Article by: Emma Scrivener
If you’d met me 13 years ago, here’s what you’d have seen: A “successful” Christian, newly married to a pastor in training. The leader of a thriving children’s ministry with a bright future ahead. Someone who seemed to have it all together.
But there’s one part you might have missed: a young woman gripped by an eating disorder that would nearly take her life.
So how did I get there—and what has changed?
It started when I turned 13. Until then I’d had an idyllic childhood. I knew who I was and where I belonged. But almost overnight, that started to change. My grandfather died. I moved schools. My body felt out of control—like a tanker, spilling flesh and hormones. In search of answers, I even started going to church.
The God I heard about was real and personal, and I resolved to follow him. But in retrospect, we were never properly introduced. My brand of Christianity had space for God, but not for Jesus. It talked about sin and rules, but less about grace. Sure, it paid lip service to God’s work on my behalf. But in practice it was up to me to prove myself.
So that’s what I did. I worked hard and won prizes. I resolved to be smart and pretty and, above all, “good.” Yet nothing—whether clothes or friends or money—was ever enough. Instead of finding satisfaction, I was filled with hungers. I didn’t know what they were called or where to put them. I just knew this: They were too much.
I was too much—too needy, too intense, too messy, too fat.
So I made a decision. Instead of my desires killing me, I would kill them. I would squash my hungers and I would fix myself. I would be thin. Anorexia looked like a way of negotiating the world and making it safe.
In reality, it almost killed me—twice.
The first time, I was a teenager and professionals forced me to eat. I put on weight, but though I looked better on the outside, on the inside I felt the same. Ten years later, my old habits returned. My husband and I were finishing Bible college and I was overwhelmed by the prospect of a new church and my role as a pastor’s wife. Unable to cope, I stopped eating. By the end I could barely walk. This time, I was an adult and it seemed that nothing and no one could help.
Then came a phone call from my parents. My beloved grandmother had died and I was too weak to attend her funeral. That night, faced with the reality of my choices, something in me finally broke. In desperation, I cried out to the God I’d tried to flee: I’ve exhausted my own resources. But if you want me, you can have what’s left.
I had always pictured God as a scary headmaster, slightly disapproving and far away. Someone with rights over my soul, but not my body. Someone who wanted me to perform and keep his rules. This God would surely strike me down or turn me away.
But there was no blinding flash of light. No smoke or lightning. Instead, I discovered something far more exciting.
Earlier in the day I’d been looking at readings for Granny’s funeral and my Bible was still open. I read these words:
Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered. (Rev. 5:5)
My fingers gripped the page as I prepared to meet this lion: a glorious, roaring conqueror. But that’s not how the passage continues: “And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain” (Rev. 5:6).
As I read, I felt I was meeting Jesus for the first time. Instead of the far off slave master I had imagined, I encountered someone completely different. Strong and powerful, but also broken and loving. The Lord of the universe, yet someone who understood what it was to be weak.
Instead of the God I thought I knew, in Jesus I met the one who knew me. This Jesus confronted me, not as a tyrant or heavenly taskmaster, but as a gift. He came offering himself. On the cross, my badness and my attempts at goodness were taken away, rendered irrelevant by his sacrifice.
Here was a Lamb who met me in my brokenness. A Lion who vanquished all my foes. A God who turned his face toward me and called me his child. Enough fighting and striving and hiding and running. Enough starving. Not a question. Not a request. An unalterable fact.
This was the gospel that finally brought me to my knees. I expected God’s anger—but I was floored by his grace. Here at last was someone who could satisfy all of my longings, and all of my hungers. Jesus didn’t want apologies, resolutions, or assurances that I would do better.
He wanted me.
Instead of making me perform, he lifted me clean out of the arena. In return, he asked only one question: Would I receive him? I was the girl who always said “No.” “No” to relationships and food. “No” to risk and desire and vulnerability and need. But as I looked at him—the Savior who knew me and still loved me—I said “yes.”
Recovery is a long process. We learn not just how to eat, but how to live. My healing began when I met Jesus, the Lord who is more beautiful than anorexia. Whatever we face, he’s the Lamb who understands and the Lion who overcomes.
Emma Scrivener was born in Belfast. She now lives in Eastbourne with her husband Glen and their daughter. Emma blogs about identity, faith, and mental health at emmascrivener.net. She’s the author of several books, including A New Name and A New Day.