Cheryl Martin Interview
Author & Speaker Cheryl Martin Talks Openly About Living Single,
By Shamerra T. Brown
We have all observed individuals who were born to do exactly what they’re doing.
Well, Cheryl Martin is no exception. You might remember Cheryl as the former
host of cable network, BET’s program, “Lead Story.” But what you may not know
about this leading lady is that she’s been on the move for God.
From the time she was in grade school, God, about whom her mother said, “cared
about everything that concerned her,” marked Cheryl’s path with clear intentions.
The ambitious young achiever — who was reared surrounded by seven brothers
— disciplined herself early on to address audiences, speaking at assemblies and
any other opportunity faculty allowed. Fresh out of college at Northwestern
University, Cheryl was offered a job at an NBC television news station in
Washington, D.C. — always at the forefront was a careful acknowledgement of
God’s plan for her life. She went on to win several awards in her field.
Of that time she says: “My mother taught us to pray about everything. I remember
when I went from elementary school to junior high, we prayed. She encouraged
me to pray that God would grant me favor … it became a pattern to pray about
In 1992 Cheryl moved forward to work at BET, eventually becoming the host of its
news analysis program (interviewing national leaders such as Bill Clinton and
Condoleezza Rice). Still full of drive and a sense of purpose, Cheryl shocked
network managers with the news that she was walking away from the high-profile
position to pursue the next phase into which God was leading her. That unfamiliar
arena is where she published her first book, 1st Class Single: Rules for Dating
and Waiting God’s Way, committing to print the wisdom keys God had given her
as a Christian single in our modern world. She also had the opportunity to be a
featured speaker on Bishop T.D. Jakes’ “Leading Ladies” tour. When she graced
the stage, Cheryl maximized her moment and allowed God to minister to
individuals through her examples of personal struggles and triumphs.
A much sought-after speaker, Cheryl has cast her net farther, aiming to reach a
broader audience with her new weekly radio program, “Excellent Living” (at press
time, Cheryl was seeking opportunities to launch the program nationally). In light
of a full plate, Cheryl will be the first to admit, “This is a faith walk!” Let’s take an
insightful, inspiring journey into the heart of this relevant woman of God.
Shamerra T. Brown: Did you see yourself beyond the inner city as a child, doing
what you do now? You know lots of children have dreams and visions and don’t
necessarily recognize that as a part of their purpose, and sometimes
inadvertently, allow the cares of life to get them off track. If you were able to see
glimpses of your future, what kept you on the course toward your destiny?
Cheryl Martin: I would have to say my faith in God. I accepted Christ as a child
and that has really been the bedrock of my life. Around the ages of 7 to 10, my
mother told me that God was concerned about everything that concerned me.
Somewhere along the way, I came to understand that I could talk to Him like I’m
talking to you. I always believed that my life would not be confined to the inner
city. I always knew that it was God’s will for me to leave Houston, and that I had a
desire to be a broadcaster. And I also had a sense that I would be doing what I’m
doing now, which is speaking on His behalf. I just didn’t know when.
Shamerra: From the time you were out of college and throughout your
professional career, did you actually know that you were on the path of the Lord
… were you conscious of His hand leading you?
Cheryl: Oh definitely. For one thing, and this is something I think is great for
parents to do, my mother taught us to pray about everything. But I think because I
was the only girl, we had an extremely close relationship. So I remember when I
went from elementary school to junior high, we prayed. She encouraged me to
pray that God would grant me favor and that I would have the opportunity to
speak in public assemblies. When my teacher selected me and I ran home to tell
her this, we gave glory to God. And I distinctly remember we prayed a long time to
make sure it was God’s will for me to attend Northwestern [University]. We spent a
lot of time saying, “God, is this where you want me?” And when I stepped on that
campus, it was so clear to me that my steps were ordained by God. Actually, my
first night there I found a church. I said to the Lord that I didn’t want to grow
intellectually at the sacrifice of not growing spiritually. I’d heard of students who
attended church at home, but when they got to college with intellectuals, they
abandoned an authentic faith. I remember saying to Him that I didn’t want to
abandon my faith, but I wanted it to grow strong. And He honored that.
