Jamie Ivey: I battled with that for so many years, even from the Lord of, “Am I ever going to get rid of this shame that I feel? Am I ever going to feel like I deserve what You’ve done for me, like I deserve this husband?” And I’m telling you, it is only something that God can do when we give ourselves to Him and say, “You are the only one that can make me clean. You are the only one that can take this away.” Because I have – honestly can stand here in front of you guys and say I do not feel shame over my past anymore.
End of Excerpt
John Fuller: Well, that’s Jamie Ivey, describing a very dark place in her prodigal journey, in which she discovered the power of God’s love and forgiveness in a really profound way.
Jamie returns as our guest today on Focus on the Family. And your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly. And due to some of the more graphic details in her story, we’re gonna recommend that you direct the attention of younger children elsewhere.
Jim Daly: John, Jamie’s story is incredible in so many ways. As a parent of teenagers, I was fascinated to hear how and why she went from being raised in a Christian home to living as a prodigal for several years. I think all of us, as parents of teens, should listen to this. But what’s even more profound is where Jamie is today. Despite everything she went through, she knows without a doubt that God loves her and forgives her.
Here at Focus on the Family, we want everyone to know and experience that freedom that Jesus offers. If you’ve hit rock bottom in your life, as Jamie’s describing, I wanna urge you to reach out to us. It doesn’t matter what it is – living as prodigal, addictions, maybe an unplanned pregnancy – we are here for you. We have caring, Christian counselors who would love to talk to you and offer you some godly wisdom, hope, and encouragement.
We also have our Option Ultrasound program, where we’re funding local ministries that help women and girls facing an unplanned pregnancy. And speaking of ultrasounds, we’re gearing up right now for a major event in New York City called “Alive from New York.” That’s going to be held on May 4th at 3 PM – that’s next weekend, and I’ll tell you more toward the end of the program.
John: Meanwhile, you can find out more about Option Ultrasound, you can talk to one of our counselors, and learn details about our “Alive in New York” event at focusonthefamily.com/prolife, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
And as was mentioned earlier, Jamie Ivey is our guest again today. She’s the host of a very popular podcast for women called, The Happy Hour. She’s married to a worship pastor, his name is Aaron, and together they have four kids.
Jim: Jamie, it’s great to have you back at Focus on the Family.
Jamie: So glad to be with you guys.
Jim: Okay, it was breathtaking yesterday. I mean, really, as a parent I was right on the edge of my seat. So often we as parents want to put our head in the sand and not realize what’s really going on in our kids’ lives – especially teenagers. And I’m guilty of that. I think everything’s flowing along just fine. And you were so vulnerable. And I so appreciate that. And if you didn’t hear the program last time, and if you’re a parent, you better get it. It’s that straightforward because it had so many helpful insights about trusting but verifying (laughter) where you’re at in your parenting journey with your kids. And I would encourage you to do that. John will give you details on that.
Jamie, as we move into the next phase, I want to pick up where you are off to college. You actually are trying to do a good job. You’re kind of doing it out of your own strength. Maybe Peter in the garden, right? You know, “I’m going to defend the son of God.” But you have another failure. Describe what happened.
Jamie: Yeah. I had just – in that – January of that year of 1999, I decided to give Jesus, like, the reins of my life. And I was like, “I can’t do this on my own anymore. I trust You. I’m going to follow You.” So here I am, young Christian but grown up in the church. So I know all the rules, right?
Jim: And the words.
Jamie: Yeah, I know the words. I know the rules. I know everything. But at this point, I had decided, “You have my heart. I’m following You. Amen.” And so I was in a relationship at that time. And one of the biggest things that I did was I went to the guy I was dating – that I also got engaged to and said, “Hey, I’m kind of having a change of heart here. I don’t think that we should be sexually active anymore.” It was, like, the biggest thing for me in my life at that point to follow Jesus was I’m going to give over something that has been – not important to me, but just a part of my life for so many years.
Jim: That is a great first step.
