I thought I’d be amiss to wrap up this #ForFreedom series without another ‘S&S’ interview from another amazing person I have had the honor of doing life with and serving alongside for the past 2 years. The first real time we engaged was during a weekly early Friday morning prayer meeting, and I have watched both of us grow in service and in ministry and in our heart for all things Jesus ever since. Aside from Jesus we share an unhealthy addiction for Sephora, and a love for looking cute. For this conversation, we sat together in the back of a small tea shop for a good 5 hours, discussing everything from Jesus to relationships and style and, of course, our pursuit of freedom…
So for those who don’t know, who is Jenn?
That’s always been a hard question for me to answer because Jenn is never one person – I’m always in transition. Right now, I can confidently say that Jenn is someone who passionately loves God and is pursuing everything He has for me in every area of my life.
More realistically, she is part-time perfectionist – not with her car or her bedroom, because those tend to be a mess lol – but in ministry and in her work.
Ministry – how did that happen?
I’ve always loved serving. I think for the past 10 years – 15 – 25 – people always told me, ‘God has a purpose for your life ‘ and I followed blindly because I didn’t really know what that purpose was. It wasn’t until last year when I started asking God for details, and He began to give me images of leading – images I never saw for myself because insecurity blinded me. I do background stuff so well so I thought that was where He wanted me to function. He was like just because you’re gifted at something, doesn’t mean that that’s you’re calling.
Other times the identity placed on you by others can blind your calling – and I experienced that as well with people telling me I was an introvert. But now I look at anything that’s a challenge -w hether it’s public speaking or insecurity of any sort, – as a challenge and an opportunity to grow my leadership and to get closer to being the person God called me to be.
I’ve served alongside of you in ministry for almost two years now and I don’t think we’ve ever talked about how this all started – how you began your walk with God.
Well it started when I was 15. I spent my entire life searching for something greater. I walked through so much trauma in my childhood that I knew there had to be a reason for all of it. I couldn’t just be here because my mom was sexually abused by her mother’s boyfriend. It couldn’t be that being conceived from such a situation and dealing with the trauma, shame and depression that came from that was for nothing. And all that tied in with being abused myself made it so that I just had to believe there was something greater – something outside of the pain. My heart and soul just craved for God.
And I tried so many different things from a young age – Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh Day Adventist – anything to connect with a higher purpose. I took it so seriously, but nothing clicked. At 15, I ended up at this life-changing retreat where I learnt all about salvation and what healing meant, about my identity and worth in God, and true freedom – and I knew it was God.
It hasn’t been easy. I tell everyone who asks me about my walk that it’s not always going to be easy, but it’s worth it. I have nothing else to hope for or believe in or trust in. I’m completely sold out because everything I needed at that point in my life and everything I still need I have found in Him. And so at this point, I’m just like, OK God, this is it. I’m all in.
What would be your advice for someone seeking freedom from depression, having walked through it yourself?
Well, first thing you have to know is that depression is a continuous battle that you will fight more than once. You can win it each and every time, but to win a battle, you have to know how the enemy works. Steven Furtick said it best when he said ‘The enemy speaks to you in first person.’ I remember little things like being yelled at because I dropped a bowl of cereal on the floor, and the first thing that would pop in my head was ‘Why am I such a failure? Why can’t I get this right? Why am I never enough?’ And I noticed that before long those little thoughts in the first person would spiral into ‘Why am I alive? Would their lives be better without me?’
But even in those moments, I felt like that voice wasn’t me. So when I actually got to know God, I made this pact with Him that if I was ever going to be upset or cry about something, or be depressed, I was never going to do it without Him. I was going to spend my lowest moments with Him.
You crying by yourself is just you and your tears. But when you cry with God, you allow Him to be both comforter and the strength you need to move forward. And you can be completely honest with Him. He grieves WITH you. I know our natural instinct is to cover ourselves up with fig leaves when we feel shame and disappointment that comes with depression, but there is nothing He hasn’t seen. You have to let Him in to find healing and relief.
One characteristic about being Slayed & Saved is a desire to come out from behind our fig leaves and to live unashamed. Do you think there’s any area in your life that you’re currently keeping hidden behind fig leaves?
There’s a lot lol. But if I had to pick just one I’d say insecurity – particularly in my weight. So I lost over 170 pounds – which is an entire person – but people look at me and say ‘Oh you lost mad weight! BUT you still have a long way to go.’ And it’s a backhanded compliment that affects a lot – your self-confidence, your self esteem. And you start to question if you are good enough even when you feel good enough in your process. I’m not perfect. I’m not done yet. I recognize that. But being reminded of the fact that I still have work to do makes me insecure. And that has played into different areas – because it seems that every time people look at me, all they see is that I’m not done yet. For instance, I know I was born to be a leader, but all I hear when people give me feedback on the way I lead is that I’m not good enough and I still have work to do. Because I never feel good enough in one area, I never feel good enough in others. Insecurity when let into one door will fester until it infects everything in your life.
