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Welcome to the Dining Hall

When I was a sophomore at Purdue University, the “Powers that Be” had taken my student ID because I had some unpaid fee. They’d sent mail to my campus mailbox, they’d said. But I never checked my mail because…well, I never got mail. Months went by and the letters accumulated. They became tired of waiting and finally confiscated my student ID when I presented it to take an exam. I had to go before the Dean of Students to get it back.

Sitting across from him, he was perplexed. “We took your dining hall privileges away from you months ago. Haven’t you noticed?”

I hadn’t.

It’s not just that I wasn’t eating in the dining hall. I wasn’t eating anywhere. At 19, I was in the thick battle of an eating disorder.

Shout out to my roommate, Lori, who would on occasion bring me an apple or orange when it was absolutely necessary, perhaps a few times a week. I was satisfied with eating the bare minimum because it was making me the thinner me, the better me.

And so, I was also satisfied with the bare minimum of dorm living, sleeping in the narrow top bunk of the cramped room. That was all I needed. I had the rest under control. I was getting something far better than the All You Can Eat cereal supply or the Johnny Marzetti casserole from the dining hall. I was getting acceptance, and control, molding myself with each by-passed bite of food into being thin enough and good enough. That was all I needed.

My poor dad. He’d paid for my room and board in full. But me? I never took advantage of all that had been paid for on my behalf. I never allowed myself to be fed in this place. Nourished. Filled up. I had the notion that I was being filled by being empty. I thought I was thriving. Much later, I learned being satisfied is not the same as being satiated.

If I’m looking for God everywhere, especially in my every day, ordinary moments and memories, can I find Him here? Where are you in this, Abba?

Isn’t this living in “not enough and calling it full” a mirror of my early life as a Christian? Living in the minimum of the abundant life Jesus Christ purchased at the cross for me. Accepting salvation and a ticket to heaven like I accepted that top bunk in Meredith Hall. But not realizing there was so much more!

Still straining to be filled with empty from this world.

Imagine a person who has been taken prisoner. They sit in a dark prison cell, hands tied behind their back, blindfolded. This is us before we accept Jesus Christ and His Finished Work on the cross for ourselves.

And we know, as soon as we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are set free from the kingdom of darkness. Our hands are untied. Our blindfold removed and the prison door unlocked and wide open. We are free to leave.

Yet so many of us don’t leave. We remain in the small cell. Seated and untied. Wanna know what the prison is? Living in the confinement of our emotions, our thoughts, our mindset. That’s the real prison.

And this was me. Scarcely getting by within the confines of the prison of my own thinking. Living from what I saw, and what I felt, what I feared and was trying to control. That, my cherished readers, is taking the bunk but not the food. That is learning to live on empty and calling it full. Accepting your ‘someday trip to Heaven’ while still living in the prison of your old mindset.

Here’s what I know now that I didn’t know then: You can’t get full until you get free.

Freedom doesn’t come until you stand up and move to the other side of the thoughts that are keeping you there.

There is so much more! When we are born again, all the fruits of the Spirit are deposited within our own spirit. And that fruit is there, waiting for us to take and eat and be filled.

Getting to the Fruit requires us to recognize the sort of Stockholm Syndrome we have of leaving the old, familiar, emotional way of living that is fear-based and demanding. The ‘So Much More’ is found when we leave that confinement and learn to access the fullness of living from love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control.

I’d been fooled to think I could create these things for myself. “If I’m thin enough” matures into “if my kids are happy” …” if I’m successful” … “if I make enough money… then I’ll be able to live happily.” Eventually, we find it’s all been a scam. The starving and striving in whatever form it takes doesn’t fill. It doesn’t last. There is only one Source. The Holy Spirit indwelling you.

Recognizing your thoughts as a sort of prison is the first step into the freedom of spirit-led living. Is it time to say goodbye to your prison? Is it time to walk out of the old into the new?

What minimum are you living in today? What thoughts and emotions confine you? What striving keeps you bound? Do you know there is more?

I encourage you to take full advantage of what’s already been paid for on your behalf. Consent to putting down your own way of filling yourself up so that He can feed you. Nourish you. Walk through the door of that prison cell and into that great, abundant dining hall and be filled!

If you’d like help learning to live fully in what’s already been paid for, I’m a certified Christian Life Coach with a love for teaching women how to live fully in the freedom of Christ. If you’d like more information, please visit my website: Bridget Anderson Coach

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