Ins p ira t i o n
a l l t h i n g s a r e p o s s i b l e with god.
I don't remember a time in my life when I didn'believe in God. My faith came in stages. As a young child, there were a few years when my family went to church. Ironically, the church we attended didn't have Bibles. There were some books that had excerpts from the Bible, but I always had questions. Who put those selected passages together? Where were the rest of the scriptures? The message was delivered in an angry tone with a very thick accent. I never quite understood anything that was being said, but I remember feeling guilty, scared, and like I could never measure up. The whole experience felt kind of cold.
I never felt any love in that particular congregation. I am sure that same feeling can be found in any place of worship for any faith. My earliest recollection of church was that it didn’t feel like a happy place--it was just something that I had to do.
The God I knew from that church seemed unkind to me. I didn’t really like Him. I was scared of God when I was a child. Maybe it was the way in which the message was delivered, but something about that whole experience really frightened me. I was a little confused about the experience. I think my family may have felt the same way because eventually we all stopped going to church. Nobody ever seemed to have the answers for my questions. When it came time for me to go to church, I didn't want to go. I didn't understand why I couldn’t talk directly to the Big Guy myself instead of through a middleman. I didn’t get it. My mom told me some people believe that religious leaders are on a different level than regular humans.
Hmmm. They're closer to God, and we need them to translate for us. Mom and I had a hard time understanding that belief.
As I grew older, I still believed in God, but He wasn’t a big part of my life. I always felt like there were two Gods--the God I knew in my head who I loved and the God from church who I didn’t much care for. I continued to pray on my own, if only in my head. That God was great. I had some prayers answered the way I wanted them answered, and that made me so happy. The God I prayed to was like a friend--like my buddy. He was always there when I needed Him. I wish I could say that I was always there for Him, but I know I wasn’t. I found out that God is not this big killjoy. It took me a long time to understand that God wants to keep us from pain, not pleasure. When I became a teenager, I really began to put my faith and God on the back shelf. I was totally self-absorbed, and the idea of making time for God seemed like a waste to me.
I remember regularly sitting in my Spanish class, being really mad at God. I should have been studying, but instead I was pouting. I was upset with God for making me so dorky. I was in a very awkward phase. I was tall and skinny so my pants were always too short. I wore pigtails, and when I cut them off my hair poufed up big. My family didn't know about conditioner-- something I would discover later.
I couldn't understand why I didn’t fit in and why I didn't have any friends. The girl who had the locker next to mine would kick me on my way to class. Kids made fun of me all the time. I didn’t like being different, and I wallowed in teenage angst and self-pity. I would have done anything to fit in with the other kids. I was so tired of feeling alone and lonely. I would have hung out with the most troubled kids just to do whatever it took to have a sense of belonging and acceptance. I remember thinking that I would have slept with boys or taken drugs if it meant someone would like me.
In retrospect, I am very thankful that God made me geeky so that doing those things was never really an option. Even the kids who were troublemakers didn’t want to be my friends! As I sat there in Spanish class one day, staring out at the clouds, I was pretty desperate. I made a decision to take a leap. It was time to trust and believe that God loved me. He made me, and he doesn’t make mistakes. I realized that being different was a good thing. Suddenly, making fun of me became like making fun of Him, and that didn’t seem right. Physically, I still looked the same, but losing my desperation for acceptance made me more attractive to others, and soon I made my first friend, Jenny, who is still one of my best friends. To this day, the knowledge that God loves me is the greatest source of my self-esteem. It’s not from any of my accomplishments--it’s from God.
I was "discovered" at Betty Mazetti's LaBelles's Modeling School by an agent from the Elite modeling agency. I didn't want to pursue modeling, but I knew in my heart that I had to check it out. I didn't want to wonder about what might have been the rest of my life. I spent a summer in New York trying to get work and, immediately after graduating from high school, while my friends headed off to enjoy their Disneyland graduation trip, I was on a plane to Rome for my first international job. Instead of being excited about the adventure, I was drowning in self-pity because I couldn’t spend the summer on the beach now that I finally had friends.
