Emma Scrivener speaks at national events, is the author of ‘A New Name: Grace and Healing for Anorexia’, and blogs at A New Name, and has recently written a A Theology of Eating Disorders which is well worth a read, here’s a few clips:
Seven years ago I looked like the perfect Christian – but I was gripped by an addiction that nearly destroyed me and the people I love most. I was twenty-seven years old. A talented student at Bible college. I had my dream job, leading a thriving Sunday school. I’d been married for four years to a church minister in training. We were seen as ‘ministry dynamos’, a couple who would go far. But beneath the shiny exterior, I was slowly but surely killing myself.
… As my eating disorder took hold, I was just as ‘religious’ as I’d always been. I was still trusting in God. The difference was that this god had a small, rather than a capital ‘g’. And surprise, surprise, it was a god that looked just like me. The god of performance, hard work, externals and rituals. A god that gave nothing of itself, but demanded everything in return. Like any religion, anorexia is built on a mountain of beliefs about what constitutes life and death, salvation and sin, shame and redemption.
… At the centre of the Christian faith is Christ’s body and blood, broken and poured out for us. In the Lord’s Supper we are reminded that we cannot save ourselves. We are needy – hungry for the Bread of life. But in Jesus we have found a self-giving God who invites us to his table and feeds us. ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them’ is what they said in the Gospels (Luke 15:2), and it’s just as true today. As we come in our brokenness, we know that we are not worthy, but we are welcome nonetheless. At the centre of the anorexic faith is another body, also broken. This body is solitary. It is mine. And it is punished by me and for me. This continual sacrifice is proof that I am worthy after all. I wear my rules and rituals proudly, for all to see.
… What’s the solution? We need to be careful here. Anorexics are all about “solutions”. Everything is aimed at self-improvement. In the past, I’d turned over a thousand new leaves. I’d made a hundred new beginnings, each doomed to failure. These resolutions were all about me – my rules, my strength, my gospel, my way. In the end, I lost all I tried to keep. I got exactly what I asked for: religion without relationship, and law without love. But it left me hungrier than before. In Romans 2 there’s a verse that I’d never understood. It says this: ‘God’s kindness leads you towards repentance’ (2:4). My version of repentance had no room for kindness. Instead, it was about fear, pride and self-will. My version said, ‘Pull yourself together. Try harder, do more, make it better. Fix your own mistakes – or face the consequences.’ Gospel repentance looks very different. It’s the product of God’s kindness, undeserved and poured out without limit. At my very lowest ebb I opened the Bible and came in brokenness before the Lord. In Revelation I met Jesus: someone I had never really seen.
He’s the Creator of the universe (Revelation 1) – and He’s a bleeding and bow-legged lamb (Revelation 5). He’s the embodiment of strength and glory – but also of frailty and pain. He’s Jesus as Lord, the conquering Lion. And He’s Jesus as Lamb, sacrificed and broken. Meeting the Jesus of the Bible was life-changing. Like Jacob in Genesis 32, I felt as though I’d been fighting and fighting. Finally, He’d won. He’d slain me – with His grace. The road to recovery isn’t simple or easy: but at the foot of the cross is where it finally began.