Your Story: The Parts You Wish You Could Change
About the Guest
Could God flip your story’s worst chapters? Bestselling author Sharon Jaynes relays God’s transformation of parts of her story she’d wished weren’t there.
Your Story: The Parts You Wish You Could Change
Ann: Alcoholism, abuse, pain, death, affairs,—
Dave: Wow; this sounds like a really exciting day. [Laughter] What are you talking about?
Ann: —lies—that’s your story growing up. Do you think you would have chosen a different story?
Dave: Of course! Are you kidding me?! You just described the worst miniseries on a program; you know? [Laughter]
Ann: It feels like your life was like a Hallmark® movie gone bad.
Welcome to FamilyLife Today, where we want to help you pursue the relationships that matter most. I’m Ann Wilson.
Dave: And I’m Dave Wilson, and you can find us at FamilyLifeToday.com or on our FamilyLife® app.
Ann: This is FamilyLife Today.
Ann: Alcoholism, death, affairs—that’s your story—you know, it was shattering.
Dave: Yes; I mean what is really crazy is, when I went back to that home in New Jersey—a gated community; because my dad was an airline pilot, and we made a lot of money back then—you would have looked back at that house and said, “That is a perfect family.”
Ann: Yes; it’s picture perfect.
Dave: If you looked at a picture of our family, you would say, “That’s the all-American family. That’s the dream family”; and nobody knew behind those doors was alcohol and girlfriends and then, after the divorce, the death of my little brother; I mean, it was: “No, I would have never chosen that life!” But now, as I look back, I also can see how all of that pain developed me into the man I am today.
Ann: Yet, you could have stayed in it—and been so bitter and angry and even blamed God—but you—
Dave: I did.
Ann: Do you feel like you did?!
Dave: Oh, for years/for decades, I blamed God for the whole thing.
Ann: Now, do you blame God?
Dave: No, I blame man. Those were the decisions that men made. I thank God that He got me through it and actually turned it into something pretty beautiful.
Dave: That is sort of what we are talking about today: how God can take a broken life and story and make something beautiful out of it.
We have Sharon Jaynes back with us today. She’s been on FamilyLife before, so welcome back to FamilyLife in Orlando, Florida.
Sharon: Thank you for having me.
Dave: Do you know how many times you’ve been on FamilyLife Today?
Sharon: I can’t remember; I think it’s four or five. I have to go back and look in the archives. [Laughter]
Ann: Sharon, you have always been a treat for us/for our listeners. You always bring a lot of wisdom, practicality, Scripture. This book, When You Don’t Like Your Story—the subtitle is What If Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories?—when I hear that, I think, “Yes!” All of us, listening to that, thinking, “That’s what I want. Can it become my greatest victory?”
You’ve written a lot of books—
Dave: Yes; I didn’t know this: 25?!
Sharon: I know!
Ann: You’re married. You have a son who is grown; but this is your passion, and you’ve been speaking to women over the years. You helped found Proverbs 31 Women. This is something that really matters to you: of really helping women, especially.
Sharon: It really is a passion of mine; and when I go back and look at the titles of some of the books that I have written—
Sharon: —in the past, you can see that there’s a common theme of really helping women have a better story. I mean, there is the book called Enough: Silencing the Lies That Steal Your Confidence. Well, that’s helping them have a better story right now by believing the truth of God. Each of the titles—except the ones on marriage; well, those are helping women have a better marriage—but it’s helping women have a better story than the one they currently find themselves in.
Or in this case, a lot of the book is talking about—maybe, it’s not your whole story you don’t like—but there are just certain chapters that you have in your story that you would love to rip out. What I’m saying is those chapters, that a lot of times we want to rip out, are the very chapters that God wants to repurpose. Those are the ones He uses the most in our lives—
Sharon: —and as you were saying, Dave, to make you a stronger person but to, also, help other people—because it tells us in Scriptures that God comforts us in all of our afflictions so that we can comfort others with the comfort that we have received from God. Now, that is kind of a convoluted verse; but basically, it is saying that God comforts us to make us comfort able—not to make us comfortable—that’s not really how this lists, in case you noticed; but to make us comfort able.