Becoming a model was such a surprise career, and it was a very confusing time for me. I decided I'd try it out for six months, take the money, and run. I traveled to countries where I didn't speak the language, I didn't know anyone, and it was a really crazy time in the fashion business. There were lots of activities around me like drugs, casual sex, and all kinds of manipulation. It was a world I simply wasn't used to, and it was terribly lonely.
My next international trip was to Paris. I was eighteen years old. I stayed at the apartment of someone I worked with. I had a room that was at the end of a long hallway, which later on other girls told me they referred to as the dungeon. Someone who lived in the house was less than discreet with his sexual overtures, and I never felt very safe. My memories of Paris are of going straight to my room and locking my door.
Before I left home, my mother had packed a Bible in my suitcase, and it was out of sheer boredom and loneliness that I picked it up and started reading. As I began to read the Bible, I started with the Gospels, and I found that I couldn't put it down. I was riveted as I read all about Jesus. I thought, Wow, He's really cool. He’s not anything like I thought. I became a Christian when I was eighteen years old. Reading about Jesus was incredible. He was nothing like I imagined. He wasn't out there judging everyone and condemning everyone. He was loving and leading. What I learned that day of His unconditional love forever changed my life and my perspective on everything.
I knew that if He was with me, who could be against me?
My friendship with Jesus prepared me and gave me the strength to never compromise my character to achieve any goal. Shortly after arriving in Paris, I was doing a photo shoot, and the photographer asked me to take my shirt off. I told him that I wouldn't do that because I didn’t feel comfortable. I don't judge other women who make that choice. A lot of the women I worked with grew up in Europe, where nudity is more common and no big deal. I grew up in Southern California, where you can get arrested for such things. I'm a bit of a prude. He tried everything to convince me to take my top off. He showed me stacks of magazines of women who were successful who had. I told him to get one of them to do the photo. It wasn't for me. He became very pushy and crossed the line, actually physically pushing me. I'm not a violent person, but I had to physically push him back, and I walked off the job.
My newfound strength knowing that God was with me and that it didn't matter what anyone else thought got me through that experience and so many other challenges along the way. The photographer told me that I would never make it in the business if I didn't take my top off. He was so wrong. I didn't have to compromise to have a career. I learned that all things are possible with God, and that helps me in my personal life and in my career today.
As I continued to read the Bible, I discovered how Jesus loved people--especially women. As a young woman out in the world, in a business that felt dominated by men, I was very frustrated. I knew that women had challenges in my own country, but as I traveled to other countries and experienced firsthand how women were often treated, it was very hard for me to comprehend. What I learned about Jesus was how much He loves, respects, and honors all women, and He did this during biblical times, when we were not even considered second-class citizens.
It's important to remember that God chose a woman to give birth to His son. The first person that Jesus told that He was the Son of God was a woman. She was a Samaritan, and at that time, Jews did not speak to Samaritans. Men did not speak to women, let alone a woman who was leading what was considered an immoral life. Jesus loved her and though He didn’t condone her sins, He didn't stand in judgment of them. He acknowledged them in a loving way, and He chose her because He had respect for her in spite of her sins.
The first people that Jesus appeared to when He arose from the dead were women. To me, that was so encouraging. He became my best friend, and I suddenly was no longer lonely. No matter where I was, I knew that He would be with me. I often wondered why God put me in the modeling business. Today, I believe that it was because He knew me. I had such a rebellious nature. If I had been in a healthier profession, I might have turned against the good things and destroyed genuine opportunities. As it was, I was rejecting a lot of things that would have been less than good for me. I refused to become a victim of all the negativity that was so easily and readily accessible.
For the first time in my life, I wanted to be different. Those junior high-school rejections were now serving me well. I didn't want to fit in with the crowd. I didn't want that lifestyle. In retrospect, it was a healthy rebellion. I refused to go to certain parties.
I tried to avoid situations with people I couldn't trust. Watching people do things that were making them unhappy and unhealthy reminded me of how I felt back in school--wanting to fit in and watching everyone else wanting to fit in and be like everyone else. When exactly do we get over that need?
