The Power of a Story
In April, Trisha and I had the opportunity to attend the Exponential Conference in Orlando. During one of the breaks, I saw someone that I recognized. I walked up to her and said “You’re Jenni Clayville right?” She said, “Yes.” I said “I follow you on Twitter. You are a female worship leader, my wife is a female worship leader, I think we should do dinner with you guys tonight.” Looking back on it, it was kind of stalkerish of me…but Trisha and I were at a very important crossroads in our journey back to ministry and I felt prompted by the Holy Spirit that a conversation with Brian and Jenni was a divine appointment. If you are thinking that how I introduced myself to Brian and Jenni was awkward, wait till you hear how I opened our conversation at dinner.
We sat down to dinner that night…Trisha, Brian and Jenni and their pastor and friend of mine from college Matt Payne. I said “There is no good way to break the ice, so I’ll start. I had an affair 3 1/2 years ago, have been in a restoration process for the past 18 months. I have robbed Trisha of so much, and worship is so central to her heart, I wanted to connect her with you as a female worship leader because I just felt like you could really minister to her as we go back into ministry.” D-E-A-D S-I-L-E-N-C-E. Trisha looked at me like I was crazy and Jenni looked at me with terror in her eyes. I realized how awkward the moment was, and recovered by saying “Now that I’ve dropped that bomb, can we go back and just tell you our whole story?” By God’s grace, we had a wonderful discussion that night about ministry, and brokenness and failure and redemption. We shared with them how our marriage imploded, the fears that we had going back into ministry and the desire we had to help couples in ministry not to go through what we had gone through. It was a powerful and redeeming night in so many ways. We spent the next two days hanging with this crew from The Church at Bethany, and felt like we left the conference with not just clarity of direction for ministry, but three very good friends.
A few days after we got back from the conference, Jenni sent Trisha a text asking if she could talk to her via Skype. Trisha and Jenni began a conversation that was born the night we all went out to dinner. Jenni confessed to Trisha a one year affair that she had been a part of 3 years ago. The relationship ended, and Jenni had planned not to ever tell anyone about it. When we went to dinner and I opened up the conversation by sharing my failure and our marital brokenness, the Holy Spirit broke through and in that moment, Jenni knew God was calling her to confess this sin. Jenni had already told Brian, and then she and Brian had a conversation with Matt and his wife. Everything was at risk…her reputation, her job, her future, her marriage, her ministry…yet she chose to be obedient.
Trisha and I are so proud of Brian and Jenni. They have gone to places in their marriage and their relationship with God that few choose to go. Because of that, they have and will experience grace and redemption in doses that few ever do. On Sunday, September 20, Brian and Jenni shared their story with the people of The Church at Bethany. You can listen to it here. In an email to Trisha and I last night, here is what Jenni said:
After our testimony, we were humbly overwhelmed by how many people came up to us. Some to say “Thank you for being so real.”, some to ask us for forgiveness for not being around, but many to tell us of their own sins. What was surprising was how many of them had stories very similar to ours. Seriously… not just ONE story… but multiple. Our hearts broke… but immediately, we looked at each other and knew exactly why God had asked us to step out and share our very humiliating story. God wanted to break the bondage not just for US… but for all those couples too. We were the first in our community to talk about the “unspoken”.
Reading this reminded me of the power of the Gospel story. Trisha and I sharing our story of bondage,brokenness and repentance, redemption and restoration, prompted the same process in Jenni and Brian. Then as Jenni and Brian told their story, combined with the power of the Holy Spirit, it illuminated brokenness and hope in the lives of others. Only God has the power to take a marriage that has been destroyed by betrayal, lies and hiddenness and create a living story of His grace, His love and His faithfulness…only God can create something brand new out of something so messed up.
Your story has power. What you are going through has purpose. The hurt you’ve experienced has meaning. Your broken heart, placed in the hands of Christ, has the potential to be a tool used to repair the hearts of others. My encouragement to you today is don’t give up. Don’t give in. Don’t underestimate the power of your story, partnered with the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit to transform, set free and restore the hearts and lives of others. Thank you Brian and Jenni for allowing God to refine your story and reveal His glory!