It’s not easy being a preacher’s child. And when you’re the daughter of a famous pastor who’s been in the spotlight for more than 20 years, the pressure to be perfect in the eyes of your family and church community can be close to unbearable.
It’s a story that Sarah Jakes, the 25-year-old daughter of Bishop T.D. Jakes, tells in her new book, “Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life.” Jakes was just 13 when she gave birth to a son, much to the dismay of her father, a nationally renowned minister known for his teachings on how women can develop a strong sense of self.
Later, Sarah Jakes got married at 19, had a second child at 20 and was divorced by 23, and her book recounts how she was shunned at school and gossiped about at church. Now, as a single mother of two boys, ages 11 and 4, and the leader of the women’s ministry at her father’s church in Dallas, she says she wrote the book to help explain her journey from shame to acceptance to success.
While on a national book tour, she sat down with The Washington Post recently to talk about “Lost and Found.”
Why did you write this book? Why did you want to share your story with people?
Because of my pregnancy, I started to give up on my lifelong professional dreams of [being a chief financial officer of a church], little by little. And even though I had beautiful children . . . I was still hurting inside.
So, I started a blog. I didn’t use the Jakes name, but in three months, I had more than 3 million hits. I realized that I was creating a life that people would accept . . . and [had a chance to be] transparent about who I was and what I had been through.
Do you think you will be able to connect with your intended audience? After all, you’re the daughter of T.D. Jakes, a household name. Why should someone who is a single mom, who doesn’t have a million-dollar daddy, listen to someone who comes from wealth?
There is no level of life that you don’t have shame, that you don’t carry guilt. The reality is no matter what stage in life, we all experience something, especially growing up.
Some say even if I didn’t have Bishop Jakes as my father, I would have gone through something.
If we can dispel this myth that you have it all together all the time, we can see that we are more alike than we are different.
After you had your first son, how hard was it was to deal with the response from the church community? How was it for your dad?
When I got pregnant, I felt isolated and I had to sort through those feelings. It took years to figure out Sarah Jakes without the pressure of who the world thought I should be. . . . And for so long, as Bishop Jakes’s daughter, I felt like I had to be called into ministry.
But the reality was I had to learn how to withstand the rumors and the gossip — that was required of me. It has caused us to be more compassionate as the Jakes family. We don’t always get into other folks business now. When we see [unflattering] headlines, we decide to pray instead of spreading rumors.
As much as there are people who love to gossip, there are many people who are praying for us and loving us, and sometimes we have to focus on that.
Do you see yourself in ministry in the future?
I actually started the women’s ministry as a favor to my mommy. She asked me to come on board and help. I never thought that I would have a ministry. By working in the ministry, I realized that there are women whose voices are not always heard: People like myself who have pasts that are not always squeaky clean. Or single moms who think they need to sit in the back of the church and wear this scarlet letter. I am not exactly sure about what my ministry will be. But I do hope that I can continue to share my story.
You grew up at a time when your father hosted the “Women Thou Art Loosed” conferences. Did you ever think that the ministry was more about your parents and you had to go through your own spiritual transformation?
I definitely thought [when growing up] that being in ministry is what my dad does for a living. I knew about the presence of God [working in someone’s life], but I didn’t know that I had a need for Him until I went through my struggle. Then I realized the magnitude of what my father’s work had been about. It is really a ministry. It recognizes that we all have been broken, we all have been hurting and at the end of the day, God has a place for all of us in the kingdom.