I know it sounds funny, but I feel like that cake in the oven that you’re waiting on to finish baking and it’s just never done yet! And at some point I got tired of being ‘on display’ and everyone seeing I wasn’t done yet. But God spoke to me and said, ‘Yes, you’re on display, but you’re not yourself on display, you’re me on display. When people see you they see your imperfection and My perfection through you.’
I talk to a lot of girls who suffer with Body Image issues – I myself struggle with body dysmorphic disorder – what advice would you give to girls and women trying to lose weight – or more importantly to love themselves where they are in the process?
I definitely identify with feeling of insecurity when it comes to looks. There was a point in uni where I’d never get into pictures with my friends because I was so much bigger than everyone else. First things first, be healthy. We have one body, one temple God has given us. I noticed my weight was hindering my ability to serve well, and made me feel handicapped. God wants you to live freely and not have any chains to hold you back. Learn to feed your soul, and feed your body. I had to change my mentality about food and exercise. Eat to live, not live to eat. Love who you are, and fall in love with the process.
But I feel like that shaped me in more ways than one – especially in my shopping habits!
So you feel like in some ways you’ve used material things as fig leaves to cover up that insecurity? I totally get that.
Yes! It’s a desire for affirmation. We think that if people won’t like or affirm our natural beauty, then at least they will affirm the way we dress. If people won’t tell me ‘I like your figure’ or ‘you’re beautiful’, at least they’ll say ‘I like your outfit’. At least I can find ways to make myself appealing.
We put so much power behind clothes – when we look good we feel good. And coupled with insecurity, it’s a disaster! And God forbid we throw comparison in there – when we judge ourselves based on what others have or what we think they have. Perfectionism + Insecurity is a nightmare.
You’ve mentioned perfectionism a couple times – how do you think leaning towards perfection impacts the way you see yourself?
I think between the expectations God has of me, and others have of me, and I have myself, I can sometimes start to feel shaken because no matter how hard I try I don’t always meet those expectations. It’s almost as if seeking perfection can be equated with setting yourself up for dissatisfaction to some degree. I’ve found that perfectionism hurts more than it helps me. I’ve learnt – and am learning – to just let things happen sometimes.
So how do you stop seeking perfection and learn to let go and let God?
It might sound weird, but for me to let go and let God, I have to feel the pain. I have to face the grief that comes with not meeting that desire for perfection. Desires are things that we have – but we were never meant to keep them. We were meant to give them over to God. Because sometimes our desires are even bigger than we can handle or manage on our own or that we can physically see, so we have to let go and let Him take over, because He can handle it.
How tightly you hold onto something determines how painful it’ll be to let it go. So you have to hold those desires loosely.
Over and over again when I reach that grief point that comes with holding onto a desire too tightly I feel God saying: ‘do you trust Me enough to let this go? Do you love me more than you love that?”
OK, so let’s go back to this materialism bit. I always like to find out how people learn to steward their resources and not buy anything and everything that seems remotely appealing.
Something I started a couple of weeks ago was my 30 Day Rule. You go to the store, and when you see something you want, you write it down, and in 30 days, you ask yourself do I need it or do I want it. 30 days will get you past the impulse buy, and if you still absolutely need it, you can buy it. I’ve found that 99% of the time, after 30 days, you realize you can live without it.
I wish you’d told me this last week before I bought two pairs of Adidas Classics lol
Haha, it’s important because it’s not just money. It’s something God has placed in your hands and He wants you to do something good with it. You have to learn how to budget.
And thinking about your budget and how you spend opens this whole other bag of worms about why we need the things we need? Why do I need that new dress or that bag? Am I trying to impress someone? When you start noticing that you’re making purchases because they make you feel a certain way? That’s a problem.
What do you think God is saying to you/teaching you in this season?
This season has been one of TRUST. God has given me one of the biggest challenges He’s ever given me. One that is truly exciting, scary, and God’s asking me to put action to the words, “I trust and believe you”. One of my Friends told me that trusting God is an immediate yes and obedience, any hesitation is not obedience. Being in a place of living out Psalm 91:2, “I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
I always end these ‘S&S’ interviews with the same question: How do you balance your slayed with your saved? How do you balance your love for looking good and being ‘Face Beat Jenn’, and all the other things that are unique to you and who you are, with your faith? How do you stay authentic?
Be you. Imperfectly perfect. All of my flaws make me who I am, from my staple tarte foundation and winged liner, to my wavy crazy hair, my love for coffee. Makeup can cover a lot, but never what’s underneath. Knowing that being real with myself and others is also a reflection of being real with God. The more honest you are before God, the more likely you are to stand up against the world. I love to be real about my issues, because it’s real life. Being real is attractive, and opens space for people to not walk on eggshells around you. So on the days when you oversleep, or even if you spill coffee on your white shirt (like I tend to do), it’s gonna be alright. Being saved is understanding you are Gods’ and for that reason, every flaw, and everything about you, rock it. Know that the music you like,heels or flats, dresses or jeans, you are beautiful, amazing, blessed and highly favored, fearfully and wonderfully made. Your circumstances and situations don’t define your identity. You are SAVED, now SLAY.