Covers: Enhancing me (& the weight of expectation)

Covers: Enhancing me (& the weight of expectation)
Enhance magazine, spring 2011. And, yes, I know I sort of look like I'm sucking on a lemon. How apt!
In the six months since I was first contacted by Enhance magazine to take part in a cover story and shoot, I have bounded and leaped like Tigger towards the life that I knew all along God was leading me to, and for that I will be eternally grateful, though it does make reading about oneself (a narcissistic activity if ever there was one!), in a past tense sense, awkward.

In the book of Genesis, we learn about Lot's wife, who, when fleeing the sinful city of Sodom turned into a pillar of salt. Her grave mistake was looking back, perhaps pining for her past life (or just to have a geezer at what was happening), when God's angels strictly told her to not do that; that she would be delivered from a sure death under their care. The temptation was too great. She looked back. And died.

I, friends, am Lot's wife... only, clearly, not dead! (Thank you, Jesus!)

One of the greatest temptations as a Christian is to hold onto our past lives, particularly if they are quite lovely or, conversely, conveniently habitual, and fail to step into the full life that God is leading you into. While it is healthy to have a sense of where we have come from, and our past mistakes, if we are not pressing forward in some way, then we too are at risk of becoming paralysed by what has been left behind in our wake – mistakes, regrets, hurts, relationships, dreams, what-could-have-beens.

Like Lady Macbeth sleepwalking with her guilt in the middle of the night, "Out damned spot! I said out!", sometimes it takes the spotlight (or, at least, a spotlight moment) to clean out the nooks and crannies of our lives; to make us make the necessary changes that God has been nudging us towards, ever so patiently. So, in that sense, I am very, very grateful to Enhance.
It is not easy to talk about the eating disorder that robbed me of a chunk of my life; it makes me feel uncomfortable, particularly as there is a degree of responsibility that comes with such a task. But – and I say this very carefully, because I would never, ever want anyone to go through what I went through (it was hell) – I am grateful. Because that awful time in my life, when I was wholly consumed by this life-sucking thing, allowed me to experience shame and loneliness and despair, and opened my heart to others' pain, and God's care, in a way I had never experienced before. 

I don't think God WANTED me to go down that path – in fact, to be completely honest, He sent warning sign after warning sign, and I didn't heed His call – but He let me, because I had a lot to learn about myself and also needed the time to make peace with past hurts and pains, which I had not dealt with properly before, and to learn to trust in him wholeheartedly, not in a my-faith-is-a-nice-accessory sort if way.    

Like the women Jesus approached, forgave and called to turn from their sin, the thought of other Christians looking on and judging who you are and what you've done is almost worse than the idea of having details of your life experience transcribed for all the world (well, Enhance magazine subscribers) to read. Added to that is the burden of a backlog of magazine critiques housed right here – the source of such frustration, such desperation to right what is wrong, because of the part they played in my warped self-perception.

To admit to foolishness is no easy thing, particularly when you were groomed to be a perfectionist and therefore hide the things about yourself that are not-quite-right. That's not a terribly liberating way to live; and it's not why Jesus sacrificed himself. He died to correct the not-quite-rightness in our lives, our humanity, rendered by Adam and Eve's surrender to Satan; their thirst for the Tree of Knowledge put a barrier between them and God, a huge obstacle to overcome.

Last week, I spoke at a World Vision Girls' Night to about 150 women and shared some of my life experience. That day I felt God prompting me to tell them, "It's not your fault." It's not your fault if you've ever had a fat day; it's not your fault if you felt self-conscious because your belly got fat; it's not your fault if you ever went on a diet; it's not your fault if you sunbaked yourself thinking it would make you look great; it's not your fault if you desired another woman's wardrobe; it's not your fault if your mum and dad got divorced; it's not your fault if you ever did the wrong thing at work; it's not your fault if you hurt someone unintentionally; it's not your fault if you feel you wasted your life in pursuit of some unattainable ideal...

Because life here on earth can be yucky and icky and wrong wrong wrong, and we all make mistakes based on misconceptions we have about ourselves and others and how the world works (and the media relentlessly feeds this notion). But there is hope with God in your life and the power to overcome, and even the amazing ability to put right what is wrong.

I didn't share that, because, in all truth, I still often find it hard to accept that it is not all my fault – that I should feel shame for feeling those things, or failing to live up to expectation – when, in actual fact, God makes it quite clear that God sent Jesus to take away the shame that exists in the world, to make things right; to make us whole again and put us on a straighter path.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death," wrote Paul to the Romans. 

As a follower of His, before Jesus can breathe into your life, and guide you towards a better life, you really have to believe that the wrongness within is not your fault. And most days, I do, but it is a struggle to afford yourself that gift of grace when you fear the world looks on critically, saying, "What a shame! What a disgrace!".

I think it's quite evident that, in all respects, that critical voice has been alive and active in my life from the earliest of my days. But when it is silenced – oh, my – I can barely describe the joy, the peace, the fullness and confidence of being – that comes from that. To miss out on that, and in turn to be unable to extend that same grace to others, or fight the good fight in the world on behalf of Christ, well, that would be the true shame in life.

"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Jesus Christ (Luke 9: 23-24)

Thank you to Enhance - to Joni for penning the story and turning my ick and muck into something palatable; to Erin for turning my limp hair into something glossier; to Bel for the photography and creative direction; to Kasey for having me in your wonderful magazine (so many good reads!); and to God for this unexpected (and undeserved) blessing. 

Girl With a Satchel


meg said...

beautiful, erica! how can we read the article - is enhance sold in shops or is it just for subscribers?

Erica Bartle (nee Holburn) said...

Hi Meg!
Alas, Enhance is subscriber only at this stage, or otherwise available in Christian book shops, I think. Thanks for asking!

Kelly said...

You look beautiful! Nothing sour about that at all lovely!
I'm loving the colour that those sheets of paper throw out - pastel-y goodness.
Congratulations - I hope you post your article at a later date?

Lauren said...

Erica, I was so excited to see you on the cover of Enhanced when I got my copy in the mail yesterday! So looking forward to reading the article on you and, of course, the rest of what is a fabulous magazine!

Julie said...

What a truly beautiful read Erica. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and journey with us. You look gorgeous on the cover by the way!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful article, thanks for sharing your thoughts! Lovely to find your blog....

Sample Cover Letters

frangipani princess said...

You look amazing, Erica!


Joni said...

Hey Erica, it was nice reading about the article from your perspective.. I can imagine it would be a little daunting being on the cover (instead of writing about it!) You looked beautiful by the way. Thanks for the experience! Joni x

SquiggleMum said...

Looking a picture of loveliness on the cover Erica. You continue to inspire. Cath xx

Scarlett Harris @ The Early Bird Catches the Worm said...

Congrats on the cover! xx

Anonymous said...

STUNNING. You look absolutely gorgeous, Erica. Hope everything is well with you :) xx

Anonymous said...

Erica thank you THANK YOU for sharing your heart, your life and your past with us. It couldn't be easy to talk about but God certainly turns our mess into a message. x Stacey

Roxann said...

Erica, your story is amazing and inspiring. I'm still sitting in amazement at how God the Lord is to us, even when we're not so good to ourselves. Thank you for sharing your life with us and I will pray for you.

Roxann M.

Anonymous said...

Erica, I'm still amazed by your story. I think I've read it about 3 times and I'm just so floored by how much God loves us, and how good He is to us even when we're not so good to ourselves.

Thanks for sharing your life with us, and we will continue praying for you.

Be blessed,
Roxann M.