NEW YORK — Sarah Jakes, daughter of The Potter's House pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, hit a chord with many when she shared in a series of blog posts about the turmoil she endured as a teen mom and years later, over a broken marriage. In her new memoir, Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, Jakes goes even deeper into the struggles that she feels ultimately led her back to God and gave her a platform to speak to a generation struggling with faith, the church and their own detours in life.
"If you had told me the girl who got pregnant at thirteen and felt like the black sheep child of America's favorite preacher would now be a twenty-five-year-old single mom, divorcée, author, motivational speaker, TV personality, ministry director, and senior editor, I never would have believed you," Jakes writes in Lost and Found.
The mother of two, who divorced ex-NFL player Robert Henson in 2012 after four years of marriage, continues:
"But knowing it's true, that I'm all these things and so much more now, I'd say the only way to get your bearings and find yourself is to trust that you were never really lost. Amid all your twists and turns, perhaps you simply haven't discovered the right direction yet. God loves the lost. And He loves to help us find our way when we turn to Him and ask directions. …"
Jakes, who blogs at SarahJakes.com and oversees the women's ministry at her parents' megachurch in Dallas, recently spoke with The Christian Post about how privileged she feels to be able to use her testimony to inspire others in their walk with God.
Below is a transcript, edited for clarity, of CP's interview with Jakes.
CP: You mention in Lost and Found that everyone has to go through "a process," that transformation doesn't happen overnight. Can you elaborate?
Jakes: I think we all have this idea and this image of who we want to be in our minds. But we realize we're so far from that person that it makes us give up completely. But I believe that it really starts with baby steps. It took a long time for me to embrace that. I wanted to recover so quickly from my pregnancy that I missed out on the process of really healing the right way. So I believe that when we break that dream down into baby steps, into "faith without works is dead," and [are] really determined to do the work, that we'll look up and one day our lives [will] have been transformed. But it'll never start if we don't begin.
CP: There's been debate about Millennials (18-33-year olds) leaving the Church, and what that might actually mean. But in some cases, young people are in Church, but maybe have mentally or spiritually checked out. What do you say to someone who's in church but struggling to connect with God?
Jakes: God exists outside of church as well. We don't have to just search for God in a church service. We have the opportunity to search for Him in the small things, like waking up each day. … You know, choosing to have joy in a situation where we could be terrified. We have to pull God into our everyday lives. He doesn't just appear. He's given us free will. Because of that, it is our conscious decision and effort to include Him that really makes the difference.
CP: How can people encourage the young people in their lives who do drop out of church, due to pressures and expectations or for whatever reason?
Jakes: I think that we have to realize that it starts with us, and if we're able to love a young person and to show them love. They have numerous opportunities to be convicted, to be shamed and to feel guilty for their lives and decisions. … God is love, [so] to choose love in the face of those dilemmas … we really give the person an opportunity to see God when sometimes they feel the most alone.
CP: Preachers' kids can't seem to win, right? On the one hand, there's the stereotype of PKs being rebellious; on the other hand, there's the expectation that they're supposed to be squeaky clean if not perfect. What's the right attitude to have toward preachers' kids?
Jakes: We have to realize that they're just normal people, you know and that we all have a process and a struggle. No one gets upset with the dentist when his child has a cavity. When the doctor's child has a cold, they have no problem treating them. But when the pastor's child has an issue, then it's become like a big thing. I think that we have to give people the room to get it wrong so that God's strength can really be made perfect in our weaknesses.
CP: Your experiences, as difficult as they may have been, have given you a voice and a platform now. So what's your message to your generation?
Jakes: I really didn't anticipate with my past and the decisions that I've made that I even deserved a platform. I wake up each day like, 'God, are you sure? Are you sure you want to use me?' But I think the reality is that we're looking for something real and authentic and someone who's willing to say, 'I don't have it all together but I'm certainly trying, and I see so much God and good in my life and I'm dedicated each day to bringing more and more of that out.' I think that the more transparent we are about our struggles, we give permission to really strive for God in the face of their humanity.
CP: What do you think holds us back sometimes from being transparent?
Jakes: The judgement that we feel will happen when we share our stories and the criticism that could come. To be honest, sometimes we're judging ourselves so harshly that we really can't imagine that anyone could look beyond our flaws and imperfections. But if we're really going to be Christians and really trust that God is sovereign and can do anything with our lives, we have to be willing to let Him touch every area of our lives.
CP: Your story is one of redemption, hope and finding purpose. Really, that's the story God offers everyone. But what do you say to someone who's having a hard time believing that?
Jakes: I believe that as long as you're struggling to believe it that God can't really fully redeem us. He's already given us the story of redemption and hope and purpose when He put Christ on the cross, that is when we received that story. It is up to us to really believe that story, to believe the words and put them into action.
Watch Jakes' "CP Newsroom" interview in the player below:
Watch Sarah Jakes discuss her memoir, Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, with "CP Insider" here: TD Jakes Daughter Sarah Jakes on Teen Pregnancy, Divorce in 'Lost & Found'
Read an excerpt of Jakes' new book in the limited preview below: