Pain Doesn’t Have to Be a Life Sentence: Beth Nimmo & TJ Stevens
Beth Nimmo: As believers, we are told that we need to walk in forgiveness. Even though you don’t have the feelings to back that up, you step out in faith and say, “I forgive. I choose to forgive.”
The thing that really helped me want to enter into that place of forgiveness was Rachel would have been the first to forgive those boys, and I knew that I was now a voice for her, to represent who Rachel was and everything that was in her own heart and spirit. I needed to walk in that forgiveness.
Pain Doesn’t Have to Be A Life Sentence: Beth Nimmo & TJ Stevens – Episode #216
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. There are times that darkness comes to our lives in ways that drive us to do things that we never thought we were capable of. Sometimes those actions devastate others, in addition to ourselves. Our guests today have been victims to times of darkness, both the darkness within one’s own heart, and the darkness that spills out when an act of shame, cowardice, and desperation impacts more than just yourself: Beth Nimmo and TJ Stevens.
Beth Nimmo is mother to Rachel Joy Scott, a victim of the Columbine School shootings in 1999. A spiritual person, Rachel brought joy and life to those around her. Since her death and the death of twelve others that day, in honor of her, Beth has committed her life to help other kids understand where the darkness of neglect, abuse, low self-worth, and a myriad of other issues seep into their way of thinking and helped steer them from actions that could have had a devastating impact.
TJ Stevens has a ministry in Nashville that helps give back to the community by raising money for various causes through concert events. But in the 90’s, he was a very troubled teen due to a traumatic home life and abuse perpetrated by his stepfather. TJ describes a moment when darkness had pushed him to the point of thinking his life had no meaning and brought him to the brink of harming himself and others—and then, how he felt the hope of being given another choice: the choice to do the right thing.
TJ and Beth first met while recording an interview for I Am Second. Since that time, their paths have crossed often to encourage each other as they encourage others to overcome the darkness in their own lives.
Beth Nimmo: I’m Beth Nimmo. I am the mother of Rachel Joy Scott. She was the first victim killed at the Columbine High School shooting on April 20th of 1999.
Rachel was the middle of my five children, and there was always something very special about her. She attracted people. It was just a charisma about her from the very beginning of her life. And at twelve, she became spirit-filled. And it transformed her purpose and her destiny. She became very aggressive in her desire to be a witness for the Lord and to her peers, and she befriended and reached out to the broken, and the left-out people around her. And God just used her in a powerful way. She left a positive influence, as well as the writings and the drawings that corresponded with her faith walk.
We started seeing what God had been doing behind the scenes in her life with her writings in the prophetic element that was there where she prophesied her own death. And all of a sudden, it wasn’t about the shooters anymore. It was about God’s purposes. The shooters were instruments of devastation that day. The two shooters obviously bought into the lie that life wasn’t important. They didn’t have any value. And they wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.
You know, for the boys, they ended up in the same box that the other thirteen victims ended up in. You know what I’m saying? There was nothing redemptive for them out of that.
And I think if teenagers especially can see that path, that destructive mindset that they allow themselves to go down, or they’re encouraged to go down because of the input that they’ve had to through the media, to friends, even to family—once they deserved that. That’s not real. That’s not real. You know, once they can see past the fantasy of that, then they have the ability and the capacity to make a better choice.
TJ Stevens: I’m TJ Stevens. From the time I was a baby, my mom and dad [have been] divorced. So I never knew a real relationship in that aspect. Up until the age of seven, my mom was working two jobs, sometimes three jobs. And financially, she was just struggling to try to raise me and my brother at the time. When I turned seven, she remarried. And it was supposed to be a new great thing in our life, and it became the worst thing that ever happened to me.
He wasn’t abusive at first. Took about a year or so before he started getting comfortable. He was an alcoholic, and I saw many beatings, I endured many beatings, and I listened to my mom, Bebe, from the floor above, doors being kicked in, and just a nightmare situation of fear.
I ran away from home several times. I was afraid to tell people why. Tried to commit suicide about three times. No one ever knew that. I even wrote out suicide notes and everything. And then I remember running back, trying to find them to tear them up before anybody found them.
