The Journey of Quenched: Discovering God’s Abundant Grace for Women Struggling with Pornography and Sexual Shame
This coming week is a big week. It is the week Quenched launches into the world. If you’re curious what the journey from idea to bookshelf can look like, here you go.
You may not know this, but the journey of Quenched started back in 2013. I share a bit of this story in the introduction of the book, but it’s a question I’ve been asked in several podcasts and interviews, “Why did you write this book?”
That summer, I was staying at my grandparents’ house. I had just finished working as a teacher so I had the summer off to enjoy and made a trip to see them. Beggar’s Daughter, which started in 2009, was still relatively new and I was still trying to figure out exactly how all of these pieces of my heart were supposed to fit together. My life had gone through a lot of change that year, including leaving the church denomination I had grown up in and joining Covenant Life church, then pastored by Joshua Harris.
I hesitate to call that period “deconstruction” because it wasn’t that I questioned anything or felt the need to “start over.” Instead, it was a time of finally experiencing freedom and independence. I was moving out of home permanently. Had left the religious culture I grew up in permanently and was exploring what it meant to live a life that honored God free from the shame that ran rampant through both church and family.
So, for whatever reason, one afternoon, in my old room at my grandparents’ house, I was reflecting on Jesus and His interaction with women in the Gospels.
Did you know that many of the face-to-face encounters Jesus has with women are with women who are of “ill-repute?”
The woman caught in adultery.
The woman at the well.
The woman with the alabaster jar of ointment.
The woman with the issue of blood — while there is nothing in Scripture to indicate she struggled with sexual promiscuity or anything of the like, the issue of blood would have made her ceremonially unclean. She would have essentially been an outcast through no fault of her own.
As a woman who grew up in the church and yet struggled with pornography, I identified with these stories and really latched on to the story of the woman at the well. It’s a story we so often associate with shame. She was ashamed of her sin and that’s why she went to the well alone at odd times of the day. But as I read through the story and walked through it, imagining myself as that woman, it took on a life and a profound grace I had never experienced when sermons were preached from the pulpit on the passage.
How many sermons had I heard on the passage of the woman at the well? How many times had I heard that Jesus was the living water? And yet never made the connection that this living water could be available to me a Christian woman struggling with sexual sin. My church never talked about women struggling with sexual sin, other than to enforce dress codes and purity standards. Yet, the Gospels are filled with Jesus interacting with these sorts of women. And, oddly enough, as Juli Slattery pointed out in our podcast interview, none with men.
That’s right. There are no recorded instances of Jesus interacting with men who are known sexual sinners.
The only recorded interactions are with women, and they are all laced with grace.
And yet, our churches are often silent.
I wept as I worked my way through the story, for the first time seeing the tender, compassionate grace of Christ poured out on a woman who was defensive, smothered in shame, and at the root of it all, searching for Messiah.
It had such an impact on my personal life, that I started to share that message in a presentation I entitled, “The Long Walk to the Well.” I wanted to turn it into a book, but wanted it to be traditionally published.
A couple years later, I wrote my memoir, Beggar’s Daughter which I self-published.
My primary aim in writing Beggar’s Daughter was to capture my story on paper to share at a pastor’s summit that year. The book sold out at the summit and launched a year of global travel, speaking, and burnout.
On one hand, it felt like everything I had prayed for and hoped for. On the other, it was so unbelievably hard. By the end of summer 2017, I was done. I was done with all of it. Done with the travel. Done with the speaking. Done with beggarsdaughter.com. Done with all of it. I felt exploited by God and completely empty.
The opportunity came up to travel to Switzerland and be a part of a writer’s intensive with author, Mary DeMuth. I found airfare for relatively cheap so I booked my flight and made plans. Around the same time, I began talking with the man who would be my husband. I didn’t realize it, but lifelong dreams were coming true and pieces were falling into place. I was just too broken to see it all right then.
During the intensive, Mary asked the authors what their hopes were for the retreat. While many were there to figure out how to write, pitch, and sell a book, I said, “Honestly, I’m here for healing.”
At one point, we shared the outlines for our books. I shared the outline for Quenched (which is the title I chose for it all those years ago) and Mary looked at me and said, “This message needs to be published. This needs a platform.”
By then, I had all but given up on being published.
Over the years, I had knocked on so many different publishing doors. I knew authors with great agents. I reached out to agents. I reached out to publishers. I even had authors and publishers reach out to me to consult on different works. Still, every time I tried to get Quenched off the ground, it would flop.
I came back from the retreat, still working on healing. A couple months later, I got sidetracked by my now-husband. The retreat was in the Fall, by the beginning of December, we had decided we were getting married. It was very unromantic. Very “you want to get married?” “Yep!” “Ok, then, let’s do it.” We began wedding planning in early January, got officially engaged at the end of March and got married in September.
Even though my husband and I met because of Beggar’s Daughter, I really felt like my time with this mission might be done. We got pregnant shortly after we were married, and even though I still traveled internationally occasionally I wondered if God was planning to move me away from writing and speaking and into caring for a family.
You know who never gave up on the dream of being traditionally published? My husband. and Mary.
Every night, my husband and I pray for bed, and he would often pray, “And help Jessica get that traditionally-published book.” I would hem and haw and tell him, “Well, maybe it’s not God’s plan for me anymore. Maybe it’s time to just be a wife and mom and let those dreams go.” But he would have none of it.
I tried yet again in 2020, tapping into resources and connections, trying to find some way to get Quenched into the hands of a publisher. Doors that looked promising would shut, or I would be ghosted by people who initially expressed enthusiasm. Three different authors reached out with books that year, asking for feedback on the struggle of women with pornography.
While I was happy to help, what I really hoped is that someday, someone would just write a book for women on this topic.
At the end of 2020, Mary reached out to let me know she was going to be an agent and she would be happy to represent Quenched. I signed with her almost immediately and we began the work of getting Quenched ready to send to acquisition editors. Our second child was also due that Spring, so there were a couple times when calls and meetings were delayed just in case I went into labor. In fact, I brought my newborn along to a Zoom call with a publisher at one point.
I signed the contract with Baker Books at the end of June 2020 and the process has been so much better than I could have imagined. They kept my title, which meant the world to me, included “pornography” in the subtitle which was also so important, designed a beautiful cover, and have, in every way possible championed this book. And though I definitely got discouraged and frustrated over the past ten years, I feel like the timing couldn’t be more perfect.
Quenched now joins a wave of resources on the topic of sexuality among Christian women. A wave that even got a mention in Publisher’s Weekly. And more resources are coming! Resources specifically for women who struggle with pornography.
And now, we’re in the midst of podcasts and interviews trying to get the word out to as many people as possible. This is an exciting time and I am happy to be a part of it. And I’ve learned that when we rush God’s timing and kick down doors He didn’t necessarily open, we experience burn out. But when we trust Him, the doors open, the pieces come together, and though it may be hard (it’s definitely not easy writing a book with a toddler and a newborn), there is joy.
PS: If it has been your dream to write a book, I can’t recommend resources by Mary DeMuth enough. She has an entire collection of resources for aspiring writers. And if you ever have a chance to join her in Switzerland, do it.