On Sunday, December 9, 2019, I attended church services at Highland Park United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas. The sanctuary was awash with vibrant, red poinsettias. Long strands of garland interspersed with large red ribbons were draped over the choir loft and majestic, organ pipes. The world-class choir was elevated to an even greater level by a soprano soloist whose angelic version of “O’ Holy Night” brought many to tears.
The lead pastor is Reverend Paul Rasmussen. Reverend Paul is not one of these television evangelist type ministers screaming fire and brimstone, urging one and all to, “LET THE DEVIL COME OUT! REACH DEEP IN YOUR POCKET FOR THE LOOOORD!!” No instead, Reverend Paul’s sermons are impassioned, they weave in every day life experiences with biblical references and one can readily sense that his message is not just coming from his head … but his heart and soul as well.
On this day, he held up a plastic baggy filled with a broken light bulb. He noted that at one point, we all have dropped a light bulb and watched it break into many pieces. We then routinely get a broom and dustpan, sweep the broken shards of glass away, grab another bulb and go about our day. After all, how can we be expected to fix a shattered light bulb? It is broken beyond repair. In any event, most people wouldn’t even know where or how to begin to repair it. Do you start with the base? What about the wiring? Do you assemble the larger pieces of glass first? Even trying to come up with a plan to repair this fragile, broken item is daunting. It is much easier to simply replace it.
Reverend Paul then poignantly described to some extent, we humans are all broken light bulbs We all have flaws. But, God doesn’t simply discard us because we are fractured. As a Loving Father, God has the recipe for salvation and it is up to us to find that journey of healing.
And at that point, the analogy and message became quite clear. I read on a number of Facebook groups, on other internet groups, through social media and through speaking with doctors, counselors and professionals in the eating disorder industry, of the fear, the hopelessness, the grief, the anger, the frustration and the helplessness felt and expressed by parents whose beloved children are afflicted with this damnable, insidious disease. They see their child, their very heart, slowly wasting away, self-harming, acting out, abusing drugs or alcohol speeding what they fear will ultimately result in the death of the most precious thing they hold dear. They are shaken to their very core. Their light, their love, their hope for the future lay at their feet, unworkable shards of glass, fractured to a point beyond measure or repair. They also know that this is a light bulb that they cannot merely sweep up, discard into the trash bin and then replace. And yet, many don’t even know where to begin to try to repair this fragile, broken life. Fear and despair cloud their vision and falsely point to a path that leads to even greater catastrophe. Where does one begin?
Parents, I so wish I could give to you as a Holiday Present, a copyrighted repair manual complete with blueprints for a successful reconstruction of a human life being torn apart by this disease. Alas, I cannot. In fact, in some ways, I feel like the mythical character Jacob Marley. We know Marley as Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased business partner, now a chained and tormented ghost, doomed to wander the earth forever as punishment for his greed and selfishness when he was alive. Marley roams restlessly, witnessing the hardships others suffer and lamenting that he has forever lost his chance to help them. But then, in an ironic twist of fate, Marley arranges for the three spirits to visit Scrooge and gives his friend an opportunity for redemption, which Marley tells him was “… a chance and hope of my procuring.” Until I breathe my last, my reality is that it is too late for me. But, it is not too late for you.
Moms … Dads … parents, I urge you to simply start with a beginning, any type of beginning. It doesn’t matter if it is the base, the electrical wires or the shards of glass that you address. But, address it you surely must. I can suggest that perhaps a starting point may be found by steeling up your courage, staring at yourself in a mirror and then, look within yourself. Right now, you may be overwrought with fear, despair and yes, perhaps anger. If those emotions dictate your every waking thought, if they dictate your decisions, there is very little doubt that the path upon which your journey will take you will be filled with mistakes, negativity, false hope and dead ends.
We also know that the manner in which we deal with fear and despair is as individual as the person experiencing it. So, where is a starting point? Perhaps for many, a starting point could be … educate yourself! Read vociferously. Actively join and participate in parent support groups. Start support groups in your community if you are able. Read academic research papers and studies. When you speak with treatment professionals, ask as many questions as you deem necessary. Arm yourself with knowledge. “Ipsa scientia postesta est.” [Knowledge itself is power.] That way, when you confront doctors, counselors, insurance claims representatives you will know much more than they believe they know and you can argue with more authority for more effective treatment protocols. You will be able to cite independent studies. You will empower yourself. As you learn, as your strength grows you may learn to take those negative emotions of fear and despair, and instead of them defining you in a negative manner, you use them to motivate you, to inspire you. Do not ignore those emotions. They are currently present in your life. However, the only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future. It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist. And isn’t that near insanity?
Moms … Dads … You can save your beloved child. You will find your voice. And maybe along the way, you may find, or you may rediscover your very soul.