God’s grace is a powerful force, one that cannot be defeated. Each of us has a story of God’s grace in our lives. In fact, our existence alone is because of the grace of God.
Summer Shepherd, host of the podcast No Seriously, How Do I Do This?, began her life with a special amount of God’s grace. As she shares on an episode of No Seriously, How Do I Do This?, her mom was a teenager when she went into labor a month early. A Southern California earthquake had prompted her labor unexpectedly, and as she gave birth to Summer, things got even worse.
Newborn Summer wasn’t breathing.
The umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck. The doctors pulled her away from her mother immediately and, by the grace of God, they resuscitated Summer.
This grace became a theme in Summer’s life.
Summer’s mother was struggling through life as a teen mom without the support of her boyfriend, and even as Summer’s life was held delicately in the balance, her mom courageously chose to give her baby a chance.
After a traumatic birth and dealing with the aftermath of abandonment, God once again blessed Summer and her mother with a young man who would step up as a father figure for Summer. Doug was devoted to helping Summer and her mother through their journey.
He would drive long distances to pick up and drop off Summer at daycare and committed to caring for Summer and her mother. Eventually, her mother and Doug got married, and Doug legally adopted Summer. He always reminds her, “I fell in love with you first.”
Unfortunately, Summer’s relationship with her adoptive father was not always a happy one. She often felt as though she didn’t quite fit in. She had a different personality than the rest of her family and struggled when Doug didn’t understand her humor as well as her siblings did. She reflected, “When he didn’t laugh, or worse, he looked irritated, it killed me a little bit.”
Eventually, she gave up.
Instead of pursuing her father’s affection, she began to chase after the affection of other men. Pursuing the approval of men was her “first addiction.”
Young Summer was obsessed with boys. Even while she was singing on the worship team at her church, she would think about her latest love interest, or her eyes would wander to the cutest boy in the congregation.
“I was not giving my heart and my life to Jesus like I would later learn to do,” Summer recalled. Her obsession clouded her faith, and she started to lead an ungodly lifestyle.
Summer sank even deeper into darkness when Jordan, a friend from church, died from a rare disease.
Summer and Jordan met when Summer was 15 years old. Summer stated that she wasn’t interested in him romantically, but “if I ever missed youth group, he’d call me.”
When he passed away, Summer was devoured by guilt and shame. Summer felt burdened when she realized the impact she could’ve had on him, and those feelings “clotted [her] soul.” She was not necessarily angry at God, but she certainly was fuming at the Church. The pastor of her church would often pray, “We know you’re going to heal Jordan.” To Summer, it felt wrong that they would claim to know God’s will.
It was then that Summer left the church. She said, “I walked away, and I found myself running with a very different crowd.”
She began to turn to activism, and her friend group grew very intellectual. Looking back, she found herself becoming more disdainful of believers.
Summer would fight relentlessly with those who cherished their relationship with God. “It was ugly,” she mourned.
And it got uglier.
She didn’t notice how bad her situation was until she forced herself to attend Easter service with her family—after she had spent the whole weekend partying.
But when she entered the church building that day, she no longer felt disgusted by the church. In fact, she herself felt disgusting and corrupted.
As the pastor told the story of the prodigal son, Summer felt a heavy weight on her shoulders. The shame that she had tried to bury all those years resurfaced as the pastor spoke.
Summer remembered: “[There was] this dignified father, this wealthy man, sitting in the window of his home, watching for his son to return. And he’d been sitting in that place, waiting for his son for a long time.” It was then that Summer realized, “God had never turned His back on me.”
Later that day, she started to fall apart. Sitting on her bedroom floor, she begged her friends and family, “Would you pray for me? Because I can’t trust myself to speak.”
God’s grace filled her life once again. “I had spent my inheritance,” Summer said, but God welcomed her into His loving arms. And that unconditional love changed everything.
The intellect that she once used against believers now became a force for Christ. She studied everything that she could find about God, theology, and Christianity. God had sent her into the faith with so much enthusiasm that it turned her life in a new direction.
Summer decided to continue her education and pursue a degree at Moody Bible Institute. Before she started there, she went to another school that was not Christian to finish some schooling. It was a nerve-racking experience as Summer encountered people that reminded her of herself in the past.
During that time, she begged God to remind her of His presence. He always did, and she built up strength in her faith. Through each challenge, God showed up.
When she made it into Moody Bible Institute, she felt like she didn’t belong. The shame still clung to her from the past. She talked to her mom about it, telling her everything she had done.
Her mom, saddened, took a moment and then gently told Summer, “You’re forgiven. That’s not who you are anymore.” And in that moment, Summer felt like she had been set free.
In that relief and redemption, Summer graduated from Moody Bible Institute with honors and used her degree to pursue a career as a radio host and podcast host.
Summer can attest to God’s enduring and faithful grace in her life—and in the lives of others. As she tells her story, she continues to shine the light of the gospel into other people’s lives.