Jamie: Yes, it was – and it was big for me. It was really big. And he wasn’t too happy about it. And so it was all these red flags like, “Wait, this is really that big of a deal?” And so we continue our relationship. And I think it just – I started to grow. I started to want to read God’s word. I was giving up things that I had been giving myself to. I – stopping drinking. I stopped having sex, all the things. And then, you know, the longest way to that story is that I got engaged to that guy. A few months later, I really felt like, “I can’t marry this guy. He doesn’t even love Jesus. And I can’t do this.” And so I broke off that engagement. A couple months later – this is where the crazy story starts – I then go on a work trip, and I invite him with me. Dumb, I know, right? What y’all are all thinking.
Jamie: “What are you thinking, Jamie,” right? We were friends at the time. It wasn’t a big deal. We were not going to get married ever. And on that trip, we had sex. I fall. I’m following Jesus now, you guys. Like, I love God with all my heart. I’m doing the best I can. I’m following Him. And I make the same mistake that I had made, you know, for the past five, six, seven years of my life. And I felt so full of shame. I felt like, “God, I have screwed up again. Am I ever going to be able to get this under control? Am I ever going to be able to follow You and give this up?” It was a one-time thing. But then I ended up pregnant. That’s the second time I’ve been pregnant.
Jamie: But I’ll tell you the difference. This is when I knew that I loved God, and He loved me. When I got pregnant the second time, I did not feel as though God wanted to disown me. I did not feel as though…
Jim: And that was different?
Jamie: So different. I felt the love from God. I felt forgiveness from Him. I felt as though, “I made a mistake and God still loves me. And God can still use me. And God is still going to be a part of my life.” Whereas before, I felt embarrassed. “What if people know?” And again, here, I’d still be embarrassed. What if people know? I mean, we still had a long road ahead of us.
Jamie: But I knew in that moment, “I have really given my life to You because I feel different.” And so I made a big mistake. Everyone does. But God was still so good to me in that moment.
John: And you planned to – to keep the baby?
Jamie: Yes, I planned to keep the baby. I wasn’t gonna marry this guy ‘cause I knew I didn’t want to marry him. And then, unfortunately and fortunately – it’s a really crazy scenario – I ended up having another miscarriage. And so God was just so good in that time because I felt so near to Him. And I didn’t feel like – what I thought I would feel like is that He would look at me and go, “Man, I thought you were loving Me. I thought you were going to follow Me. Now I know you’re a fake.” That’s what I thought people would think. And that’s what I thought God would think. And I think people might have thought that. You know, like, had I ended up carrying that baby and delivering – I think people might have thought that. But I knew God did not think that about me. And that was the most beautiful thing that had ever happened into my life that far.
Jim: Jamie, and it’s so important for people to hear that because they may be still at what I would call phase one or step one, where you were feeling that guilt and shame from what you perceived to be God expressing that from conviction and everything else. And that all has a purpose. But that loving feeling…
Jim: …The second time.
Jim: Couple of questions there. With true repentance, help us better understand, from someone who has gone through failures, if I can say it that way…
Jim: …What does true repentance sound like? What is the definition for that woman or that man listening that maybe continues to struggle? What would you say to them?
Jamie: Yeah. I experienced true repentance before I knew I was pregnant. And so when the sin happened, I knew I felt guilt that led to repentance, not guilt that led to shame.
Jim: Wow, that is big.
Jamie: Yeah. And so I did feel guilt for that. I knew I had messed up. I knew I had sinned against God. But it led me to repentance before I ever knew I was pregnant. So it wasn’t like I found out I was pregnant – “Oh, I guess I should repent.” That was a consequence of my action. You know, and so that repentance was real for me.
Jim: And I can imagine when you speak on this, someone will be, after the talk, someone’s going to be standing in line to greet you and say hello. And they’re going to look at you and say, “I heard you. But this is the seventh time I have failed. This is the 15th time I have failed.” And it may not just be a sexual sin. Just broaden that out, whatever it might be. But that burden, that guilt is upon them. And they’re looking at you. I’ve been in this spot when I’ve talked. And they’re looking at you saying, “How do I experience what you experienced? How do I get through that guilt? How do I actually know that God loves me even though I’m failing?”
Jim: What do you say?