When we can look at those difficult chapters, and all those places we’d like to mark out, but God is highlighting. Those places that we have dog-eared and we just keep going back and back to that chapter to try to make sense of it all and say, “Why did this happen?”—those are the very chapters that God will use the most in our lives to develop us and then turn around and help other people.
Ann: I can’t agree more. I remember—I think we had just come out of a ten-year slump in our marriage—and I remember listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio. He said, “God will never allow, if you trust Him, your pain to be in vain.” I can remember—because of abuse in my background; because of our marriage that was really struggling—I clung to that. I needed to know: “Is this it? Is this my story?”—just one failure or one adverse situation after another.
So, as you say that, I had never thought at the time, that God could actually use that period of time to help other people. That is what we have done with our marriage, like, “Oh, let’s tell people our story so that, maybe, they can find hope too.”
Dave: I discovered—as you write in your book, and I want to hear your story—that the darkest parts of my life, where I thought God wasn’t there, I find out He was there.
Ann: And you want to hide those dark chapters.
Dave: Yes; exactly. It’s sort of like, “Nobody is ever going to hear that part”; but then you go, like you said, to 2 Corinthians 1: “That God comforts us in those moments so that we”—I love how you said that—
Sharon: —…so that—
Dave: —“comfort able—
Sharon: Yes, comfort able.
Dave: —“to help others.” He actually uses our pain; and I think, in some ways, points us to our purpose in life because now I have a passion—I always have—for marriages/for families staying together. Why?—because I came out of one that didn’t, and I want to help others.
You heard a bit of my story. What’s your story?
Sharon: Much like you, I was raised in a beautiful home. We lived in a little town in North Carolina on the eastern part of North Carolina—a ranch-style home, very typical—with two kids. We had a collie dog named—
Sharon: —Lassie; of course, a collie dog named Lassie. [Laughter]
Dave: Now, some listeners don’t even know who Lassie is—
Sharon: Okay; well—
Dave: —because they missed that decade. That was the best, greatest dog on TV in the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Sharon: Right; even though there were like 20 of them that played one little dog; but anyway, we had a collie dog named Lassie. My father had a successful business, and my mom had her own little shop. She owned a craft shop called The Bam Beetle and taught painting classes and little decoupage classes.
But there was a secret behind the door—much like in your home—that was that my father had a terrible drinking problem. Many times, when Dad would come home, he would come home drunk; and my parents would fight. I remember going to bed at night, and just pulling up the covers, and praying that I could hurry up and go to sleep so I could shut out the noise of what was going on in that next room. I remember, sometimes, I would get in my bed and pull the covers up. Sometimes, I would get up and turn a little key on the back of a jewelry box.
Sharon: I had this little pink jewelry box—turn the key, open the lid, a little ballerina would pop up—remember those?
Sharon: I tried to listen to that music to shut out that noise. Sometimes, I would go in my brother’s room; and we would hide together.
Ann: And those were your earliest memories, growing up?
Sharon: Those were my earliest memories. I don’t remember anything before violence.
Sharon: Violence is the first thing I remember.
Dave: How old were you?
Sharon: You know, I’m thinking kindergarten is when I really start remembering. I don’t remember a lot from before that, but what I do remember is scary. The next day, it was always the same; my dad would be at the kitchen table, crying/saying, “I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry. This will never happen again.” Then my mom/she would go into a period of passive aggressive silence; she would be silent for several weeks. My dad would say he was sorry; it wouldn’t happen again. Then we’d have a lull, and there would be peace in our home for a little while.
But it was just like/kind of the Israelites rebellion cycle in the Old Testament. I could kind of feel it building back up again, and then it would be another explosion. It was like living on an earthquake fault line, just never knowing when that big one was going to hit; but it continued, and continued, and continued through my whole childhood.
You know, kids internalize this. I felt like/I was so ashamed the next day, when my father was saying how sorry he was, and I would have to get my little lunchbox, and get dressed, and go sit in 1st grade and feel so ashamed, even though nobody knew that—and thinking, “My family is so wrong. Something is wrong with my family, and something is wrong with me.”
