The girl who always said no {guest post}

Emma Scrivener’s book, A New Name, on her journey with anorexia, is one of the most gripping autobiographies I’ve ever read. I love her witty, insightful blog, and I’m excited that she’s writing something of her own God and Suffering story here. Over to Emma:

If you’d met me seven years ago, here’s what you’d have seen: a ‘successful’ Christian, newly married to a vicar in training. Leader of a thriving children’s ministry. A talented student 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.


It started when I turned 13. Up until then I’d had an idyllic childhood: I knew who I was and I knew 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 we were never properly intro­duced. You see, my brand of Christianity had space for ‘God’, but not for Jesus. It talked about sin and rules – but less about grace. It paid lip service to his work on my behalf. But, in practice, it was up to me to prove my own worth.


So that’s what I did. I worked hard and won prizes. I resolved to be smart and pretty and most of all, ‘good’. But 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. What I did know was 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.


Instead of a problem, anorexia appeared to be a solution. A way of negotiating the world and making it ‘safe’. In reality, it almost killed me – not just once, but 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 parish and my role as a vicar’s wife. Unable to cope, I stopped eating. By the end I could barely walk: but this time, I was an adult – it seemed that nothing and no-one could help.


Then came the phone-call. My beloved grandmother had died – but I was too weak to travel to 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’ I said. ‘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. As I opened my Bible, I found Jesus.


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 goodness were taken away: rendered irrel­evant by his sacrifice. 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 people

‘No’ to relationships

‘No’ to marriage and health and family and food

‘No’ to risk and desire and vulnerability and need


But as I looked at Him – the Saviour who knew me and yet loved me – I said yes.


And that was when my life and recovery began.



Emma Scrivener was born in Belfast, but now lives with her husband in the south-east of England.

She blogs at

Her book, ‘A New Name’ is published by IVP.

Over to you:

  • Can you relate to Emma’s experience of getting to the end of your resources and crying out to God?


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12 Responses to The girl who always said no {guest post}

  1. Emma 30th October, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    Thank you Abigail – that’s really kind.

  2. Emma 30th October, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

    Hi Mark – yes, it still blows me away. And I have to keep learning it afresh!

  3. Abigail Cashelle 30th October, 2012 at 8:05 pm #

    This one sentence stands out to me: “Instead of the God I thought I knew; in Jesus I met the one who knew me.”

    Praying for a humble & learning spirit. Praying not to shut out the very One who may be reaching me in an unfamiliar way.

    Thanks so much for sharing your powerful testimony. Very beautiful words.


  4. Mark Allman 30th October, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    Oh that we all would understand this: You wrote.. “Jesus didn’t want apologies, resolutions or assurances that I would do better. He wanted me.”

  5. Emma 30th October, 2012 at 6:46 pm #

    Joy – you’re absolutely right: God’s redeeming love and grace is incredibly powerful. Thanks too for your encouragements – much appreciated! x e

  6. Emma 30th October, 2012 at 6:45 pm #

    Thanks Lynn: praying for your relative. And if you ever do tell your story, I’ll love to hear it. x emma

  7. Joy Lenton 30th October, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    What a moving story of a growing awareness of God’s saving grace. Far too many churches (and individual Christians) sadly heap accusation and condemnation upon others in their eagerness to share the gospel and fail to emphasise God’s redeeming love and grace.
    I’m so pleased you found ‘Abba’ God in your journey towards wholeness and healing. May your words speak into the lives of others who are struggling to find themselves and to know God.
    Bless you for sharing this beautifully poignant account of redemption through grace. May He continue to fill your life with peace and freedom to be who you are in Christ.:)

  8. Lynn 30th October, 2012 at 2:19 pm #

    This is a beautiful account that is so encouraging. I do understand about coming to the point of complete surrender but have not plucked up the courage to tell my story. I am going to share this with a relative who is really struggling at the moment and pray it will give her hope too.
    God Bless you and may he continue to be Grace and Peace to you.

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