By Anna Wilson*
FEAR. This word could in some ways sum up the early years of my life. I was daily plagued by fear—fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of meeting people and much more. I would wake up each morning with a heavy dread in my heart. If the weather was sunny and bright, I felt like the sun was exposing my ugliness and misery to the world. I took comfort in dark, dreary days because I was always trying to hide from people. I thought I was ugly, stupid and worthless.
My parents were not the ones who instilled this fear in me. I came from a loving Christian Korean family. My grandmother became a Christian through American Christians in Korea and went through many years of persecution. But she faithfully prayed for those who persecuted her. Today all my extended family is Christian.
Our family was quite poor in Korea, so when I was five my father immigrated to America. After two years he sent for my mother and us four children—my two brothers, my younger sister and me. My parents both worked very hard to support us. My father taught martial arts and my mother worked in a bank. We did not see our parents all day, but we had an adult caring for us. In the evening when mother returned from her job, we sat down to a family meal and family worship. My parents showed us a prayerful life and sent us to school with a blessing.
Although we all loved each other, my brothers did not receive the guidance they needed. They were experiencing a lot of prejudice and grew up with a lot of insecurities. My parents did not realize the difference between Korean culture and Christianity. A lot of pressure was put on us to excel and to make sure people thought well of us as is the Korean custom. Wanting to please everybody kept me from being real. I was already a very shy person. Talking to people was difficult for me. I envied the girls who could walk into a room, greet everyone present, smile and laugh so naturally. When I walked into a room I was almost paralyzed with fear and self-consciousness.
I did very well in school, nonetheless. A lot of parents compared their children to me—which I hated. My parents thought I had so much to offer and wanted me to show my abilities to people. I didn’t want to do that and it pained me that my parents did not understand me.
I had loved Jesus since I was a little girl; I always went to church and Sunday School. Because I had a tender conscience, I was always repenting. I don’t remember how many times I asked the Lord into my heart. But one particular time comes to mind. It happened during Vacation Bible school at our church. After I invited Jesus into my heart, one of the workers said, “Before you prayed this prayer, you were on the road to hell. Now you are on the road to heaven.” I remember getting very angry that she would dare say I was going to hell. I thought of myself as being an exceptionally good girl. That was the first time the thought had occured to me that Jesus had saved me from hell. I can see now that I really did not understand salvation until that day.
When I was about 12 years of age, a very traumatic event happened to me in my home. A relative chased me down and molested me. He didn’t rape me, but I had the feeling that his action was very wrong. I tried to fight him, but he was much stronger. The same thing happened another time while I was sleeping. I didn’t realize then how that abuse affected me, but soon after I developed an eating disorder.
I hated my body and felt no one in the world was as ugly and awkward as I. I feared people in general but men and boys even more. When my brothers brought their friends home, I would run away and hide in my room until they left. I wanted to deaden the pain I felt and food did that for me. Whenever I felt bad about myself or thought I had failed socially, I would eat very large quantities of food, especially what we call “junk food.”
At first the taste of food helped me to forget my pain and I would imagine myself a beautiful, witty and popular girl. Of course, my body reacted to the excessive food. Then regret and fear of gaining weight would quickly set in, and I would exercise for hours to burn up the excess calories that I had consumed. I thank God that I found it impossible to force myself to vomit the excess food as do many with this eating disorder (bulimia).
In spite of my problems I did well in school and was at the top of my class. When I was in seventh grade, my teacher picked out four of us students she considered “gifted” and sent us to a separate school to attend a program they were pioneering for gifted students. My experience at this new school was traumatic. The students listened to Satanic music and played with ouija boards at sleep-over parties. They were very much into dating and interested in sexuality. My friends at the old school and I weren’t even interested in boys yet! I felt completely lost. For the first time I began to do poorly in school. I hated to go to school and pretended to be sick so I could stay home. I felt bad about this deception because my parents would lay hands on me and pray for me.
Being home all day I had to have something to do. I began to read fantasy novels. I was drawn to romantic stories that presented sexuality quite openly. I wanted to be the beautiful women in those novels. However, I felt guilty reading such worldly material. I knew the Lord wasn’t pleased with what I was feeding my mind, but I kept on. I begged my parents to get me out of that school and they did, but I felt like a failure.
Back in my old school I did well again. I became president and valedictorian of my eighth grade class. But things had changed. My old friends were now into worldly things as well. However, I kept up a good front and smiled a lot.
I did not do as well in high school. The eating disorder was much worse. People around me did not know my secret. They thought I was nice and intelligent; they did not see the pain that was within me. I did not reach my potential scholastically because I never really applied myself. I was so consumed with self-consciousness.
I was fortunate to go to a Christian college after high school. My destructive behavior continued and I got better and better at lying to cover it up. Some of my closest friends suspected something was wrong, but no one really knew until I confessed it. God spoke to me through a verse in the Bible, “Confess your faults one to another and pray one for another that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Satan’s power over me was causing me to do these things in secret.
In my last year of college, I decided to tell my roommates the truth and ask them to pray for me according to God’s Word. I asked them to hold me accountable and to correct me when they saw I was giving in to the eating disorder again. They were faithful even when it upset me.
One day a friend of one of my roommates was praying for me with them. The Lord revealed to him that I had been molested as a child. He asked me if that actually happened. I had to face up to it and expose the abuse. I finally realized why I hated my body and what was the source of my pain. Food was not the remedy. Facing the truth, prayer and counseling were all part of my healing. It was a process.
The Lord faithfully brought many Scriptures to my mind: “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). “I have loved you with an everlasting love and with loving kindness have I drawn you” (Jer. 31:3). I read other verses that told of God’s love for me over and over again. Psalm 139 was a special blessing. God knew all about me and yet He loved me. Satan’s lie to me had been that if people knew me as I was, no one would love me. Now I was out of his dreadful trap.
I realized I was healed from food addiction when I was working the midnight shift at a gas station. The store was full of food, but there was absolutely no desire for it. The Lord had taken the desire away.
After college I went to seminary to prepare for full-time service in a church or as a cross-cultural worker. Since I was a small child I had wanted to share my faith overseas. The Lord opened the door for me to serve in Korea after graduation. I served for two years in a cross-cultural service center and in a large church.
During college and seminary I had several young men who were interested in me, but I was not able to handle a relationship that could end in marriage. After experiencing many heartaches, I finally cried to the Lord, “Why can’t someone truly love me?” At that time I felt myself in His embrace and He spoke these words into my heart, “I love you and will never forsake you.”
I realized that all my struggles had been due to seeking from others the love and acceptance that only God can give. A song I learned in youth group best expresses what my heart felt at that moment and what I have known ever since:
“No one but You, Lord, can satisfy the longing in my heart;
Nothing I do, Lord, can take the place of drawing near to You.
Only You can fill my deepest longing;
Only You can create in me new life.
Only You can fill my heart with laughter;
Only You can answer my heart’s cry.”
I told the Lord. “Just stay close to me and I will happily be single and serve You all my life.” But the Lord had other plans and brought into my life a wonderful young man whom I had known in college. He led us to marry, and now we have three beautiful children and are serving Him in an overseas country.
We are excited to be in God’s will for our lives. I thank God for delivering me from fear, restoring me and giving me “beauty for ashes” as He promises in His Word. (See Isaiah 61:1-3.) I pray that God will use me not only to bring people to Him, but to bring them into true healing and wholeness.
*not her real name
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