Jamie: One of the greatest things that I think I had to learn was I used to think, “I have too much sin, too much baggage. How can God use me? How can He forgive me fully? How can He love me?” I’m bringing a lot to the table here – right? To God. That’s what I’m thinking. And I had kind of this “aha” moment when I realize the pride that was in me to say to God, “You said you sent your son to save sinners. I’m too big for that.”
Jim: You’re too much of a sinner?
Jamie: I’m too much of a sinner.
Jim: That’s an interesting way to look at that.
Jamie: The pride in my heart to say, “God, You said You sent Jesus to save all. You sent Your only Son to die on a cross for all of our sin. But I’m going to look at You, God, and say, thank you for doing that for those people. I’m too much.” And I think that we’ve got to get past that as followers of Jesus, as Christians, and say, “Man, God,” – and, I mean, we could go all day about other ways that you can help with community and in the Word and all those kind of things. But one of the first things I think is for us just to realize, God sent Jesus for our sins.
Jamie: Not just the first time you sin.
Jamie: The 17th time you sin.
Jim: Jamie, I have a friend who told me – and he said, at the time, I was the only one he’d ever told – where he had been abused as a boy. And he was a type-A driven person. And it caused a lot of havoc in his life. And he said to me, “The reason I’m like this is because every morning I wake up, I’m trying to get clean.” And I thought, wow, what an expression. Did you ever have that feeling? “If I work harder, if I try harder, then I’ll be clean enough for God.”
Jamie: You know, when I first got married to my husband, he had never kissed a girl before he met me.
Jim: So totally different experience?
Jamie: Totally different experience. So I brought a lot of kind of shame into our marriage of – nothing ever from him. Nothing was ever expressed from him. But from me constantly wondering, could he have done better? Could he have got a quote, unquote, like, “pure woman” to marry? And I sometime – I battled with that for so many years, even from the Lord of, “Am I ever going to get rid of this shame that I feel? Am I ever going to feel like I – like I deserve what You’ve done for me, or like I deserve this husband?” And I’m telling you, it is only something that God can do when we give ourselves to Him and say, “You are the only one that can make me clean. You are the only one that can take this away.” And I honestly think that’s years of counseling. It’s years of being in the Word. It’s years of having community who surrounds you and believes in you and tells you what’s true. Because I have – honestly can stand here in front of you guys and say I do not feel shame over my past anymore.
Jamie: I don’t.
Jim: That is so healthy.
Jamie: And it’s only because of the work that I’ve done in counseling, the work that I’ve done in the Word, the work in the community that I’ve built. It’s me every day having to say, “Not only do I know what You say about me, God, but I choose to believe it.”
Jim: Yeah, knowing that God truly loves you.
Jamie: Yes. And then believing it.
Jamie: Because I knew a lot of things, but I didn’t believe them. Now I actually believe when He says, “You are a new creation. When I look at you, I see Jesus.”
Jamie: “I come to make, you know, old things new.” I believe those things.
Jim: And I, you know, I really want to turn to the listener right now because there are people who are going, “Whoa, I’m living that bad dream. I have those voices. I hear that in my heart. I don’t feel God can love me enough.” I know where you’re at. Man, you’re hearing it from Jamie right now. There is a dawn available to you. The sunrise is in front of you. But you need to get connected that way. And we’re here for you at Focus on the Family. We can provide some help through caring Christian counselors. We can get you moving in the right direction. We can provide tools and resources to help amplify what Jamie is talking about. We can offer you Jamie’s book, which would be a great start. Get in touch with us. Don’t be ashamed. We’ve heard it all. Forty years we’ve been doing this. You’re not going to surprise us. Jamie’s here with quite a remarkable story. We invited her here…
Jim: …To say this so that her testimony could reach into your heart and hopefully put you on a better path with Christ. Don’t shrink back. Get a hold of us.
John: Yeah, I do hope you’ll call us and schedule a time to talk to one of our counselors or request Jamie’s book, If You Only Knew. Get other resources as well. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459. And online, we’re at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast.
Jim: Jamie, just before that break, you mentioned it. But I want to elaborate with your relationship with Aaron, your husband, as you’re dating, because there’s so much in there, so much you put in the book and so much beauty in it, especially coming from him. You set it up wonderfully there, where he’s coming from a, you know, reasonably pure background, right? Never kissed a girl.
