old shoes, new shoes

I’ve gone through the routine about a million times. You get your new pair of pointe shoes in the mail. You quickly sew them in study hall or between rehearsals. You don that new pair of perfectly satin pointe shoes and assess how they look on your feet. You then begin the journey to making them ‘just right.’ You might darn the platform or cut the shank and remove the nail or flatten the box or sew down the sides or adjust the drawstring or rough them up with scissors to add friction or hit them on the concrete to reduce noise or a multitude of other techniques to break them in.  Finally, after all of that work, you put them on and jump into class or rehearsal. You wear those new shoes proudly. It’s all fun and dance at first in new shoes. But inevitably the honeymoon phase will end and you’ll realize that those new shoes hurt a lot. They cause blisters and rub that bunion and make your weird fungus hole feel like someone hammered a nail through it. And you realize that you can’t run quietly in these shoes or roll through your box effortlessly or land gently and they aren’t molded perfectly to your feet. You realize all of these things and suddenly NEED to put back on your old, dead pointe shoes. You just really need to. So you pull the dead pointe shoes out of your bag and put back them on, loving how comfortable they are. They mold perfectly to your arch and make you feel much safer, more confidant and comfortable.

I realize that most people don’t have my particular pointe shoe experience, but the same can be said for street shoes. New shoes are clean and shiny, but the reality is they pinch and rub blisters and need to be broken in.

The same goes for eating disorder recovery.

Before you laugh and say “eating disorder recovery is nothing like breaking in a new pair of shoes” hear me out.

About a year and a half or so ago I was sitting in my therapists office relaying some story of how I failed at recovery. I was admitting to some kind of behaviors and bemoaning the fact that I just couldn’t get over this eating disorder completely and crying about how I felt like a failure at recovery. I’d never eat like a normal person. I would always have these little relapses. I was convinced I’d never be better.

That’s when my therapist interjected with her usual wisdom. She’s really good with analogies and in that moment she told me that recovering from an eating disorder is a lot like breaking in a new pair of shoes.

When you commit to recovering and regaining your health, you receive a new pair of shoes. These new pair of shoes are incredibly uncomfortable. You do NOT like the way they look or feel, but you put them on because you need to.  In recovery there are good days and bad days. On the good days, you kind of like the new shoes. After all, food does make one feel physically better even if it’s hard to make yourself eat it. They’re easier to walk confidently in. On the bad days, you really hate the new shoes. They’re rubbing in all the wrong places; you can hardly stand it. Some days you can deal with the rubbing. You reach out for support and admit you’re having a hard time. You remind yourself of truths and keep doing the next right thing. But some days are especially hard. You choose to restrict or use other behaviors. You just can’t deal with the new shoes, so you head to your closet where the old shoes (your eating disorder) are stashed and you make the switch. It feels good at first. It feels right and safe to have those shoes back on. You know exactly how you’ll feel in them, exactly what you can do in them. But the truth is after awhile of wearing the old shoes, you realize that while they’re known and comfortable and the new shoes are unknown and uncomfortable, they aren’t going to be able to get you where you want to go. Those old shoes are so worn out and now that you’ve had the new shoes on they feel less comfortable, more constricting and distressing. You can’t walk long distances in them or, if they’re pointe shoes, dance for hours in them. You can’t run after kids or go for a hike in the old shoes. You can’t go to a dinner party or the movies in them. Once you realize this (it may be hours, weeks or months), you make the switch back to the new shoes and see that although they’re difficult and uncomfortable at times it’s worth it to be able to live life. It’s worth the effort it takes to be able to truly live.

The wisdom I gained from my therapist through this analogy was this and it’s wisdom that applies to everyone, eating disorder or not. I will have hard days. I will have days where the last thing I want to do is choose recovery, choose life and freedom and truth. I will want to put on my old shoes that are cloaked in the lie that they will satisfy and make me feel good enough. I will want to choose temporary control instead of a life time in joyful communion with Christ. And some days, maybe a lot of days, I do choose the old shoes. I choose lies because I let the devil’s voice be louder than my God’s voice. But Jesus Christ saved me and when He did He gave me that brand new pair of shoes. I can never return those shoes. They were a gift without a gift receipt. So even if I choose to put on the old shoes (my old sinful flesh) for a time, my new shoes (my redeemed by the cross self) will still be there when I realize that the old shoes are not as comfortable as I thought.

The encouragement here for you is that whatever your two pair of shoes are, whether it be an eating disorder, body image issues, addiction, promiscuity, racism, anger, anxiety, etc., you can not lose your new shoes. You might choose to walk in the old shoes, your old fleshly habits, but Christ is always waiting with grace, forgiveness and those new shoes when you realize that the old shoes aren’t as great as you remember. 

That’s the truth. Our old sinful habits always seem fun and fulfilling, but they aren’t. They never were and never will be. We just can’t see this truth until we’ve experienced the grace and comfort of Christ our Lord. 

So if you’re wearing your old shoes, remember that those shoes will not be as comfortable because now, through your salvation, you’ve experienced new shoes and you can never go back. If you don’t have new shoes yet, ask. Jesus is the best shoemaker in all the universe and He really wants to give you a pair, but you have to ask for them. And lastly, if you’re wearing your new shoes, be brave and keep walking in them. I promise they’re the best shoes you’ll ever own and they have a lifetime warranty, free of charge! 

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