnes & Noble. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. I could just put books on the shelf. Where was God in that? I felt utterly alone.

My grandma was my BFF. She died in her sleep in December 2008. If I didn’t already think life was hopeless, that really put salt in the wound. Clearly, I had made the right decision with God. Without being able to “feel” God before, I certainly couldn’t sense him now.

I spent a full decade (2008-2018) as a prodigal daughter, building my life without God’s input (at least, without soliciting it). Highlights of this time:

  • I moved like a human boomerang between Seattle and Texas a couple of times
  • I dated JJ, who is not a Christian, moved in with him, and married him all without being sure it was the right thing to do most of the time
  • I accepted numerous jobs, promoting and transitioning in advising
  • JJ wasn’t sure he wanted kids, but I basically made him (he’s cool with it now) so I had a baby
  • I earned a doctorate degree in higher education

All things considered, things looked pretty good on the outside most of the time even though I ALWAYS had an empty feeling. Who cared about any of it? What was the point? What if I was wrong about Christianity? It sure seems like there must be something larger, something divine, in all this world. Human bodies are crazy amazing. Nature is awe-inspiring. How did it all just happen without Someone in charge? But who?

How arrogant of me to think that I could figure out God.

How stupid of me to judge whether or not there is a God because of what people do.

I didn’t understand any of it, but I knew that I had never been able to feel God, to hear Him, to “know” He was there like other Christians. So even though there probably was a God, I can’t get to Him. And at this point, I was too ashamed of how I had ditched Him, how I had mocked Him, how I had so intentionally walked away. How could I ever go back? How could I forgive myself? Was there really such a thing as God’s grace that could forgive a decade of wandering from and rejecting Him? I was ashamed and embarrassed at how weak my faith was, how it shattered and I so easily went my own way.

Then I starved myself. I was obsessed with being thin, fitting into our culture’s ideal of beauty. I couldn’t do anything else, I couldn’t be sure of anything else, but I could be thin. At 110 pounds, I never believed I was “sick” enough for diagnosis, treatment, etc. Real anorexics weighed 50-80 pounds, I knew from my research.

Nonetheless, I entered treatment in April 2018, still claiming myself a non-Christian. However, I was getting to a point where it wasn’t working for me anymore. I brought my Bible to treatment. The Bible I had hardly touched for years. During my prodigal decade, I searched for meaning. I searched for something. Ever since September 2008, I couldn’t figure out why to live without the love of a parent. Life without parents seemed meaningless. No one REALLY loved me anymore.

I was at my lowest low. I spent my days hoping there would be an accident that would take me out because I couldn’t stand the thought of LK losing her mother to suicide, thinking she wasn’t enough to live for.

In treatment, my aunt kept showing up. She kept texting me Scriptures, telling me she was praying for me. She and my uncle visited Seattle and came to a therapy session.

And I can’t explain it, but I just knew. I don’t “hear” God. I don’t “see” God. But I do believe. I believe that the Story of Jesus is real. It’s just what I know. I’m on a new journey with Jesus and I don’t need it to look like what everyone else thinks it should. Highlights of my current relationship with Jesus:

  • I go to church when I want to, not feeling like I have to be there every week
  • When I’m at church, I don’t feel the need to act a certain way during worship or with other people
  • My only time in God’s Word regularly right now is reading a story with LK from her Jesus Storybook Bible (frankly, it’s at my level)
  • My best worship is singing Jesus Loves Me to LK each night when I rock her to sleep
  • When I tell someone I’m praying for them, I do it
  • Trying to figure out how to share my relationship with Jesus with JJ in a way that is authentic but not forceful
  • Understanding God’s grace so that I can forgive myself and not label myself a bad Christian who’s just not up to living this life

Since May 2018, I’ve been slowly and prodigally returning to my God. I’ve been trying to experience being loved by a heavenly parent, when I don’t remember what it’s like to be loved as a daughter. It’s really hard for this concrete brain, but I keep showing up.

On Sunday, God the Holy Spirit showed up for me in probably the most real way I can say I’ve experienced.

The background on this is that I still meet with Kristen, my Seattle dietitian, weekly via video. She functions as a therapist often times too. And beyond a doubt, she is the ONE person I have EVER connected with as a therapist. Hence, I haven’t been able to let her go. The other background is that I have visited Roommate’s church several times since moving to Austin, and enjoyed it…and it’s a lot for me to enjoy a church after the history I’ve had. I get very annoyed by church culture (what some have labeled Christian-tastic). Anyway, a minister there has reached out to me a few times to meet and I have graciously turned her down. With social anxiety on high nowadays and Roommate not going to church on Sunday, it was more than a small miracle that I put on my big girl panties and decided to take LK and myself to church on Sunday.

I’m sitting in the back by myself when the minister that has been reaching out to me gets up and teaches a message on Reframing & Reclaiming Your Health. She’s a registered dietitian/nutritionist, and literally starts teaching from Romans 12:1-2:

12 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, [a]acceptable to God, which isyour [b]spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this [c]world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may [d]prove what the will of God is, that which is good and [e]acceptable and perfect.

In all my years of church, I have never heard someone teach from the Bible about eating disorders, relationship with food, intuitive eating, and health at every size. Yet, here she was. The woman who was actively pursuing a friendship with me is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who follows the same principles I have been trying to learn. At a church.

Just maybe, God showed up. What could recovery look like if I really entrusted this body to Him?

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Khady says:

    I love this. “ I don’t need it to look like what everyone else thinks it should.” Absolutely. Real faith is authentic and real relationships are unique.

    So happy for you, Peggy. Looking forward to more of your story.

    1. #mommystrong says:

      I miss you, Khady.

  2. Desiree says:

    I have a big smile for your last portion of this blog. How ordained! I’m curious to know how this relationship will progress.
    I am challenged in my own spiritual walk, being here in a new town, attending a new church. I’ve been given new opportunities to participate in Bible Studies and do five minute devotions with my BFF.
    I’ve had to push myself to say things like “God is showing me [this] in my life” to my husband who is not on the same page with me in faith.
    I can relate to you. I am experiencing a time of attention and growth. Thanks for sharing this part of your path.

    1. #mommystrong says:

      Thank you for sharing! I will be praying for you!

  3. Wow Peggy . Just Wow. How did we get so lucky to have you in our lives? God is good!

    1. #mommystrong says:

      What?! My life is for the better because of the Strealy family. I love y’all so much!!

  4. Barbara Elliott says:

    I’m so glad for you !!! Your Mommystrong is so well written! Please know Kim and I have loved you from start to now and are here for you whenever you need us!! 💕

    Sent from my iPad


    1. #mommystrong says:

      I love y’all too!

  5. Beth says:

    I love your honest transparency! That is how we all are to be one with another, especially Christians. So that we can encourage each other. You have encouraged me today! Thank you For This! I love and appreciate you!

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