It’s tempting to assume that churches are full of people who’ve got it together. The Sunday morning freshly-scrubbed faces and starchy smiles that disguise altogether murkier and choppier depths. The argument that’s tidied away along with the breakfast dishes – or at least until the final hymn. Everyone else is fine. You’re the only one with any issues.
Of course, this is a nonsense idea. Church is for those who recognise their need of a Saviour – not those who can manage on their own. But if you’re in that situation, it can feel, well – wrong. Exposed. Messy. Who do you talk to? What do you say? As churches we’re called to make it as easy as possible to hoist up a white flag. But that’s easier said than done.
In a couple of weeks I’m running some training evenings for church leaders on how to help those affected by or struggling with eating disorders. It’s a massive issue – not just within our society, but especially I believe, within our congregations. Eating disorders affect families as well as individuals – and they impact grandparents and men as well as teenage girls. Saying this, there’s can be a particular type of person who’s vulnerable to this sort of struggle. The good girls. They’re not going to take drugs or go spectacularly off the rails. But they may break down internally – and an eating disorder is a natural correlative to the nice girl who doesn’t want to make a fuss. So my belief is that eating disorders are overrepresented in our churches – even if they don’t seem obvious.
Which is where you come in. As I plan the sessions, I’d love to get your input. Have you come across these issues in your church? What questions would you want to see answered? What in your experience has helped/hindered those in recovery (and their families)?
If you’re a sufferer or affected by eating disorders, what in a church context has been useful – or detrimental? How can others help? What would you like to see change? How has the gospel spoken into your situations?
Feel free to email me privately or to post comments: the more feedback I can get, the better.