Shannon Ethridge: Love Without Limits
By Shannon Ethridge
CBN.com “In a split second it occurred to me that I had hit something…I stood trembling in shock over the body of a curly-headed woman lying face down in the grass next to a mangled bicycle. As we waited for help to arrive, all I could think about was that the woman I had just hit was probably someone’s mother…someone’s daughter…someone’s wife…how would I ever face her family after what I had done?”
At the tender age of sixteen, Shannon Ethridge climbed into her little brown Plymouth Champ, strapped on her seatbelt, and headed down the oil-topped road and onto the highway that would take her to the interstate. It was the third day of school. Shannon never made it to the interstate. In a moment of distraction, she took her eyes off the road just long enough to cause a deadly accident, striking and killing Marjorie Jarstfer, who was out for her morning bicycle ride on the country road. Shannon was so horrified by what she had done, she contemplated suicide more than once on that terrible afternoon. Surely the Jarstfer family would hate her for taking Marjorie from them...
It’s been over twenty years since that accident, and Shannon Ethridge is now the best-selling author of the Every Woman’s Battle series and a popular speaker who passionately and fearlessly advocates sexual purity in women. In her latest book, Completely His: Loving Jesus Without Limits, she shares for the first time the amazing true story of the grace and forgiveness extended to her by the Jarstfer family. Marjorie Jarstfer and her husband, Gary, had served for many years with Wycliffe Bible Translators. There was no limit to their love for God. Despite the fact that Shannon was clearly at fault for the death of the woman he dearly loved, Gary Jarstfer refused to pursue her punishment, even insisting that the district attorney drop the charges against her without a trial. His concern for her well-being was overwhelming and genuine. “God was ready to take Marjorie home,” Gary told her. “You can’t let this ruin your life. God wants to strengthen you through this. In fact, I am passing Marjorie’s legacy on to you.” Gary’s merciful, loving response to Shannon’s guilt changed her life forever.
“I gradually went from feeling ‘to blame’ to feeling ‘chosen,’ chosen to carry the mantle of being a godly woman who loves Jesus beyond measure,” Shannon recalls. In Completely His, she describes the long and ongoing process of learning to love as Marjorie loved. Shannon holds nothing back, communicating her experiences with the characteristic courage and vulnerability that inspired a universal response from readers of the Every Woman’s Battle series: “Thank you! I thought I was the only woman who struggles with these issues.” She has crafted yet another book that will inspire women to abandon their search for love “in all the wrong places” and choose instead to be transformed by the pursuit of all that God has to offer them.
Shannon recently discussed the book.
Why do you consider your interaction with Gary Jarstfer, the husband of the woman you accidentally killed, to be your “burning bush experience”?
Even though I grew up attending church and singing “Jesus loves me, this I know…” I don’t think I ever really knew Jesus personally, understood the depth of His mercy and compassion, or experienced His love until I met Gary. His response toward me, the one who had caused him indescribable pain and loss, was a vivid picture of how Christ endured all of that pain on the cross, yet His first concern is always for us, those who nailed Him there.
Why have you chosen to devote so much effort in your ministry to addressing sexual purity in women and young girls?
It took almost two decades of God working in my life, but He has transformed me from a poster child for sexual promiscuity as a teenager to a woman with a passion for God and for the sexual purity to which He calls us. I want to instill in others a great hope that God can and will make whatever changes need to be made in our lives when we submit to His transformation process.
Why do you think so many women are “looking for love in all the wrong places”?
One of the first and most fervent dreams a young girl carries in her heart is to love, be loved, and eventually marry the man of her dreams. But our deepest longings and desires are genuine cries for intimacy with our Maker. In an effort to satisfy the void deep within us, some of us look to food or substances to make us feel better about ourselves. Or perhaps we’ve searched online, in the pages of a romance novel, or in between the sheets for our soul’s satisfaction. While human relationships (virtual, fantasized, or real) seem to ease our emotional pain and provide some sense of relief from loneliness, no one can ease our pain and loneliness like God can.
How did you find the courage to openly share about your past sexual mistakes?
When I first sensed that God wanted me to share these things with others, I was frightened to the core. I wondered what people would think of me. But God showed me that it didn’t matter what others thought of me, only what they thought of Him and His mercy and restoration. So I stiffened my upper lip, took off my mask, and shared my testimony at various retreats for youth and for women. I was relieved to discover that people didn’t seem to think less of me, like I’d expected. In fact, many responded with gratitude and enormous relief. Today, my greatest fear is for people not to know about the change that God has brought about in my life.
Completely His is really the lead book in a collection you are calling the “Bridal Party Series.” What is the purpose of this series?
My desire is for women to get a magnificent glimpse of God and to become convinced that they are not just anybody. They are God’s chosen. They are His beloved bride. This first book consists of many personal experiences and reflections of my own journey toward becoming His bride, personal testimonies of other women, inspirational scriptures, and spiritual principles women can apply to their own lives. Each of the four accompanying devotionals will explore specific characters or passages of scripture that can help them grasp more fully who God is and how they can appropriately respond to His limitless love for them.
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Interview courtesy of The B&B Media Group.
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