When my mom would say—listen, if you’ve ever said this to your kids, don’t feel badly about it. I’m sure I’ve said it to mine—but when my mom would say, “What is wrong with you?!” to me—I remember thinking, “I don’t know, but there is something wrong with me,”—and grew up feeling that I wasn’t good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough.
So all that violence and the alcohol—there was pornography; there was gambling—all that just put such a shame on me, as a little kid. I lived under that until I was about
12 years old. There was a woman on the next street—it was my best friend: a little red-headed Wanda—it was her mom. I loved being down at the Henderson’s home because they—Mr. and Mrs. Henderson would hug and kiss; they had little pet names for each other—I had never seen married people act like that before, and I loved being down there.
Listen, even though I was a terrified of my father, I still wanted a daddy who loved me; and I think all little girls want a daddy who loves them.
Ann: Did you love him?
Sharon: I was terrified of my father. I would not have said that I really loved my father. I wanted to have a father like Mr. Henderson.
Sharon: I loved that vision of a father like him.
I didn’t know why that family was so different from mine; but I knew it had something to do with Jesus, because she would/Mrs. Henderson would sing little praise songs about Jesus when she would clean the house.
Now, listen, here is something I want you to know too. My family, as bad as we were—with the alcohol, and the violence, pornography, the gambling—we went to church on Sunday.
Sharon: We went to church on Sunday. We walked in, looking good—every hair in place—I remember my mom using sponge rollers on my hair the night before because we were going to look good. Then I started spending the night with the Hendersons, going to church with them on Sunday; and I began to see that there was a big difference between what we had and what they had. Now, I could not have verbalized it at
12 years old; but what I was seeing was there is a big difference between having a religion in your life and having a relationship with Jesus Christ.
That woman took me under her wing, and she loved on me. I began to tell Wanda about what was going on in my home and then telling Mrs. Henderson.
Dave: Did anybody else know?
Sharon: I think they suspected, because my mom would have a black eye. I mean, how many doors can you run into; you know?—but pretty much kept it quiet. It was a small town, and he ran around. I’m sure people knew that, but nobody talked about it.
Ann: Yet, you said it earlier—it wasn’t just that something was wrong with your family—something was wrong with you.
Sharon: Absolutely; we need to know that children internalize that. When they see their parents yelling and screaming, and they might be terrified, they internalize that shame onto themselves. They feel like something is wrong with their family—their family is wrong and that they are wrong—that is how I felt. I didn’t know that at the time; I mean, I couldn’t have put that into words.
But after a couple of years of going to church with the Hendersons—and she taught me about Jesus; and she started a Bible study in the neighborhood for teenagers/we were young teens; and she talked to me about a heavenly Father who loved me—when I was 14, I was spending the night with them. She asked me if I was ready to accept Jesus as my Savior.
I want to say something here, too—honestly, I was not the kind of girl I would have wanted my little girl to play with because—I mean, there was a lot in me: there was a lot of anger in me, and I was really headed in a bad direction; but she took a chance on me, exposed her daughter to me, and ended up leading me to Jesus.
Dave: So what are you saying about that family?
Sharon: I’m saying that, as a parent, sometimes, we may want to keep our kids away from certain kids—
Ann: —to protect them.
Sharon: —to protect them; but maybe, we ought to consider that, maybe, God has brought these certain kids in our lives so that we can love on them and show them that life can be different.
You know, when other kids come into your home, even now with your grown boys, and they are watching you, they say, “Life can be different. This is what my family could be like.” That’s what I saw with them as she took that chance on me. I was saying, “This is what life could be like, and this is what I want. I want a family like that.”
Ann: I’m telling you—just what you are doing is—you are preaching what we are saying at FamilyLife. Our homes make a difference. Each home on every corner—when we are walking with Jesus, we reflect the Savior; people are drawn to that. As Dennis Rainey used to say and still does say: “Our marriages in the future, and even right now, are the greatest evangelistic tool we can use”; because, when people see a great marriage or a good family, they think, as you did Sharon, as a little girl: “Whatever they have, I want that.”
