The pressure to be a perfect preacher's kid is a classic dilemma, but not many children of well-known pastors tell their stories the way Sarah Jakes does in her first book, Lost and Found: Finding Hope in the Detours of Life (Bethany House, April). The daughter of T.D. Jakes, bestselling author and high-profile pastor of Dallas-based megachurch The Potter's House, Sarah Jakes recounts a story of sin, fear, and redemption. "Do not expect a Sunday school storybook filled with Christian colloquialisms and religious rhetoric," warns her father in the book's foreword. "Instead you will see the perspective of one little girl whose childhood was nearly stolen by 'grown woman' experiences. But today she has become a tool fit for the Master's use."
First the prodigal daughter lost her way. Jakes writes about growing up in the shadow of her father's growing fame (The Potter's House grew from 50 to 36,000 members between 1996 and 2013) and coming of age while trying to find her own identity outside of his ministry. The year she turned 13, in 2001, Time Magazine named her father America's Best Preacher--a designation that only brought more scrutiny to the family and prompted people to ask her if she felt called to ministry. She was the Jakes least likely to have that calling, she writes. A year later, at 14, she became pregnant.
"When I was first approached to write my memoir, I didn't think I had enough material," Jakes tells PW. But as she wrote about working in a restaurant as seedy as a strip club and marrying a conniving football player during college, she realized how much she had been through. That would include a later divorce as the very young mother of two.
Jakes says she never set out to write a book. She began writing a blog, sarahjakes.com "as a source of healing for me,” she says. “I started it as a place to release the pain I was going through while I was still fighting for my marriage. The more I blogged, the more people responded. I realized by being transparent and sharing my struggles, I was able to inspire other people. Together, we all started to dream again."
While the blog brought catharsis and built a following, writing the memoir allowed her to revisit the hard lessons in becoming a teen mother. Of the stigma and shaming she experienced from members of her family's church community, Jakes writes, "Tradition thinks rebellion is the disease; I know now it's the symptom." As an unconventional churchgoer, Jakes didn't mind the judgment of others; her fear was being rejected and isolated by members of the church because she made decisions that contradicted biblical teachings. But now, at 25, Jakes oversees the women’s ministry at The Potter’s House, and her second book, Colliding with Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth, will be published by Bethany House in September.
Writing Lost and Found gave Jakes a chance to show others that "no matter how bleak the situation is, they still have another opportunity to get it right," she says. It is not just another book, Jakes says, but a call to action. She hopes Lost and Found will help those who read it “be more aware of the way we engage with one another, more aware of the way we treat each other. It is an opportunity for us to be transparent and bare our scars, but it's also an opportunity to teach others how to handle those scars with care."