God was a yeller, or so Kathy Ireland thought.
At the church she grew up in, the pastor preached a screechy, judgmental message and she superimposed the image of her pastor on God. She thought that God must be like that.
“There was a part of me that was kind of scared of God,” Ireland says on an I am Second video. “The church that I attended as a child, the leader there would kind of yell.”
She jumped into modeling at age 16 and was featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Forbes, Mademoiselle and the racy Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition multiple times.
Ireland flew off to Paris to start modeling at age 18. “It sounds so much more glamorous than it was,” she admits.
Her mother, who had accepted Jesus when Ireland was a teen, slipped a Bible in her luggage. She didn’t feel comfortable staying at a home provided in Paris. She often locked herself in her room, and other models who stayed there ominously called it “the dungeon.”
“I randomly opened up to the Gospel of Matthew,” Ireland says. “As I read, my life was forever changed.”
Ireland had been a rebellious teenager who questioned authority. She wondered about truth and what was right and wrong.
When she examined the Bible for the first time, she realized it contained the truth.
“I think one of the things that grabbed a hold of me was that Jesus wasn’t anything like I thought,” Ireland continues. “He wasn’t condemning. He wasn’t yelling. Instead, He was loving, and He was leading.”
Ireland discovered that modeling is a world flush with exploitation. “Particularly as a young woman out in the world for the first time, in a world that often times felt dominated by men of questionable character, it gave me such comfort to know that Jesus loves women and honors them,” she says.
Jesus became Ireland’s Lord, Savior and best friend.
She now says that she remained a “baby Christian” for a very long time — and she regrets it.
“I would continue to read the word,” Ireland says. “But I would just read the same verses over and over.”
There were other verses that she would come across that she thought, “Surely it must be a typo” or “It doesn’t pertain to me,” or “Some other justification.”
Ireland believed the lie that it was too complicated or that she didn’t need it.
“If you asked me, I was a Christian,” she explains. “He was in my life. I loved Him. I had Him. But I was trying to mold God into what I wanted Him to be, rather than allowing Him to mold me into the person He made me to be.
Ireland turned her success as a supermodel into a brand marketing company that made her a $420 million fortune.
“One of my sins is the sin of self-reliance, being a control freak.” she admits. “I think probably one of the most difficult things was giving up that control to God.”
Years ago, Ireland, at a women’s retreat, felt the Lord impress this on her heart: You say I’m your first priority, but I’m not.
She immediately thought: But Lord, you know what I’m going through. Between her kids and her business, Kathy felt pulled in every direction.
Suddenly she realized she had been putting her kids before God. (Ireland is married to Greg Olson, with whom she has three kids.)
Trust me in this, God responded. Put me first, and I’ll give you more time with your kids. I’ll give you better time with your kids.
“Anything that comes before God is an idol, even if it’s good,” she began to understand. It wasn’t easy, but Ireland committed to spending more time with Jesus.
“I just started getting up earlier and spending time with Him,” she says. “And it would start out gradually. Now I can’t get enough. And He’s our perfect Father. He made us. He knows us. And by putting him first, it’s incredible how He equips us and gives us exactly what we need.
“When people ask me, what are your goals? My goal in life is to grow closer to Jesus every day, to follow His lead for me, to stay on His path, to be obedient. And it’s just day-by-day.
My name is Kathy Ireland, and I am second!” she declares.
Laken Wilson studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.