Shamerra: When you knew it was time to leave BET, was that challenging for
you? Were you in full agreement with God? Were there people at the network who
tried to persuade you to stay?
Cheryl: Of course there were uncertainties, but I think that all of life is about God
and His purposes. And as Christ-followers, our position does not define us, but
our relationship with Christ does. I was very clear, I knew that it was God who had
opened the door for me to work at BET. There is always this constant awareness
that I’m here to do the will of God, whatever that is. … Even since I’ve left BET, the
Lord has said to me, “That job was not about you, or for you to be impressed, or
for others to be impressed by you. It actually is a great jumping off point for what
you do now.” This is really a faith walk, and it has clearly stretched my faith. I had
a total peace, and there is no doubt in my mind that this was God’s timing.
Management was definitely surprised, but I left on great terms. They respected
when I explained that I have other passions in life and this is the time for me to
pursue them. Bob Johnson, the founder of BET, is an entrepreneur … he pursued
his dreams, and he’s not one to stand in the way of people who want to pursue
Shamerra: To an outsider it may look like you have the ideal life, career, status
and now ministry … tell me what you see from the inside looking out?
Cheryl: Nothing in life is perfect. This has really stretched me because there have
been many days I have said to the Lord, “I’m clueless as to what my next step
should be.” And He actually likes for us to be totally dependant upon Him. Psalm
23 has taken on new meaning for me because I’ve learned that sheep are
described as defenseless, dependant, helpless and stupid. God described us as
sheep in great need of a shepherd. I pretty much wake up with this attitude: “God,
I trust You. I don’t know what the future holds, but if I look at the track record, You
have never failed me and You have always come through, right on time. You have
always been the One to go before me and open doors.” If we are in the center of
His will, He will lead the way. I quote to myself the word of God. Isaiah 48:17 says,
“I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is best for you, and I will direct you
in the way you should go.” And then Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you in the way
you should go.” So anytime I get anxious, and I have gotten anxious many times in
the last five years, I have to remind myself of the reputation of God, that He can
be trusted, and that I can only call Him faithful my entire life. Shamerra, I went into
2007 with one goal, and that is for me to hear the voice of God and to simply
obey, to intensify my listening skills. In society there are so many voices crowding
us, especially for women, “Look this way, do this, if you want to be a success in
business, network, you’ve got to get out, you’ve got to get your name out there ...
” There are all these voices and everybody has a formula. But Jesus said His
sheep know His voice. And it’s not enough for me to know it if I don’t obey it. So
that’s my goal, to know His voice, drown out all the other voices, and then to
Shamerra: You mentioned getting anxious in the last five years. What makes you
Cheryl: Well, I left a secure job, with a guaranteed income to step out on basically
my faith. It’s not like I had a cushion ministry job, or clients lined up ...
Shamerra: Well you did have a certain status in the ministerial arena ...
Cheryl: One of the things I came to understand, and rightfully so, people in
ministry may respect you for what you do, but if they haven’t heard you speak …
most people go with someone who is tried and tested. I’m sure a lot of people did
not realize the extent of my faith in God, because as a journalist, you are to be
unbiased, and your beliefs are not to be apparent, whether you are a Republican,
Democrat, atheist or Christian, because that’s not what you’re there for. … God
came through and has provided some wonderful ministry opportunities. One of
the things that I learned through this whole experience is that God asks for
obedience first and He seldom reveals to us the results of our obedience before
we obey. I desire to be obedient quickly because I don’t want to block His will for
my life, or to block blessings because of disobedience. He has promised to supply
all of our needs. I don’t know how He’s going to do it; my concern is that I obey
Shamerra: Speaking of obedience, have you ever veered off the path of God, or
allowed any specific distractions to take you off course?
