Profile of a Former Bad Girl
- Liz Curtis Higgs
- 2003 15 May
Tell us why you refer to yourself as a former "Bad Girl."
Well you know, if you're going to write about the bad girls, you better have the credentials for it (laughter). In my case, 20 years ago you would have found me here in Louisville doing rock n' roll radio. I had spent a decade out there in bad girl land: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. But I am so grateful of what I did NOT do. I consider it a gift from God that I never shot anything in my veins, I never took LSD, and I never aborted a baby. However, I had no opportunity to do any one of those three things; otherwise, I'm sure I would have. I did everything else. It was a different man every night, and I hung out with other bad girls, so it didn't even seem bad to me.
Although, in the back of my mind, I think I knew. I was raised in a good, moral home. I wouldn't say it was a Christian home, because Jesus was not lifted up, but we did attend church. I'm the youngest of six kids and in our small town, everything was in place for me to continue on the good girl path. But, I had a rebellious streak and -- I got news for you -- it's still there. Even as a writer in the Christian arena, I'm a bit edgy with a book title like Bad Girls of the Bible and Really Bad Girls of the Bible. I'll probably never be totally safe, that's part of how God created me. But being edgy is not all bad, unless it is not surrendered to the Lordship of Christ, and that's where I was 20 years ago.
I was doing rock radio in Detroit, Mich., at WWWW, perfect call letters for me because, even stoned, I could remember where I worked (laughter). And Howard Stern worked with me at the same station. He did the morning show and I did the afternoon show.
One time when I got off the air, Howard came to me -- dead serious -- and said, "Liz, you have got to clean up your act." When Howard Stern tells you to clean up your act, it's time for a wake-up call. But the truth is, it wasn't my on-air act that was the problem. For a rock jock, I was still fairly straight on the air. It was my lifestyle that was a mess, and Howard knew it. His stuff was all wild on the air, but straight off the air. He was worried about me, and he had reason to be worried.
God had not fully gotten my attention yet, but He was there. You know, I look back and I realize how many things he spared me from, how many times I should have been arrested, or killed driving drunk down the highway, all the things that could have happened, and God was very gracious to wait and spare me. But, then I finally hit bottom, and I strongly believe that many of us have to hit bottom before we can ever look up ...
Some people are smart, they dabble in something and say, "Oops, that's bad, I'm getting away from that." But some of us say, "Oh, wow! A pit! Oh, I can just jump in here!" And so we hit the bottom of that pit and that's the only time we finally look back up and say, "You know what, I am in deep doo-doo here," and start to wonder how we're going to get out. It's when you hit bottom and you look up that God knows, "OK, I now have her attention."
God sent two wonderful people to me who came to work at my rock radio station here in Louisville, Ky. My station switched over to an oldies station, a little bit softer, a little less drugs, you know. Well, actually I was doing more drugs than ever, but, I mean, the on-air style was a little different. This very hip couple came to work here from Los Angeles. They were very savvy, very funny, and brand-new Christians. They had come from the same kind of lifestyle I had: lots of cocaine. So they took one look at me and said, "Here's a project!" (laughter).
They only worked here a year and they hated every minute of it. They were big-city people, and it was too small here. But, they were here long enough to love me into the Kingdom. I will forever be in their debt for that. They didn't judge me, they didn't tell me to clean up my act, they didn't act like I was weird or unsaveable, or not fun to be around. They ignored the smell of marijuana smoke on my clothes. They just accepted me and they loved me right where I was. Most people cannot resist the love of God. Grace is irresistible as long as it's presented in the cleanest, untainted form, and that's how they gave it to me. They just loved me, without requiring anything of me, I didn't even have to love them back. They just loved me. I just get choked up even thinking about it now ...
Part of the appeal of Mad Mary (Liz's latest book) is that Mary Magdalene was not a loveable person when she came into this little church family. And I so remember those feelings of feeling really different. It took me five months to go to church with these people. I finally went to see what the deal was. I had never met Christians who were funny, for starters. I just thought Christians were, you know, sad, boring people. Shame on me for not paying much attention. And maybe a little bit of the blame goes on those boring, sad Christians ... But anyway, in this church, everybody was joy-filled and they just embraced me from the get-go. Of course, I kept thinking, if they really knew me, they wouldn't. But, the fact is that I felt loved and accepted and I heard the Bible for the first time. I was sitting there saying, "Man, this makes total sense." I just knew right away that this was what I needed -- although it was a few weeks before I went forward, because I didn't know what you were supposed to do.
My friends promised they'd feed me brunch if I went with them, and, you know, I was cheap and wanted brunch. I had a million questions. When they asked if I wanted to come back the next week, I said, "Yeah, can we go to brunch again?" They later told me it cost them $72.50 to get me into the Kingdom (laughter).
By my seventh week at church, I was singing in the choir. And I came out of the
choir loft when they did the invitation at the end because I had figured out that's what you did. And I went forward, received Christ as Savior and was baptized into Him. At our church, we don't wait, you know, in case you change your mind, we throw that baby right in the baptistery (laughter). So that was Feb. 21st of 1982, so I'm really only 19 (I just love to say that ...).
About six months later, my pastor asked me to share my testimony. And I said, "You don't actually mean stand up and, like, talk about how I used to be, do ya? Because nobody will ever talk to me again." He said, "Yeah, I actually do mean that, Liz, and I think you'll find out God will really use it." I had never spoken publicly. I mean, I was a radio personality, but the public thing in front of a group was very scary to me. I didn't eat for days, and I wondered, "Oooh, whatever possessed me to do this?" But I did give my little five-minute testimony. People laughed and cried and stood up! I was blown away. When I sat down, and my pastor said, "I think this is what God has for you." I said, "That's impossible, I have not eaten in three days!" (laughter) But he was right, he was absolutely right. There were people in the audience that night who heard me speak in this little Wednesday night service, who said, "Would you come and share that at our church?"
So within a few years, I was doing like 90 presentations a year, and six days a week on the radio. I got married in 1986 and was soon expecting our first child. Something had to go, so I walked away from radio. As the primary breadwinner, radio was how we were planning on supporting our little family of three. But I knew that God was moving me into speaking and I took a huge leap of faith. When I look back at it, I'm glad I was as stupid as I was, because I wouldn't have leaped if I'd known. But I just put all my faith in God and leaped and He caught me! I've been speaking for 15 years now, and it has been a fun journey. This is all God's party, I just show up.