Jim: I mean, that – you don’t get any purer than that…
Jamie: Exactly, yes.
Jim: …In this area.
Jim: He may have had other issues. I’m sure he did. But describe those discussions in your early dating relationship, where you think, like all of us when we’re courting, “This could be the one.”
Jim: And you start feeling that. I can’t imagine all the things running through your head. “Could he really love me? Will he love me even though? And when do I tell him? Do I tell him who I was?” Describe all of that and tell me Aaron’s response.
Jamie: Yeah, I had known Aaron for about two years. When I moved home to live with my parents, we went to the church where he was on staff. So he was my brother’s youth pastor. He did all kinds of things at our church. And so I knew him that way. We were friends. And he actually asked me out on a date four months after that last pregnancy – that he didn’t know about.
Jamie: And so I went out on a date with him. And it was our first date. And Aaron was not my typical guy that I’ve dated before. I had dated athletes, and he was an artist. And so it was just this different thing for both of us. But I was really intrigued by him because he loved God a whole lot.
Jamie: And he made me laugh a whole lot. And so we went on this first date. And I told him on the first date. I said, “Hey, listen. I’ve got some things that I – I’ve got some things…”
Jim: First date?
Jamie: First date.
Jamie: Oh, I was like, “This guy’s too good. Like, I need to, like, lay it on the table.”
Jamie: But I said this. I said, “I’ve got some things I need to tell you. But I’m not really sure I’m ready to tell you yet.” And he said, “Okay, you can tell me whenever.” And I look back on that now. And I’m thinking to myself, A, if someone said that to me on a first date, I’m like, “You need to tell me now, or we’re done.” Like…
Jim: Yeah, you’d be knocking on the door.
Jim: “What did you want to tell me?”
Jamie: “What did you want to tell me?”
Jim: “Hey, before you leave tonight…”
Jim: “…Tell me. Tell me. Tell me.”
Jamie: Yes. And he was so patient. And he didn’t ask. And so that entire spring semester, I prayed, “God, would you prepare him to hear what I’m going to tell him?”
Jamie: “Would you prepare his heart? Would you prepare me to speak to him? Would you prepare all of our – both of our hearts for this conversation?”
John: So you kept dating him?
Jamie: We kept dating. We kept dating.
Jim: This is high-risk stuff.
Jamie: For him, for sure, yeah.
Jim: Well, for you too.
Jamie: Me too, he could be out. And so we kept dating. And that whole semester praying and praying. And over that semester, I realize, “I’m going to marry this man. This is – I want to marry this man,” you know? And so we both feel that way. And I decided, I ask God, “You make it very clear to me when I’m supposed do this.” And we were at a retreat with our students. He was a youth pastor. And so we were down in South Padre Island. And we’d had communion on the beach. And everyone had left. And I was all alone. And it was like, this just – God obviously didn’t speak to me audibly. I’ve never had that happen. But I knew, “This is the time you will tell Aaron.” So I’m on the beach alone. And he comes down to find me. And I still get teary-eyed…
Jim: Yeah, it’s wonderful.
Jamie: …Because it was such this monumental moment in our life and our dating. And he sits down. And just the moon’s out and the waves. And he knew, I’m sure. And I said, “I’m ready to tell you everything.” And he sat across from me on the beach, and we held hands. And I laid it all out on the table, everything – everything on the table. And he looked at me with tears in his eyes. And he said, “You have nothing to be ashamed of. That’s not even the Jamie that I know.” And I remember in that moment, it felt like the first human said to me what God says to me.
Jamie: “You are a new creation.”
Jamie: “The old things are passed. I’m doing new things in your life.” And it was the man I was going to marry that was speaking that over to me, when he had every – now I think, of course, all of us have sin. And so I don’t know that I would have liked him that much if he would have said, “Oh, I’m done with you.” But I do think he did have a right and a way to say, “This is too much for me. I don’t know.” And he did it. And it’s never been an issue – never ever.
Jim: That vulnerability, though – I mean, people have been married 30, 40 years and have never experienced that kind of acceptance or that kind of trust.
Jim: That’s a wonderful way to start your marriage.
Jamie: I think I needed that because I was already nervous about things that God felt about me. I struggled with that for years.