Cheryl: Sure, I don’t know of anyone who has a perfect record. Jesus is the only
one with a perfect testimony of obeying the Father. So it could be a dating
relationship, where you may get some warning signs but you still press forward …
I knew you were going to ask me about leaving BET and I forgot to mention this —
I knew when I left, the first order of business for me was to complete my book,
1st Class Single: Rules for Dating and Waiting God’s Way, and get it
published. I had been teaching from the material in the book while I was still at
BET. I felt so strongly that, as a result of the path God had allowed me to go
down, I wanted to share with other singles lessons that I’ve learned. There have
been times I re-read the book for myself!
Cheryl: I do, and anytime I have violated the rules, I have come to regret it since I
have written the book! I believe it was inspired with the purpose of encouraging
other women in their journeys; to pursue the path that God has set her on, and to
be distinct and uniquely the woman that God wants her to be. Despite
disappointments in life, despite mishaps, it’s not over.
Shamerra: Since releasing the book, have you had to end any “potential”
relationships based on red flags you’ve so clearly warned others about?
Cheryl: Yeah, or if I didn’t end it, [the relationship] ended.
Shamerra: At the time(s) when you did have to end it, was that challenging for
you? How did you have the courage to initiate something like that, knowing it
could possibly mean another season of not being in a relationship?
Cheryl: I should clarify. As I mentioned before if I didn't end it, the "door" closed
and I chose to see God in the closed door. Along the way at times I had some
uneasiness ... but I kept going forward ... not exactly at peace. In conversation, for
example, even though we were both Christians, we had different callings. I should
have seen that as a sign this was not the relationship God ordained ... but I chose
to stay in it because I admired the individual. At this point in my life, I'm not so
much concerned about another season of not being in a relationship because I've
learned it's better to be alone in Christ than to be “in” relationship and out of
Christ. I now place a very high premium on my relationship with Him and want no
relationship that would displease or dishonor Him. I say that to God repeatedly, as
I did tonight: “Lord, I desire to be in a loving relationship with a Godly man, but in
no way at the expense of what we have. I gladly acquiesce to Your agenda...even
if it means singleness for the rest of my life.” I am content with that. His joy, His
unfailing love completes me. What has aided me in dating relationships is that I've
learned to never stop praying for His will, no matter how strong my emotions are.
Shamerra: Talk about what you mean by the first clause of the title, “1st Class
Cheryl: First Class Single is an attitude, it’s a mind-set. When I think of first class,
it means a cut above the rest, refusing to be mediocre, exceptional … One of the
reasons I wrote the book, Shamerra, is that I began to look at Christian singles
and Lord knows I’ve gone to singles’ conferences from the time I was a teenager,
been a part of forums and discussions, singles’ cruises … so I’ve done the gamut.
What really concerned me is that I’ve observed Christian singles really not being
able to distinguish between how Christians date and how non-Christians date. If
we say that God is our father, who is the architect of relationships, and the
original matchmaker … I’ve had men tell me, even unbelieving men, who went out
with Christian women, what they were willing to do. And as I say to women, men
talk just like women talk and some of them could not wait to call me because they
know what the standard is for Christians. I have one brother who has not
accepted Christ yet, and he’s single and he tells me these hair-raising stories and
a lot of them are of Christian women. And he’s actually teased me and said that
any of the women he’s interested in, he does not tell them about my book. I’ve
learned a lot from my brothers. I wrote the book to say that God has called us to
be different, to really be a light. But how we approach life, how we approach
dating should be totally different. We should not be getting our cues from People
Magazine, “Entertainment Tonight,” and how the celebrities do it. God wrote the
manual, and it’s very clear in Scripture that if we do things His way, He will honor
that. ... So the first question should be, “Lord, is marriage your will for me?” One
of the rules in the book is, “Do I want God’s will for my life more than I want my
way?” And that can be tough. I don’t think that we can answer that question
honestly, without it taking a while to process.
