A 13-year-old girl sits in a church pew, baby in her womb, while her father the pastor delivers a sermon about the virtues of abstinence.
That’s just one of the compelling pictures that any one of Sarah Jakes’ life stories might bring to mind. That her father is T.D. Jakes—one of the nation’s most recognizable and beloved megachurch pastors—makes Sarah’s journey all the more fascinating and intense.
Sarah, now 25, spoke to The Root about her new book, Lost & Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life, in which she describes those watershed moments in her life that defined much of her youth, including a marriage to an NFL athlete at 19, their subsequent divorce, and the “aha” moment when she realized that she desperately needed to rid herself of the guilt and shame she carried for far too many years.
The Root: At age 13, how did you process and cope with your life as a teenage mother, particularly as the daughter of T.D. Jakes?
Sarah Jakes: I felt a lot of pressure and shame. My father had appeared on the cover of TIME magazine, and was being called America’s best preacher. I carried the weight of that. My parents were disappointed in themselves, but it had more to do with their role as parents, and less with their role in the ministry. The greatest difficulty of it all is that they were still very loving to me, and I didn’t feel worthy of that. I projected a lot of my own thoughts onto others, and it was hard for me to accept that they had forgiven me. I continued to lower my self-esteem and lower my head. I became introverted, and I suspect that I made a lot of detours in my life because I felt the need to clean up my image.
TR: What were some of those detours?
SJ: I had an aggressive pursuit of education. I graduated from high school early and enrolled in college. But then I dropped out of college and began waitressing at a strip club in order to support myself. My parents had a strict rule that they would only support their children if we were in school. I stayed in a relationship that was emotionally abusive. It was all a result of my coming to grips with my teen pregnancy.
TR: Did your parents—your father in particular—feel partially responsible for your pregnancy, because of how his role in public life might have impacted your childhood?
SJ: I’m not sure. I can’t really answer that. They didn’t share that process with me. As a parent of two myself, I’m sure that those were some of the things they considered. As a parent, you can’t help but self-reflect, and ask yourself, ‘How can I have done better?’ But hopefully being on the other side of it, when you train children up right, they don’t depart from [certain values] for long, and eventually return to those lessons.
TR: In Lost and Found, we see how your identity as a preacher’s kid informed your experiences as a child. What is one piece of advice that you might give to other PKs?