“Put on the whole armor of God.” Eph. 6:10-11
One of the most significant conversations I had while a chaplain at the Children’s Hospital in Denver was with a 14 year old girl who was in the eating disorder unit. I was covering for one of our staff when the girl noticed that I was wearing the yellow Livestrong bracelet. She said, “I heard there was a Godstrong bracelet. I sure would like one for myself and my girlfriend.” I asked, “What would that mean for you?” “Well, it is like I have a voice on this shoulder telling me that ‘I am fat and disgusting’ and on my other shoulder a voice is saying ‘I must eat good, stay healthy, get well.’ Sometimes I don’t know which one to listen to.” That got my attention.
That night I searched the web and sure enough I found that bracelet and ordered 15 of them.
When the bracelets came in, I returned to her room and we talked about those voices she hears and I gave her five of the bracelets. On each one the word “Godstrong” was visible along with Eph. 6:10-11. I knew that was Ephesians in the New Testament of the Bible. I told her the verse which reads, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God so you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” We talked about the strength that God gives her so she can be listen to the voice that leads her to life and to love and love for herself. We prayed for her well being.
That was almost 15 years ago and to this day I wear that bracelet myself and I do tell the story of this amazing girl who I hope continues to believe in herself, her worth, her health, and that she is listening to the divine power of God which is a strength and a guide for her.
An eating disorder may be fatal. While there are a complexity of causes and a multiple paths for recovery, those of us in a faith community need to know the resources that are available. And adding to that toolbox I would put the Godstrong verse. We do need the strength of God to even listen to that divine voice, the voice of our belovedness, which leads to life.
Rev. Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson is a mental health advocate who served on the national United Church Board of Homeland Ministries, 1979-1995, retired as chaplain at The Children’s Hospital, Denver, and serves as chair of the UCC Mental Health Network board of directors.