When you heard the gospel—when you heard that you had a heavenly Father—
Dave: Well, let me add this—I’d just love to add—Mrs. Henderson, who I will never meet, had that vision, thinking, “Not only is our house sort of a lighthouse, but God is going to bring people into our home that need what we have.” She had that vision to be able to reach out to you.
Sharon: That is not the end of the story with Mrs. Henderson. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes, so keep going.
Dave: Oh, let’s go!
Ann: So, at 14, she tells you/shares the gospel.
Sharon: I become a Christian through this woman. But the problem was I had to go back home, of course, into that violent environment with all that went on behind that pretty door of that pretty house. But now, I’ve got Jesus; and I’ve got my group of 14-year-old friends that I’m in a Bible study with, praying for my family. When you’ve got teenagers on fire for Jesus, isn’t it just fun to watch?
Ann: It’s a force.
Sharon: I mean, it is a force. We were amazing, looking back on it. I can’t even hardly believe how powerful we were at 14, but we prayed for my family.
And then, I’m going to fast forward. My parents thought that my excitement for religion—they called it—would wear off, but it didn’t. I was still a teenager—I still got on their nerves and all that teenagers do—but we prayed for my family. When I was 17, I had an opportunity to go away for the summer; it was a foreign exchange program. I told my friends that I could not go because, by this time, I was the parent in the house. When they fought, I broke up the fights. My brother would leave; I would stay/break up the fight. If I leave, who is my mom going to turn to?
But we continued to pray; and then my, now, 17-year-old friends—that we’ve been doing this journey for 3 years—they said, “We really feel like you should go.” I decided to go; and God was saying, “Will you trust Me here?” The night before I left, my friends came over. We prayed the blood of Jesus over my house, marched around my house. We were amazing.
The very night that I left, my dad came home drunk; and he started a fight with my mom. I wasn’t there to help. She runs down to Mrs. Henderson’s house; because I told her, “Mom, I’m not here to help you. If something happens, you go down to see
Mrs. Henderson.” That’s exactly what she did; and that night, my mom gave her life to Jesus.
Ann: Come on!
Sharon: So that’s step two for that story.
Listen, I would never, ever tell a woman, who is in an abusive relationship, to stay with a man who is abusing her—just hear me saying that—but my mom came home. She told my dad: “I accepted Jesus tonight. I’m going to follow Him, and I’m going to forgive you for everything you’ve done,”—it’s a long list. That night, forward, my father never drank again—
Dave: No way!
Sharon: —stopped cold turkey.
But he said to her, “I’ll go to church with you; but I could never be a Christian, because there is too many things I’ve done in my life. God could never forgive me.” Now, this was back when there was no email; there was no internet; there were no cell phones. When I was away, I started getting letters that my parents were now going to the Bible-teaching church; and my dad was going to church, and they were holding hands. I thought, “What am I going to come home to?”
But when I did come home at the end of the summer, my dad said the same thing to me—he said, “I am going to go to church with you, but I never could be a Christian. God could never forgive me, because of all that I’ve done. I could never be good enough,”—I said, “Dad, none of us could be good enough. If we could be good enough, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to die on the cross”; but He could not understand. Even though he quit drinking, some of those vices continued.
Let me fast forward three more years: now, I’ve got the teenage friends praying; my mom, in a Bible study/she is praying.
Ann: The power of praying women!
Sharon: Absolutely! I’ve got a book on that, too:—[Laughter]
Sharon: —Praying for Your Husband from Head to Toe.
You know, I tell this story at the beginning; because this is the first example I saw of the power of a praying wife. Three years later, my father was on the verge of a nervous breakdown because he had left the company where he worked and gone to start another company that was in competition. There was a restrictive covenant; he was being sued and taken to court for, honestly, God only knew what.
This is what I want to say about this next part of this particular story—is that, when it looks like everything is falling apart, things are really falling together/God is putting the pieces together—but my father was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, and he felt like he needed my mom. He got in his car—because she was at a meeting in Pennsylvania—got in his car; drove to Pennsylvania. He stopped by a church in Pennsylvania, because he couldn’t find her. He said, “I need the priest to pray for me.” The secretary—bless her heart—said, “He is not here; but I know a pastor, a Baptist pastor, out in the woods, building his church.”