Jim: Oh, you had to.
Jamie: Yeah. And so I don’t know that I could have entered into a marriage without being convinced 100 percent that he didn’t think these things about me. And I never felt that Aaron did at all.
John: Yeah. And Jamie, I’m curious about where that response from Aaron came from. I mean, what was in him that said, “Oh, that’s not who I know you to be?”
Jim: The love of God.
Jamie: Yeah. I think my husband at the time – and for sure, now, obviously – he has a really great understanding of the sin nature of man and to know, like – for him, to say, “Oh, you are worse than I am” – even though we didn’t have these outward struggles with sexual sin. There were inner struggles with pornography and any other kinds of things. And so he had a really good understanding of the way that God looks at us. And he doesn’t look at us and say, “Oh, you’re the worst sinner because of this. Oh, you’re not that bad. You know, that sin – we could just not deal with that.” Aaron had a really good idea that “How can I say that her sin is worse than mine?” because we’re all sinners at the foot of Jesus, you know?
Jamie: And so I think that was a really mature thing of him at 21 years old.
Jim: And now we’re kind of talking to the broader believer community. I mean, how do we get a better grasp on this so we don’t become cousins of Caiaphas – Caiaphas, of course, being the high priest and everything that Jesus hated about religion that, you know, you live by the rules, and you’re okay. And it creates us this disdain for sinners, which Jesus attacked. You know…
Jim: …I can’t imagine what He felt like when He saw His creation looking down on people who were struggling.
Jim: And even when I’m thinking about this, trying to put myself in your shoes as you read the New Testament particularly and Jesus being, you know, uh, looked down upon for hanging out with the wrong crowd, He was there with you in the college, right?
Jamie: Always, yeah.
Jim: He was the one hanging out with you.
Jim: How do you feel about that, Jesus being there with the prostitutes and the drunkards and the sinners? I think it’s a wonderful illustration…
Jim: …Of God’s heart for humanity.
Jamie: Totally – and I love it. And I think there’s something that I think that our, you know, Christians today and churches are struggling with. And I call it sin shock, of hearing someone’s sin or their struggle and then being, “Oh my gosh. How could you? What’s wrong with you?”
Jamie: And that creates this era of not being able to confess, not feeling comfortable in a situation around Christians.
Jim: No trust.
Jamie: No trust – and I just don’t ever see Jesus doing that hanging out with sinners in the – He never was like, “Oh, what’s wrong with you? how could you?” – because He knows we’re sinners.
Jamie: But instead He opens His arms wide and says, ‘You can come to Me.”
Jamie: “This is a safe place.” And what we see from that is what we do our own lives when we don’t talk down to people when they confess their sin to us. We point them to Jesus because Jesus is not going to talk down to them. Jesus is going to offer them hope. He’s going to offer them love. He’s going to offer them salvation. And so I can get on a big soapbox about us as Christians hearing someone confess a sin or hearing someone confess a struggle and then kind of looking at them like, “Wow. I would have never thought that about you,” instead of “Okay. How can we work through this?”
Jim: I often…
Jamie: “How can I point you to the Gospel?”
Jim: Yeah. I often look in Romans – second chapter where it says, “Don’t you know it’s God’s kindness that leads one to repentance?”
Jamie: Yes. Yes.
Jim: I mean, that’s a beautiful story.
Jamie: Or even Paul in Romans 7, when he was like, “I – my flesh wants this, and my spirit wants this.”
Jamie: “You know, and so I’m in this constant battle.” And then right in Romans 8:1, it says “Therefore, there’s no condemnation for those who are in Jesus.” And Paul is saying, “You’re going to have this struggle with the flesh and the spirit.” I feel it every day, you know? And so we need…
Jim: This is reality.
Jamie: This is real. Paul tells us, “This is real.” And then when the flesh takes over, he says right next there, “There’s no condemnation.”