But there’s a cycle, right? There’s there’s a lot of red flags in my life that no one ever saw. Without that, it wasn’t so much as being ashamed as it was being in fear. So as a child, you try to cope with it and understand it and you never tell your teachers, you never tell your friends, because if it ever gets back to them, it would be bad.
What we give focus to, we give strength to. I gave focus to nothing but darkness, and darkness filled me to a point where there was an abyss of nowhere to turn.
I actually had the gun in my mouth, in front of school faculty, getting ready to commit suicide on my knees with a rifle in my mouth and the butt of the gun on the ground. It was over. I mean, there was no turning back.
“What we give focus to, we give strength to. I gave focus to nothing but darkness, and darkness filled me to a point where there was an abyss of nowhere to turn.” – TJ Stevens
Beth: If you’re locked in a dark room, you don’t see anything but darkness. There’s no light coming through. There’s nothing, you’re enveloped in the darkness, which is exactly what the enemy wants, especially for this generation of young people. It’s like the enemy’s platform is growing, so it’s not just one thing that contributes to this.
When I do school programs—I’m not doing those now, but I did for many years—I dealt with the issues of the heart, and I know TJ can speak to this as well. When the heart isn’t changed, even if you have modified behavior and there’s a certain amount of control there, eventually what’s in the heart will manifest itself on the surface. Our focus is more about, What’s going on in the heart? What is causing the anger? What’s causing the rejection? What’s causing the isolation? And kids, even popular kids, can experience those emotions.
“When the heart isn’t changed, even if you have modified behavior and there’s a certain amount of control there, eventually what’s in the heart will manifest itself on the surface.” – Beth Nimmo
TJ: And then the cowardice comes in, the cowardice is almost like, You don’t care. You don’t care about others. You don’t care.
But then there was God. And when He intervenes, He puts His fist down. And when He does, if you listen, if you will listen to His voice, if you listen to His calling, if you listen to what He has for you, and He will give you that option—even to the point of death—He’s there with you. I mean, it’s never too late to turn around and do the right thing.
“It’s never too late to turn around and do the right thing.” – TJ Stevens
I was given that opportunity. You see a hundred foot waves in the middle of an ocean, and the boat’s going down. Okay. You know, it’s going down, and all of a sudden you’re sitting on a golden pond. You’re speechless. You’re trying to understand, you’re crying inside at the same time, you’re praising inside, Something you don’t even know exists. Something greater than yourself loves you.
There were a lot of prayers going on in that school, outside the school. There was a lot of prayer happening. And this was not TJ, this was God’s hand and the power of prayer from teachers, family, friends. Because they knew who I was. And they knew I wasn’t this. They knew I wasn’t the person that was inside that school.
Beth: There was a spiritual intervention for him. And how much I wished that the shooters of Columbine would have experienced that and would have been open to it. You know, TJ had to make a choice whether to fire the gun or not. It was still his choice. And he chose well, he chose not to. And I guess when I look at kids now that . . . there have been so many shooters. There is a very familiar pattern that the road that they’re walking down, you know, first of all, the enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy. So he takes away any hope for their life. That’s the first thing he has to do, is [convince them] Life has no value, especially mine. You know, as TJ said, he was a dead man walking. And so he felt like, What’s the point of living? There’s nothing here for me to live for.
And so I think hearing TJ’s story, it gives me insight, for one thing, how the enemy works in the mind and the heart of a young person. I think one of the things that TJ helped me understand is the dark mindset. Your mind has to be completely shut off to any words of life or hope. And thankfully, even when TJ wanted to act on how he felt and what he wanted to do, the Lord gave him hope.
TJ: Beth, you encouraged me in ways that you . . . I can tell that God used you. And in doing that, He’s showing great and mighty things in the results from all sides of my life now. People like Beth for me are a divine appointment that I’m very grateful for, and I will take her name and her word and her wisdom and her love and her forgiveness—I’ll take it to my grave.
Beth: TJ chose well. He chose to listen and he chose to walk away from everything the enemy had planned for that day, which was to take not only his life, but the lives of others. And I think one of the things that we have a responsibility for to the next generation coming up is we have to show them what you’re in right now doesn’t have to be your life sentence and it doesn’t have to define the rest of your life.