Shamerra: You said you were teaching the material before you left BET. By that
time, had you already become personally disciplined in the principles you were
Cheryl: For the most part, I would say yes. I try to be very open and honest,
because I think that people think that those who have been walking with the Lord
for a long time, they don’t really understand the pressures and desires, and they’
re giving you all this lofty stuff. I’m very transparent in the book, even about
mistakes that I’ve made. For example, one of the rules is to cut your losses early. I
learned that in a relationship, you know it’s not right, but you still stay in it. I think
there are a lot of women who do that out of fear. I deal very honestly with these
issues, and say it’s OK, just recognize what it is. …What can happen a lot of
times, for certain women, if you have standards, let’s say to marrying a Christian
man, you can sometimes know that something isn’t right but you can say to
yourself, “Well, but he loves Jesus, he has a job, etc.” So we start going through
the fact that it’s not really what we want, but …
Shamerra: Right, the creeping compromise …
Cheryl: Yeah, because it’s a lack of faith. And some of us feel like marriage is the
pot at the end of the rainbow. What I say is, it is better to be single than to wish
you were. We must ask ourselves the hard question, “Why do I want to get
married?” Sometimes we’re actually going into the marriages with unrealistic
expectations, and there’s a void in our lives, we may need inner healing, we’re not
whole … I say, in 1st Class Single that it takes two good eggs to make an omelet.
We need to spend more time, while we are single, taking a long, hard look at
ourselves and looking at our brokenness and being very honest with God, and
saying, “Lord, I’ve been abused in this area, I have low self-esteem in this area …
While we are single, it’s such a wise use of time to allow the Lord to fix us, and I
contend that if we are fixed, we are going to choose more discriminatively. If I allow
my relationship with the Lord to define my sense of self, I won’t get excited just
because any man walks into my space and says, “You’re fine,” and I get excited
and I’m ready to marry you. Because I have a proper view of myself before you
come into my life, and I know my worth, I won’t be easily taken with your words.
Shamerra: Very wise. Did you have any specific area(s) of insecurities or low self-
esteem that God has helped you overcome, or maybe things that still nudge at
you on a less-than-perfect day?
Cheryl: Oh yeah! I think all of us are broken in some area. Because I had
brothers I was very much a tomboy and I also shot up very quickly. I was probably
the tallest person in my sixth grade class, and so feeling very awkward to be 5’8 in
the sixth grade and wearing a size 10 shoe, when your close friends are much
shorter … dealing with that and not seeing myself as very feminine and ladylike,
and I think having a strong personality and wanting to be more docile and soft-
spoken … I love the fact that I accepted Christ as a child because that really
saved me. I never talked to my mother about it, even though we are very close,
not to any of my siblings … I talked to the Lord about it and I remember being very
frustrated because even though I was an achiever in school, internally there was
this constant dialogue of me just not being happy with me. I also really wanted to
look like my mother. I struggled with that, and I was so glad that I didn’t have a
sister, because people tend to compare when there are two girls; they compare
their grades, athletic ability, their looks. I was so glad that I didn’t have a
comparison, because I think that would have been very difficult for me. And my
heart goes out to women, especially if one is prettier or smarter, because people
say cruel things … and they think it’s funny. … The psalmist says, “He knows our
frame, He remembers that we are frail” (Ps. 103:14), and so I found myself crying
out to God. The Lord said to me, “Cheryl, I know what I’m doing and I have given
you your personality based on the work that I have called you to do and I have not
made a mistake.” … Journalism is a male-dominated field. There have been times
when I’ve gone out in the field and it’s a two-person crew, usually an audio guy
and a cameraman. So I couldn’t be docile and mousey and still be really
successful. It was a reminder that I was not a mistake ...
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