*Many have heard Sarah Jakes Roberts’ story before – daughter of famed preacher Bishop T.D. Jakes gets pregnant at 13, married by 19, and divorced by 23. However, that is not the end of her story.
Pushing through shame and self-destructive patterns while under the glare of her family, her dad’s multi-thousand member flock, and the media, Roberts has been on a new path for quite some time now. While she released three books – two in 2014 and one in 2015 – it’s her new book, “Don’t Settle for Safe: Embracing the Uncomfortable to Become Unstoppable” (released on Tuesday, April 18, 2017), that mostly displays her self-discovery tools of breaking through the pain and moving forward.
Now remarried and leading a church with her husband in Los Angeles, Roberts shows you how to take serious inventory of your baggage, while realizing the best that life has to offer without settling.
EUR: With three other books, why did you feel the need to do a fourth book?
Sarah Jakes Roberts (SJR): I wrote my first book, which was the memoir ‘Lost & Found’ and two books and in between that. One was a devotional book, (“Colliding With Destiny: Finding Hope in the Legacy of Ruth)” and the other book, (“Dear Mary: Lessons From the Mother of Jesus for the Modern Mom),” was solely for mothers.
When (I finished writing) ‘Lost & Found,’ I made the decision to file for divorce (from NFL linebacker husband Robert Henson). I felt like a blank canvas in many ways at that point in the book because I wasn’t sure what to expect out of my life and what I was going to become. All I knew was that I couldn’t be the person that I used to be.
In addition, from releasing ‘Lost & Found’ to now, I had so many changes in my life. I have an incredible marriage now. I live in the Los Angeles area and I’ve seen so much transformation take place in my life. I really didn’t recognize how I got to this point until I sat down and started writing this book. I realize that a lot of times in order for us to manage a life that we love on the outside it first has to do with doing some serious work and thinking on the inside. ‘Don’t Settle for Safe’ is less about my story and more about giving women and men tools and resources necessary for them to discover what their unstoppable is and what their life and journey is all about.
EUR: What were some of the transformations you had to make in order to write this book?
SJR: I had to really recognize my patterns. I was sharing on one of the calls I had earlier is that it’s like whenever someone breaks their leg they don’t learn how to walk with a limp. They see a doctor, look at how it was broken, and what’s necessary to recover. So, when we have emotional trauma it seems like our initial instinct is to just move on as if nothing happened. We never assess the damage. We never take a moment to assess how that hurt changed our perspective on love, on finances, on entrepreneurialism – we end up learning to live with a limp, if you will. I had to discover what my limps are, my crutches, and what are the patterns that have been created from the result of some of these detours my life made. Once I discovered that there were some things I was comfortable with and realized that there were other things limiting me, I really made a conscious decision to transform and renew my mind. It takes time and work but you have to be intentional about it.
EUR: How did the experience of getting pregnant as a teenager and being a mother at such a young age relate to writing this book?
SJR: You’re raised as T.D. Jakes daughter and you end up getting pregnant at the age of 13, having the baby at 14 and there’s this idea that safe for me is that I stayed away from anything that even looked like religion or spirituality. It was something that disqualified me. For me, safe was I thought keeping a distance from who my family was and as a result, I really paid such a heavy consequence case. I didn’t think I was worthy being in that environment anymore. However, to the point of the book, I made a decision and this is who I am. This is my story. For people like me who’ve gone through challenges that need to know that grace is still available to us. We still have this opportunity to believe that we aren’t just what our past is. The more I was able to own my truth and started being genuine, I started to get this other feeling of being unstoppable and what you think of me doesn’t matter. All that matters is what God calls me to be.
EUR: I read in the book that after your divorce you wanted comfort and stability but then realized that wouldn’t work. Please explain.
SJR: That’s what ‘Don’t Settle For Safe’ is about. As children, we have this idea that once I make it to this point then I’ll be comfortable, have stability, and I’ll be able to breathe and rest. Then we reach high school and college and start establishing our lives and we’re looking for this destination called safe and what I’ve learned is that it doesn’t exist. Regardless of what stage you are in life you’re going to be presented with challenges and obstacles. I truly believe that those challenges and are meant to be a reflection of what God sees in us and what we don’t always see within ourselves. For me, the book is all about recognizing those issues that we have a tendency to kind of ignore and it’s really not this hurdle that you finally get over. It’s a constant commitment to asking God how to be better and trusting you’ll be better afterward.
EUR: What is the one chapter that requires readers to pay closer attention?
SJR: I think the chapter that I enjoy the most is about intimacy. I think one of the most challenging areas that I’ve had to not settle for safe was as it relates to my marriage (to Pastor Toure’ Roberts) and just really not being so sensitive about my baggage. The thing about marriage is that you’re learning what those buttons are and how to communicate. I had to realize that part of marriage is taking your baggage from whatever relationships, childhood issues, whatever you’ve had, and bringing them into this room that is your husband’s heart. Opening it up and allowing him sort it through with you and make peace with things that have happened to you and how things have changed you.
EUR: With five children (two from her and three from current marriage) between you and your husband Toure,’ you took a big step and decided on a 6th child, why?
SJR: When we first got married (closer to the end of 2014), ‘We were like we have 5 kids?’ So, there was no need to add any more to this bunch. The children are awesome but it’s a lot of work in raising them. However, the more that we began merging our lives and experiencing things with one another, we really felt that this was something that we wanted to share in that experience and have (our other) kids be a part of it as well. I tell you that we were blending so well before we even had Ella (last year) that she’s become the cherry on top of this sundae. She has obviously unified all of us. It’s been such a beautiful experience to see everyone come together and to really be a part of this village that’s raising her.
EUR: How do you and your husband have time for each other with six children, writing a book, traveling to do speeches, and leading your own church?
SJR: Even though we’ve been travelling so much – we did like 5 states in 5 dates – last month – and it is really exhausting, but when you love the person you do life with you find pockets of a reprieve. We try to make sure that we get a date night in or we go upstairs when the kids are sleeping and catchup on our shows. (It’s important) to be intentional about this love and bonding with one another every chance we get.
EUR: You and Toure’ have your own church in Los Angeles, which some describe as a church for millennials. Is that how you would describe it?
SJR: We certainly have a lot of millennials at our church but I think it’s a church for people young at heart. There are older people within our community in their 60’s or 70’s, but they’re progressive. They don’t believe that just because they’re older that they have to stop living. I think for people who are passionate about maxing out their potential and making sure that everything (that’s good) inside of them comes out in some capacity and is multiplied on the earth then One Church is definitely for you.
To find out more about One Church, click here: http://www.onechurchla.org.
Sarah Jakes Roberts book “Don’t Settle for Safe: Embracing the Uncomfortable to Become Unstoppable,” is available through book sellers now. You can check out the excerpt,”Boys Versus Men” from the “Intimacy” chapter, here.
Additionally, she is also releasing a web series based on the book the same day. For more info, her Twitter is @SJakesRoberts.