“One of the things that we have a responsibility for to the next generation coming up is we have to show them what you’re in right now doesn’t have to be your life sentence and it doesn’t have to define the rest of your life.” – Beth Nimmo
Bringing Light to Dark Places
Beth: I think when you’re at your darkest point, you need life, and the Word brings life no matter where you’re at or what’s going on.
The Word brings life to a situation, brings answers to a situation. It brings peace to a situation There’s so many elements that God’s love encompasses all of it. Wherever our need is, the Word meets you at that point on a daily basis, or minute by minute basis for some of us. It’s the Word that keeps that balance, it’s the Word that keeps us grounded. And there’s times when I just need that, I just need the Lord. I need to feel His love and His presence, you know. I know it’s there. My mind knows it. But sometimes I need to experience it.
I have several copies of Jesus Calling. I picked it up years ago, just as a little devotional. And I just found that it resonates so many times in what’s going on at that moment in my life. It’s just a faithful reminder of how much God loves us and how much He can redeem any situation, or how much He can restore a situation, and how much He’s the answer to every situation. I think it’s on point with where people are in their daily walk and how they need just little words of encouragement. You don’t have to have a whole sermon to walk away with life-giving words.
TJ: So this is Jesus Calling from September 23rd. It says:
Walk with Me in the freedom of forgiveness. The path we follow together is sometimes steep and slippery. If you carry a burden of guilt on your back, you are more likely to stumble and fall. At your request, I will remove the heavy load from you and bury it at the foot of the cross. When I unburden you, you are undeniably free! Stand up straight and tall in My Presence so that no one can place more burdens on your back. Look into My Face and feel the warmth of My Love-Light shining upon you. It is this unconditional Love that frees you from both fears and sins. Spend time basking in the Light of My Presence. As you come to know Me more and more intimately, you grow increasingly free.
God’s Word is a living thing. It’s a living Word. And when Jesus came to this earth, He became flesh. It’s like this right here to me is a special friend, speaking to me, straight to my heart like Beth did, in ways that I can understand and consume. I’m just so thankful. I’m thankful in my situation that God did give me an option and I’m thankful now that He’s allowing me to serve Him in ways that I would’ve never dreamed of.
Beth: TJ, I’m so thankful. I’m so thankful you’ve been redeemed and restored and given new life and new chances and a new way to live life and love the Lord.
I think Rachel herself gave us the courage to move forward, that she left such a platform of redemption that it would have been complete disobedience for us to crawl into a shell and be bitter, unforgiving, and just hide our pain.
I think even as believers, we’re almost afraid to say “I forgive,” because we think it’s a pass for what happened. And I think when we view forgiveness more from a point of I want to be redeemed from this, I want to be restored from this—and hopefully the abuser or the perpetrator would also experience that. But we’re not responsible for them. I am able to forgive because I’m not making that a life sentence. It was for Rachel. What happened that day was a life sentence. We don’t get overs on that. It’s giving yourself permission to move forward and let the Lord heal the pain.
Narrator: To learn more about TJ and Beth’s stories, be sure to check out their I Am Second talk at IAmSecond.com.
If you or someone you know has been dealing with thoughts of suicide, there is help. Please call the National Suicide Prevention line at 1-800-273-8255.
If you’d like to hear more stories about forgiveness and trusting God in times of darkness, check out our interview with Lysa TerKeurst.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with writer and wife of country music star Thomas Rhett. Lauren Akins opens up about her life-long friendship with Thomas and the life-changing experience of doing mission work in Haiti, and then in Uganda, where she met the precious baby who would become their first daughter a year later.
Lauren: I went with complete strangers to a third-world country, while my husband was releasing an album and doing all kinds of things stateside. But I just felt like it was a door that the Lord had swung wide open right in front of me. And it turned out to be the best thing I’d ever done, because it’s like God just opened my eyes to a whole new world. And I felt like, at least in that moment, He introduced me to my purpose then.
Narrator: Want to hear more inspirational stories of people who have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then subscribe today to the Jesus Calling Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. And please be sure to leave a review, which helps us reach and inspire others with these stories. Plus, if you like seeing our guests as well as hearing them, you can find video interviews available on our Youtube channel at youtube.com/jesuscallingbook, on Facebook, and on the Jesus Calling Instagram page.