No longer deceived, but set free: A summary of my silence & solitude retreat

A year ago, God asked me to get rid of all my journal entries that mentioned body image, food, or worthiness.

I asked him, “Father, how do I heal from my past of disordered eating?”

I had reached a breaking point in my life. A lot of things had bubbled to the surface of the road I was on, and the growth Jesus still had waiting for me.

One of the things I felt called into at the time was singleness and to be single and joyful in my singleness, I needed to heal. I needed to process the stuff I didn’t want to process, and I needed to hear the things I wasn’t ready to hear.

Anyone who knows me knows writing is precious to me—but even more so, my journal entries are precious to me. Expressing emotion I haven’t always known how to express, and revealing parts of me my pride is often too loud to listen to.

I knew whatever God had in mind for healing wasn’t going to be easy, but discarding such sacred items was the last thing I expected.

So, I ignored the request.

Instead, I continued to work on the parts of healing that have still been hard, don’t get me wrong, but that appeared more approachable at the time. This is when I began to re-establish my relationship with my body. No longer punishing, hating, and despising its requests, signs, and imperfections, but rather appreciating, affirming, and accepting the unique capabilities and creation we are to live inside.

I started doing yoga, practicing vulnerability, and apologizing to those I hurt during my eating disorder. Yet, in the back of my mind, I knew forgiving myself was still a road I had yet to travel.

Soon after, I reached a point of desperation that drove me to bring out all of my high school journals to simply just look at. I hadn’t agreed to get rid of the journal entries at this point, but I would read five to six entries before bed each night, and anytime I read something that mentioned body image, food, or worthiness, I’d place a blue sticky note at the top of the page.

I am stubborn and often stuck in my ways, but I knew deep down this was a battle I wasn’t going to win. And I don’t think I wanted to win. I just needed time.

After I had finished highlighting every entry, I let the journals sit. And sit. And sit. When giving time and space to my feelings, I need a lot of time and a lot of space…and because I have a tendency of bottling up and suppressing emotion, once I do get myself to that place, there is an overflowing amount of stuff to work through.

A while later I brought out the journals again. It was late winter, early spring.

I told Jesus, I’m going to do this…but I need you here with me because I can’t do it alone. And in the most gentle and loving way, he showed up. Rubbing my back and whispering in my ear softly, he would never leave or forsake me. And we felt all the feelings together, weeping, repenting, and forgiving with each torn page.

I was reminded at that moment that although I do place so much worth in my journals and want one day, for later generations of my family to have them to remember me by, my eating disorder is not a part of me I want them to see. Not in that depth at least. 

Ripping out my journal entries has—without a doubt—been one of the most transformative moments in my recovery and I truly did feel strongholds that had controlled me for so long, released and let go of that day. Yet, I knew the journey didn’t stop there. Because when God asked me to get rid of the entries, he didn’t just mean rip them out of my journals while still holding on to their lies, but he actually asked me to destroy them completely. That’s what brought me here now, writing this blog post. It took me a year, but I did it.

This last week, I planned a two-day retreat of silence and solitude at my family’s beach house. Getting away by myself has been something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I put it off for reasons of busyness, time, and money…fear, insecurity, and denial.

Fear because I knew this meant getting quiet and detaching from distractions like my phone, music, and TV.

Insecurity because beneath my confidence in being alone, I don’t always trust or like the person I am when I am alone.

And denial because I’d like to think healing is a quick process that stops after recognition.

The first night I was at the beach, I was still scared, insecure, and in denial. I got there and that was the first step; Leaving behind my responsibility and getting there.

When I arrived, I built a fire in the woodstove to keep warm, walked over to the grocery store to get a couple items, enjoyed a nice dinner, worked on my book, and painted my nails. It wasn’t until 11pm when I finally worked up the courage to start the conversation with God.

Down on my knees near the fire, I didn’t even know what to say. It had been so long since I first agreed to go on this journey and I was finally there. So, I started by just thanking Jesus for being so patient with me; For giving me guidance; For loving me endlessly; For being my friend; for walking beside me like he promised he would.

I then started to read back through a few of the entries before I tossed them into the fire and said goodbye to them forever. As I read, it was like seeing the torn pages with a new set of eyes. No longer deceived, but set free. I couldn’t wait to get rid of them.  

I carefully lit the edge to one of the sheets of paper and watched it turn from white to brown, to black. Devoured by flames and turned into ash. I then lit another….and another…and another. Crumpling the pieces of paper now and throwing them into the fire.

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I expected to be sad, to have an overflow of tears released from the build-up of emotion and poured out on the floor in front of me like the day I tore out the pages. And I did have some tears…but they were not sad tears.

With each journal entry, I watched disintegrate in the fire, I felt joy. Release. Weights lifted. In a way, I felt like I had already done the hard part; Trusting Jesus when all I wanted to do was run. Although it had taken me so long to get rid of the journal entries once and for all, it was like He hadn’t ever stopped working on my heart. He had prepared me for that moment.

When I ripped the journal entries out Jesus assured me that even though it was hard, it was what needed to be done and would produce the most healing.

When I burned the journal entries he clapped and rejoiced at the defeat of the lies I had clung to for so long and let warp my identity.

Both acts, important steps in the process. Both acts, where I was not alone.

The next day, I woke up to sun shining and a beautiful blue sky. After a morning spent drinking good coffee, reading and praying, I walked down to the beach. After strolling near the water for some time, I found a nice spot up against a tree in the dry sand, where I read, drank some more coffee, and curled up in a blanket for a couple hours.

I found during my time away that it’s in the stillness and silence, where we find Love eager to wrap us in His arms. God is always speaking to us, and he is always at work. All we have to do to hear Him is slow down and listen.

For me, slowing down and listening meant getting away from my normal element and in tune with the Spirit.

Shutting off my phone. Thinking. Spending time reading the scriptures slowly. Praying. Writing. Resting. Fasting. Learning more about my personality. Dreaming.

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I gained so much provision in just two days. Words to direct how I am to handle the past, the present, and the future.

I sometimes feel rushed to fix everything broken in my life and to be perfect. To get it right all the time because common Carly, how long is it going to take you to figure it out?

My yardstick of judgement is not only something I hold out toward others but a weapon I use to measure how well I’m living up to expectations I’ve created and claimed as the way life is. I have an inner critic—sometimes many—telling me who to be and how to act.

However, when I begin to think with sober judgement, I do not see or expect from myself perfection because I start to see myself according to the measure of faith God has assigned. My expectations for myself and others start to match the Fathers and my yardstick of judgement shortens.

The responsibility of perfection and judgement are not on me. Not on myself or others. My job is to align with the will of God, which is good, acceptable, and perfect. To resemble Jesus’ perfection to the best of my ability, but to also accept the lifelong process it is to follow Him. We won’t always get it right, and we aren’t expected to. Rather, we are asked to be fervent in spirit, patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer (Romans 12:12).

So strap on your boots and get ready because the adventure awaiting you is one you don’t want to miss. The adventure is calling you, now and forever.

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