Tuesday, October 9, 2012
This Is My Story - William Burt, Author of the KING OF THE TREES Series
My brother and I were raised in the Episcopal Church where I was confirmed. At the time, I could recite the Lord’s Prayer and a few other verses, but I did not know Christ as my Lord and Savior. I had no interest in studying the Bible. In fact, my brother and I mocked our mother’s Christian faith and eventually pressured our parents to stop making us attend church.
By that time, I was worshipping a nameless, faceless god of nature—a Transcendentalist philosophy I had picked up in high school from studying the works of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
When I went away to college, I was ill prepared for the pressures of university life. Although I excelled academically, I was a perfect train wreck emotionally and spiritually. Friendless and stressed, I spiraled into a pit of black depression. I sought refuge and solace in the natural world, but I found only greater loneliness and despair. I had made nature my god, but I did not know nature’s Creator, the God of all comfort and encouragement.
Before long, I became obsessed with my weight and physical appearance. Having been a runner in high school, I disciplined myself to run every day and eat very sparingly. Yet, I still regarded myself as fat and was judgmental towards others who were struggling with their weight. One day, one of my dorm mates remarked to me in the shower, “Did you just have surgery?” I didn’t understand what he meant until I realized that my raw hip bones were protruding like wings. I resembled a concentration-camp survivor, but I still thought I was overweight and continued with my rigorous regimen. Anorexia nervosa was slowly destroying me.
I became so desperate for deliverance from my condition that I tried attending church. However, I found no help or hope there. People saw me as just another college student passing through, so nobody asked how I fared or offered the hand of friendship. By then, I was so depressed that my throat closed up when I tried to speak. It felt as if a huge lump were sitting behind my Adam’s apple. I began entertaining thoughts of suicide.
Once or twice, I tried reading the Bible, but that made me feel even worse. Now I know the Holy Spirit was convicting me of my sin.
By the end of spring term, my weight hovered between 104 and 106 pounds. (I am 5’ 10” in height.) The last couple of weeks before summer break, my only form of sustenance was an occasional sip of grapefruit juice. I was afraid to eat anything else, lest I put on any extra pounds.
That fall, my parents convinced me to transfer to Lewis and Clark College, which was close to our home. My very first week there, I purchased a plastic alto recorder (the musical instrument) from the college bookstore and began teaching myself how to play it. Meanwhile, I had started attending my Western Civilization class, where I met a fellow student named Laura Wasson, an organ major who had grown up in southeast Portland.
From the moment Laura entered the classroom, she impressed me. She greeted me with a cheery smile and asked how I was doing, something no other student had done at the university. We struck up a conversation, and I learned that she, too, played the recorder. We decided to meet for a jam session in my dorm room. During that first meeting, the topic turned to our personal philosophies of life. I was prattling on about the spiritual refreshment and fulfillment that nature offers when Laura quietly said, “To me, life is Christ.” Those five words changed my life forever.
I was stunned. Never had I heard anyone speak in such a forthright, personal way about Jesus Christ. When I asked her what she meant, she explained that she enjoyed a closer relationship with her Christian friends than with her other friends. I pondered her statement, reasoning that since I was an American (and not a Buddhist or a Muslim, etc.), I must be a Christian, too! Laura didn’t attempt to set me straight but instead invited me to a Bible study fellowship that met in the basement of the Agnes Flanagan Chapel.
One Sunday evening that fall, Laura caught up with me outside and invited me to the Bible study again. For once, I didn’t have homework as an excuse, so I reluctantly agreed to attend. I still vividly recall feeling enveloped in a wave of pure love wafting out of the chapel door. Sitting on the floor with the other students, I felt that I had come home after a long absence. I heard my peers speaking about the God of the Bible as if they knew Him personally, as if He loved them and cared about every detail of their lives.
I wanted to know that God for myself.
Soon afterwards, I asked Jesus Christ to forgive my sins and to become the Lord of my life. God immediately made several changes in me. A river of His love and joy poured into my heart, and I started seeing other people in a less judgmental light. Depression and anorexia nervosa fell away from me like dead, dry husks. I began devouring the Bible, feeding on the truths of the Scriptures.
I wish I could say that I followed Christ steadfastly ever after, but I walked away from Him before I could become more grounded in the faith. At that point, the anorexia returned with a vengeance, and I was hospitalized with low weight, low blood pressure and collapsed veins. However, in God’s patience and mercy, He opened my eyes to what I was missing and offered me the chance to rededicate my life to Him. I’ve never regretted that decision.