How to Teach Our Kids to Hunger for True Food (advice from a former anorexic): by Emily T. Wierenga

Apr 3, 2024

“I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no
life in you.”

John 6:53

I grew up a pastor’s daughter. I grew up swinging leotard legs from wooden pews and wishing I could run and laugh and dance in church. I grew up staring at the cold black cover of the Bible in the pew shelf wishing it would come to life and hug me. After I got baptized I would take communion. I would eat the stale brown bread Mum had so carefully cut up, and drink the watery juice, and I tasted nothing. Nothing of the goodness I knew God was, but somehow, it felt, the church had forgotten. Like everyone around me was sleeping through the greatness of God.

And deep down in the bottoms of my scuffed Mary Janes I remembered the colors and sights and sounds of Africa, the dancing and the singing and the praying so loud you had no doubt heaven could hear, and I hungered for more.

I hungered until I couldn’t stand the ache anymore. I starved myself for four years, because I didn’t know how to handle the emptiness of the church. An empty stomach was easier to control. Until it wasn’t, and I nearly died. I was 13, and hospitalized, blue from hypothermia, and 60 pounds. The nurses said I was a walking miracle. I didn’t feel like a miracle. I felt like a bony old woman who was losing her hair and her mind, but when Mom told me the nurses couldn’t believe I was still alive, I finally tasted it. The lavish, abundant, goodness of God.

Because deep down I knew it was somehow selfish to choose not to eat when there were millions of children around the world who had no food. My parents had been missionaries in Africa. I knew. But when you’re in so much pain it’s not a rational choice you make to starve yourself, it’s a desperate attempt to survive the very pain that threatens to destroy you. Ironically, it’s the starvation that becomes your enemy. And in the midst of this somewhat selfish behavior and this desperate cry for love, God had compassion on me. He didn’t judge me or preach a sermon. He saved me. From myself.

And even as I picked up a fork that day and began to eat, I began to hear the praises inside me – the whooping and hollering of the African church, the loud singing and prayers, the bright colors of hope coming alive in me. As I pronged pea after pea, as I ate the wiggly jello, it was the greatest communion, because it was as if I was eating Christ Himself. He came that we might have life, abundant, and I was tasting abundance. He came that we might know His power, and I was tasting His divine power rising up in me and making me new. “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing,” Jesus says in John 6:63. And yet, because of His Spirit in me, pulsing in my veins, the flesh now counted for something.

Thirty years later and I’m a mother of three (miracle) children ages eight to fourteen, and I wonder how to make them wonder. How to whet their appetite for the bigness of a God that cannot be captured in a tiny piece of bread or a watery glass of juice. And this, the hard part because I realize – they too need to tire of the material. They too need to ache for the true church, the true intimacy with God. They too need to seek Him with all their heart.

I cannot force hunger. I cannot create it. I can merely lead them to the One who can.

But we can create spaces for them to do this. We can create spaces for the questions I was never allowed to ask. We can create communion in the home, with fresh homemade bread and rich grape juice and a huge goblet. We can devour the Word together and fast from the material together, laying down video games and phones and social media to make room to hunger – and then, be filled, by the Spirit who gives life, and life abundant.

We can love and learn and seek Jesus, without judgment, each on our own journey, together. That we might feast on His goodness, and feed the world.

Abba Father, we invite you in, as You are, with all the unknowns. We so often hunger for things
that won’t fill us, and we long to hunger for You, that our children, too, might hunger for You,
and live. Make our hunger genuine and bold and make it mean something, Lord. Make us
righteous and make us broken, that we might feed others. Give our children a craving for you,
dear Abba. May they crave your law, your ways, your truth. In Jesus’ mighty and holy name,

Emily T. Wierenga is the author of the upcoming memoir God Who Became Bread (releasing June 4), and the self-help resource Chasing Silhouettes: How to Help a Loved One Battling an Eating Disorder. In 2014, she was used by God to establish The Lulu Tree Foundation, a nonprofit that operates in villages around the world, equipping families to become sustainable through the local church. To learn more, visit

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