Jim: Well, that’s a good place to end because you’ve gone through a lot. You really have. And it’s a beautiful story. The Lord’s taken you through the valley, introduced you to Aaron, who was already on the mountaintop, it sounds like. But practical tools, I want to get back to that because people are hearing this. They’re longing for what you’ve experienced because it’s right. It’s healthy. It’s good. What are two or three of those things that they can do to get from point A, a bad place of condemnation, regret, self-loathing, all of that that you experienced…
Jim: …To get to a better place where, “I know God loves me.” What would you say to them? What are two or three things that they should be doing? It doesn’t guarantee anything. But this puts you in a trajectory to get closer to God.
Jamie: Yeah, I think one of the things I can say – and this sounds really churchy, but I mean it with all my heart – is to read God’s Word.
Jamie: I have met so many people who – that has happened to them, exactly what God says will happen, that His word transforms lives. And so get a Bible, get in His Word. Another thing I would say, and you mentioned this, that they can call you guys to get help with this, is to find a good Christian counselor. A Gospel-centered counseling place is crucial. And then my third thing is I say community is vital. And I know that’s hard. When people hear that, they’re like, “I don’t know where to find good friends.” Churches – go serve places. Where you’re serving, you make connections.
Jim: But it’s not just finding a place. Describe the adjectives that go with a healthy place.
Jamie: Yes. Find a group of girlfriends – or friends. I always talk to women, sometimes.
Jim: I know, yeah, right.
Jamie: But find friends who are safe, and you can trust them. And what I know about a safe and a trustworthy friend is that they love God more than they love me, which means they’re constantly going to point me back to Him. They’re not going to condemn me. But they’re going to show me His grace and show me His love. So get in His word. Find a good counselor, and find good friends.
Jim: Well, I love it. And Jamie Ivey, you have done it. You have gotten up many times. But you have made it. And…
Jamie: Well, sanctification is a lifelong process.
Jim: But a powerful…
Jamie: I’ve still got other sins we could talk about, big time.
Jim: Powerful story, and I love, again, the honesty of your book, If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. You’re free indeed.
Jamie: Thank you.
Jim: That’s wonderful.
John: Well we’re going to encourage you to make sure you get a copy of Jamie’s book, along with an audio copy of this 2-day broadcast. You might want to pass this on to a friend. We’re gonna have details at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY – 800-232-6459.
Jim: John, I mentioned at the top of the program today, that Focus on the Family is hosting a major pro-life event called, “Alive from New York.” And on those big screens in Times Square, we plan to present a live, 4D, third trimester ultrasound that will show the whole world what a baby in the third trimester looks like – fully formed. I mean, these babies are sucking their thumbs, they’re moving their limbs. I mean, this is a baby. So many women, when faced with the crisis of an unplanned pregnancy, may be tempted to seek an abortion – simply because they don’t know what to do. And many advocates in the abortion community are feeding into that fear with lies and misinformation about what’s at stake. We’re talking about precious human life – life that is sacred and holy, created in the very image of God. And that’s why we’re taking this important stand on Saturday, May 4th. And I wanna encourage you to stand with us – come to Times Square, let your pro-life views be heard. We want our leaders in government to know that all life is worthy of protection and our love.
John: You’re gonna find all the details about See Life Clearly and other pro-life resources at the special website we’ve set up, focusonthefamily.com/prolife. Or call 800-232-6459 – 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
Jim: And may I ask you to please consider supporting Focus on the Family’s pro-life efforts financially. We depend upon the partnership of committed believers like you, who want to lift up the value of human life. Your gifts will also help us be a bold witness for life in today’s culture – through the New York event and well beyond that. We have our Option Ultrasound program, where together, we’ve helped save more than 425,000 babies from abortion. I mean, imagine that! Your gift of just $60 will help save a baby’s life. And I’d like to know that we can count on you to help save that child’s life today. So please join us and be a voice for the voiceless!
John: And if you become a monthly supporter, or you can just make that one-time gift of $60, we’ll send you a complimentary copy of Jamie’s book, If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free. That’s our thank you gift for joining our support team. Donate and find out more at focusonthefamily.com/prolife.
Well, coming up next on this broadcast, Stephen Arterburn shares a man’s perspective about abortion.
Stephen Arterburn: So many times, a woman takes full responsibility for the abortion, and yet every one has at least one man involved. It could be a boyfriend, a husband, a father, a pastor, a physician, or a counselor.
End of Teaser
John: On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here, thanks for listening to Focus on the Family. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.