For Sarah Jakes, the daughter of Bishop T.D. Jakes, one of the nation’s most powerful and prominent pastors, childhood presented some unique challenges.
Her upbringing was heavily influenced by her family’s deep involvement with the church – so when she became pregnant at 14, Jakes faced the most difficult moment in her life.
“I was terrified,” Jakes told theGrio, thinking back to the events leading up to her parent’s discovery of her pregnancy. “You have this idea of ‘I’m going to get in trouble,’ like ‘I’m going to be grounded forever’ because you have nothing else really at that point to compare it to.”
Jakes recounted the memories she still holds from that day, sharing that it was her sister who broke the news to her parents after she wrote a letter and left it in the family’s mailbox.
“My parents were speechless. I mean, my father was a preacher, who speaks for a living, and he was speechless,” Jakes said. “And that’s when it dawned on me that this was so much bigger than being grounded. [I was] bringing a life into the world and while I certainly had other options, whether abortions or adoptions, there was something inside of me that said I could do it.”
It was this tough experience – along with several other similarly trying moments — that motivated Jakes to write a book detailing some of the burdens she’s carried and the strength she found to overcome them.
Finding the courage to share her story
Lost & Found: Finding HOPE in the Detours of Life marks Jakes’ debut as an author. Her open and honest words carry a story filled with trials and triumph – all the while sending a message that will hopefully prove uplifting to readers.
While this may be her first published book, it is not the first time Jakes has discussed some of her biggest struggles in a public space.
“I started blogging about three years ago and at the time, I was married and my husband was expecting a child from another woman. I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to make the decision to divorce or to even put that part of my life out on a blog but I knew I had this pain and these emotions,” she said. “I was angry with God, I was bitter, and I just wanted to write about it.”
The transparency and honesty she showed won her the admiration of numerous fans. Her blog dealt with private matters — such as her pregnancy, a rocky marriage to NFL linebacker Robert Henson and later, her divorce. Within three months, the site had garnered over a million views.
“I believe the blog was very much an opportunity and permission to say we don’t have it all together and it hurts and life sucks right now but you know we are still trying,” Jakes said. “So when I got approached by my publisher as a result of the blog, I decided to be as transparent as my blog followers felt that I was on the website and that came through me sharing my own story.”
Living life under a microscope
Being a part of such a large and established family forced Jakes to grow up under a harsh microscope.
The public pressure she underwent often led to a hostile reception from community members and church-goers who, she says, held her to certain moral standards. This ultimately resulted in Jakes’ becoming a more withdrawn person.
“Outside of wanting to know what would be the ministry legacy that you would create from your last name, they also wanted you to know that everything needed to be perfect,” Jakes said.
“In my case, you’re pregnant at 14, your stomach is growing, you’re sitting in a church, within service and people want to know who the father is and how it all happened. I mean that pressure very much made me want to hide and I became comfortable being an introvert,” she added.
Overcoming her battles
Yet, despite the intense scrutiny she received from others, Jakes’ strong religious faith and family support helped her persevere.
She exemplified even more courage through sharing her story publicly in the hopes that it would help others learn and be inspired by the personal tribulations she faced and eventually overcame.
“I think the most challenging part is probably being as transparent as I am. I had the opportunity where I could not have said anything and no one would have known at all,” Jakes admitted.
“But because of what it does for other people, I feel that I should share my story. It’s very scary because you open yourself up to criticism and so much judgment and you know that not everyone is going to see the message. So the hardest part is to kind of drown out the painful and hurtful things that have been said and really just focus on the hope it provides for other people.”
Lost & Found was released on April 1. It can be purchased on Amazon.com.
Follow Lilly Workneh on Twitter @Lilly_Works