You are laughing because you know, as soon as I say Baptist pastor—so my dad/he follows this map that she drew on a scratch piece of paper—and he finds this man, building his church: hammer in his hand; Jesus in his heart. Dad says, “I need you to pray for me.” The man said, “Well, tell me your story.”
For the first time, my dad told somebody his story—all of it—and then the man put his arm around my dad; he said, “Now, Alan, let me tell you my story.” My dad said, “Everything I’d done in my life; this man had done too. I knew that if God could forgive him, and he could be a preacher, then He could forgive me.” My dad accepted Jesus in the woods of Pennsylvania with a man I never will know. He became one of the sweetest men I’ve known.
But let me ask you this.
Ann: We’re all in tears here/of just the grace and the miraculous power of God.
Sharon: Amen. But it’s also the power of that man’s story—
Sharon: —because you know my father, when he went to church with us, and he said, “I’m too far gone,”—do you think there were other men in that church who had that story?—maybe, not all of it, but parts of it—but they never told it. God had to take him all the way to Pennsylvania—
Dave: —to the woods.
Sharon: —to find a man in the woods to tell him, “I had that same story, and let me tell you what God did for me.” That’s the power of our story.
You know, it says in Revelation 12: “They overcame him”—talking about the devil—“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb”—and what?—“ the word of their testimony.”
Ann: —“their testimony.”
Sharon: You think that your story—and your story, Dave—your story has so much power in it that it’s in the same verse with the blood of the Lamb? No wonder the devil doesn’t want you telling it! He wants us to be ashamed of it and to keep it quiet; but it’s combining those two things—the blood of the Lamb/the word of our testimony—that’s how people see Jesus.
Dave: Yes, and your whole ministry—and really our ministry—is birthed out of a broken story/out of pain. It’s exactly the title of your book—When You Don’t Like Your Story: What If the Worst Chapters Could Be Your Greatest Victories?—those victories point to the Victor.
Ann: —and give God glory.
Dave: I mean, I’m over here, tearing up; because my dad came to Christ later in his life too. You would think—“It’s never going to happen; God can’t redeem,”—and God always does redeem. Beautiful!
Ann: Thank you, Sharon; that was powerful. I can’t wait; because we didn’t yet touch on—that’s still part of you—that thought, “What’s wrong with me?”
Ann: So we will get into more of that to think, “How do we heal the brokenness that we feel inside?”
Shelby: Through a bad series of events that happened just two days ago, I remember looking into the sky and screaming, “Jesus, what are You doing?!” out of anger. As I reflect on that kind of embarrassing part of my story—even just recently—that helps me to know that God is working in a million different ways that I am simply unable to see sometimes.
As Dave and Ann Wilson have been talking with Sharon Jaynes, she has reminded us that now is the time to stop picking at emotional scabs and start allowing God to heal our wounds: “What does it look like to forgive others?” “What does it look like to use our story to break free of the shame of the past and see God work in the present?”
We believe that the book that Sharon Jaynes has written—called When You Don’t Like Your Story: What If Your Worst Chapters Could Become Your Greatest Victories?—we believe that this resource is incredibly valuable and could do much good work, not only in your life, but in the lives of others around you as well. That’s why, when you head over to FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation of any amount, all this week, we want to send you a copy of Sharon Jaynes’s book, When You Don’t Like Your Story, as a way to say, “Thank you for contributing to the gospel efforts of FamilyLife Today.” Again, you can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, make a donation, and receive your copy of When You Don’t Like Your Story; or you could pick up the phone and call us at 1-800-358-6329; that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
If this topic today, as we’ve been talking with Sharon Jaynes, or any of our FamilyLife programs have been helpful for you, we’d love for you to share today’s podcast with a friend or a family member; and wherever you get your podcasts, it could really advance the gospel effort of what we are doing at FamilyLife Today if you would scroll down and rate and review us.
Now, tomorrow, Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be talking, once again, with Sharon Jaynes to help us get on the solutions side and heal the brokenness that we feel inside when we look at our stories. That is coming up tomorrow. We hope you can join us.
On behalf of Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Shelby Abbott. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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