My walk with the Lord continued at a very slow pace after I began reading the Bible in Paris. I am a slow and deliberate learner, and I remained a baby Christian for a very long time. I still feel like a baby Christian, but I was an infant due to my own hesitations in following His word.
As I read the Bible, I would kind of pick and choose passages that I liked and try to live by those words. On the other hand, I'd get to certain parts of the Bible and I was positive that what I was reading had to be a typo or incorrect in some way because it made no sense to me at all. So I cherry-picked the passages that meant something to me and abandoned the parts of the Bible that I didn't relate to. Eventually, I realized that what I was doing was trying to mold God into what I wanted Him to be, rather than letting Him mold me into the person He created me to be.
My lack of obedience made my life so much harder than it needed to be. I made too many mistakes along the way that could have been avoided if I had simply obeyed God's word. I've been humbled many, many times. I understand that God wants us to share a joy and a fellowship that we all need. It saddens me when I see other people making the same mistakes that I've made--mistakes like waiting to be happy when you have the choice to be happy today or blaming other people for circumstances in your life. A close friend of mine often says, "In relationships, there are no victims, only volunteers." I believe that. I also know that developing character is a path that is never completed. It's not a destination.
As I continued my Christian walk, I was inspired by something I read by C. S. Lewis. It said that it was impossible for Jesus to simply be a "good man.". He could be only one of three things.
First, He could be a very evil man, because He told everyone that He was the Son of God and He told people to follow Him and allowed His followers to die for Him. If He did that and it was not true, then He was indeed a very evil man. Second, He was simply crazy, because He thought that He was the Son of God, but He wasn't. That leaves the final thing that Jesus could be, and that is exactly who He says He was. That is what I know in my heart. I am so encouraged by that belief.
He knows me for who I am and hears all of my thoughts, and yet…He still loves me. Now that I know Him, it is so hard to imagine that this man died for me--for all of us. His desire is that not one of us should perish, but that we should all be with Him forever.
He thought enough of us to give us free will, that we can choose to love Him or not, but He is always there for us with open arms, loving us. If I have a question or a concern or a challenge, I pray about it. I ask for guidance, help, and answers. Faith is courage that has said its prayers. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior and I place my faith in Him. I am confident in the possibilities that are present in all of our lives.
If I don't feel at peace about something, then it's not God's will. Every day I ask God that His will be done in my life, which isn't always easy for someone like me, who likes to be in control. The Bible is the greatest book ever written for managing life. The basis for all the information we seek and need to know is right there--available to anyone who reads God's word.
Faith is a lifetime journey. Through years of study, prayer, and practical experience, I now understand that I truly want God to be in charge of all things, because He has a greater sense of the "big picture" than I ever could understand. I recognize that sometimes His path isn’t the path I’d choose or the easiest road to travel, but it is always the path I need to be on in order to grow and fully enrich my life and the lives of those around me.
I am a bit of a control freak, so asking that God's will be done over my own is, in itself, a daily challenge for me. When I give up that control and accept that He is truly in charge of all things, I am at peace.
I trust Him even though I know it doesn't always mean that everything is going to be easy. Life is tough, and you have to be, too. Every day we live is filled with uncertainty. As people of God, we don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we know who holds tomorrow.
God can make the impossible possible. My prayer for each one of you is simple. If you don't know Jesus Christ, that you take the time to get to know Him. Invest the time in a relationship with Him. He will bless you more than you can imagine.
Faith is the key to stability and the cornerstone of life.
• Life is tough. Faith will get you through the tough times.
• When God is with us, who can be against us?
• Never compromise your character to achieve any goal.
• Faith takes courage and is rewarded.
• Character is a path, not a destination.
• Faith is everlasting.
• The Bible is the greatest book ever written for managing life.From the Hardcover edition.
Excerpted from Powerful Inspirations by Kathy Ireland. Copyright © 2002 by Kathy Ireland. Excerpted by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.