A Soul Bare Interview: Sex, Love, and Belovedness with Jennifer Camp

I hope you’ve been following along with our Soul Bare journey. Our regular writers, Tammy Perlmutter and Tanya Marlow, are featured in the new essay collection, Soul Bare: Stories of Redemption, published by InterVarsity Press. Tammy gave away a copy (hooray! But if you missed it, order one here), and last week we interviewed the editor, Cara Sexton, the woman behind the collection. 

This week, we’re pleased to share with you a gorgeous interview from Jennifer Camp. These questions will give you just a little nibble of all the goodness of Soul Bare. Make sure you grab yourself a copy! Hurry on over to Jennifer Camp’s site, too, because she’s giving away three copies! –AH


Soul Bare

Q1. How did you get involved with Soul Bare?
I met Cara Sexton, the editor of Soul Bare, five years ago at the Allume Conference (it was called Relevant back then). We had each won a scholarship to the conference from Incourage.me. I had loved Cara’s writing–the wisdom of her ideas and the beauty of her words, and it was so fun being able to spend time with her, face-to-face.
When Cara sent me an email a few years ago, asking if I would consider writing a story for this book, everything in me said “yes!” I loved the heart of it — the invitation to join with other women to share the real, the brutal, and the beautiful — how desperate we each are for God and how we need Him to show up in our lives.
Q2. In your essay, you tell the story of using sex to feel in control and loved. What hope can you offer Mudroom readers who turn to substitutes for love? How did you journey towards seeing yourself as beloved?
I know how easy it is to forget that we are the beloved of God–or to struggle to believe it is something that is true about our identity at all. I know that it feels better–like the only option sometimes–to search for love in places that are known, familiar. We think we can affect the outcome. We have convinced ourselves that we will be fine if we take action, pursue love, no matter what the cost. We are desperate for love–it is how we are made. The problem we face in pursuing love in ways that God did not mean for us to pursue, in places where we struggle to meet Him, is that we are missing out on knowing God and trusting His love as the only love that truly provides everything we need, the only love that gives from a pure place, and sustains. 
It was a hard road to see myself as beloved. I pushed back against God for so many years–decades. Once I went down that road of sin, I believed, with all my heart, that I couldn’t possibly be someone that could be loved by God. You see, I didn’t know God–although I thought I did. But I didn’t know Him–for I believed He was removed, aloof, far away. I believed I had to be deserving of God’s love to receive love. And how could I be loved when I had sinned? I felt there was surely no hope for me anymore. 
I was so filled with pride to believe that it was up to me, my own strength and character, to determine what made me “good” or “bad.” It is impossible, you see, to accept one’s self as beloved if one’s heart has not surrendered one’s pride. Pride gets in the way of believing the gospel, believing in Jesus’ amazing love and grace that covers all sin–that He loves us and saves us in the midst of our darkness.

Jennifer Camps from Soul Bare

Q3. You also write about your abortion and the hurt and healing that came from that. What would you recommend to women who have made the same choice but are silent about it still?
Oh girl, I know this silence. I know how heavy it is. I know it is a weight that will surely pull you down, ever deeper, until you open up your hands, your heart, and trust God more than yourself. You are so loved. You are so loved. I know this sounds strange–but I know how hard it is to admit that this abortion was even a big deal. We push it down. We try to carry the burden of it on our own. We try to convince ourselves that we are okay. But we’re not. We’re just not. Yet.
Come out now, sister. Come out and share what you have been hiding. This burden is not for you to carry. Our Father gathers us up with people who can pray for us, listen for us, lead us to our Father’s throne–friends who will help us to see and hear and feel Jesus. And we need to do this. We need to lay down what has happened, what we have done, and ask Jesus to come and show us what He thinks about all this, what He thinks about you.
Q4. Where have you seen hope and healing in your own life from not feeling like you have words, that you were unlovable, and from your abortion? How has God brought restoration?
All of my healing has involved the hard work of letting God strip me bare–show me the reality of myself without Him. I am grateful, as strange as this sounds, to realize, just a little bit, how horrid I am without the love of God redeeming me and making me new and beautiful and whole. For in Him, despite what I have done, I am beautiful–filled with His light and truth and hope. He is in me, if I let Him be in me. And each step in my healing has been so hard, so difficult, and so beautiful too. There have been so many lies I have believed about myself that I have had to surrender to Him and replace with His truth: lies that I am unlovable; I don’t have a voice; I am not enough. 
God has brought restoration in each place of my heart that was not whole in Him. He continues to pursue us until we are whole. He asks us if we want to let Him do the work in us (and it can be painful surrendering lies, adopting truth) to help us be more whole in Him. And He will not stop until our time here on earth is done.
Q5. Here at The Mudroom, our tagline is “making room in the mess.” How has your messy story allowed you to make room for God and for others?
Awesome tagline! If I had it all together–if I believed I had it all together–I would have nothing to write, nothing to say to encourage anyone. My messy story is what I use to testify to the God who loves me and does not let me go. My mess is what leads me to the cross, again and again. It is what makes me desperate to hear God’s voice in my heart, what prompts me to finally listen for Him when I pray. 
I choose, finally, to believe He loves me. And believing in His love for me makes me curious to spend time with Him, to want to be with Him, to desire to hear what He thinks and what He has to say. God’s love gives me a voice–and this voice is His voice in me, His love in me. I worship Him in my words, my writing, my ministry. He is my life and my hope, and I pray I honor Him and bring Him glory by using what He has redeemed to be even more beautiful. I do this for the sake of the daughters He don’t yet know Him–who don’t yet know and believe how much they are truly loved.
Q6. How have you changed from that 15 year-old girl? What is your mission these days in your writing and life?
I pray my words and my life testify to the love of God–the reality of His love that is the only thing that gives hope and joy. I am no longer that fifteen year old girl, and yet I am still her, too. It is my awareness of myself without God (me at 15) that makes me realize the amazing love of a God who does not retreat or turn away or give up on His daughters, no matter what. He is beautiful. He is love.
It is my mission in my writing and my life to bring my Father, my King, my Friend glory by loving the people He brings into my life. And He has put it on my heart to pursue His daughters who need to know there is a future for them that is more beautiful than they can imagine. And our God wants to help them imagine it. And believe it. That’s the best.
Here’s a bit more about Jenn:
Jennifer Camps
Jennifer J. Camp knows what it’s like to chase down an identity not her own, and now she listens and writes and speaks to point women to Jesus. Jennifer lives in the San Francisco Bay area with her husband and three kids and is the author of Breathing Eden: Conversations with God on Light, Fresh Air, and New Things and Loop, a free weekly devotional for women. She is the co-founder of Gather Ministries with her husband, Justin. Connect with Jennifer over on her blog: jenniferjcamp.com.
Ashley Hales