When a Controller Loves a Liar
About the Guest
After more than a decade of marriage, Scott Jennings had fully developed the art of lying to his wife. Meanwhile, Sherry had become an expert control freak. The stage was set for a marital meltdown, and Scott was only too happy to play the lead. But then Sherry met Jesus. The props of a typical broken marriage story were cleared away, and a new drama of deep healing began to unfold.
Scott and Sherry JenningsScott and Sherry Jennings’ marriage ended in divorce on the day of their 14th wedding anniversary. Through God’s great redemption and grace, they are remarried and serving passionately as FamilyLife Homebuilder Catalysts. Their first encounter with FamilyLife was at its Weekend to Remember in 2005 in Philadelphia, two months after their divorce. At this getaway, they learned how they had broken their marriage with their control issues, alcoholism, adultery and drug abuse; the weekend equippe...more
After more than a decade of marriage, Scott Jennings had fully developed the art of lying to his wife.
When a Controller Loves a Liar
Bob: When Sherry Jennings’ husband Scott had moved out of their home—he had moved in with another woman, he was drinking regularly, refusing to go to counseling. Sherry made one of the most difficult decisions of her life. She decided to file for divorce.
Scott: Sherry stood firm on that divorce date; and it turns out, it was the day of our 14th wedding anniversary. Sherry was devastated, but we went through the divorce. We actually rode together to the court house—that was her idea. I wasn’t really sure why, but we did. She cried the whole way home, and I berated her. I took her home, and I went on a three-day bender.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 10th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Scott and Sherry Jennings’ marriage had been officially declared dead, but Sherry trusted in a God who specializes in resurrection. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I always kind of smile when I read some of the background of the guys who became followers of Jesus—the zealot who was out inciting insurrection against the Romans, the tax collector who was cheating people out of their money and working for the Romans. Some of these guys did not have great reputations before they came to faith.
Dennis: No; but they all met Christ, and they all had a transformation of both character and life. We have a couple with us who have experienced a transformation of life, character, marriage, family, vocation, legacy—I could go on and on because your lives have really been changed. Scott and Sherry Jennings join us again on FamilyLife Today. Sherry, Scott, welcome back.
Scott: Thank you.
Sherry: Thank you.
Scott: Thank you for having us.
Dennis: Earlier, we heard your story of how you both grew up, really, in homes where you didn’t have a Christian upbringing—where faith wasn’t taught. You dated in college. You moved in with each other—finally, got married.
A dozen years into your marriage, that was very—I wouldn’t say up and down—I would say mostly chaos. I mean—and yet, in the midst of that, you were deceiving your wife Sherry, Scott. Sherry, you were buying it until, finally, you found out about an affair. There was alcoholism taking place in Scott. So, Sherry filed for divorce and moved toward a date on two different occasions; and you talked her out of it.
Scott: I did. I talked her into—I convinced her that I would go to counseling with her—went to a few counseling sessions. It didn’t take long before I had the counselor pretty well in my court.
Bob: Now, wait. You’re in an adulterous relationship, and you’re an alcoholic; and the counselor is on your side?
Dennis: And Sherry has become a Christian. She has become a believer in Jesus Christ, and you’re not.
Scott: That’s right.
Bob: So, what were you telling the counselor?
Scott: What she needed to hear. What she needed to hear. I became very adept at telling people what they needed to hear in order to give me what I wanted.
Sherry: Well, she wasn’t a Christian counselor.
Scott: She wasn’t.
Sherry: She had pretty well decided that I needed to lighten up and have some fun. If I were to lighten up and have some fun, then, perhaps, he wouldn’t be seeking fun with another woman.
Dennis: There is a lesson there for any couple who’s off in a ditch. I believe it is
Psalm 1 that talks about walking in the counsel of the godly—
Dennis: —seeking wise counselors. That doesn’t mean just older people. That means people who believe the Scriptures, who walk and live in the Scriptures and have a living relationship with Jesus Christ. You didn’t seek out that kind of advice. So, you didn’t get that kind of advice; and that almost torpedoed your relationship.
Bob: Well, I’m just wondering, Scott. Here you were, having an affair—was there any part of you saying, “Well, maybe it’s time for a new start with a new woman”?
Scott: Yes, I was slowly reaching that place where I might be willing to let Sherry go; absolutely. The thought crossed my mind. Really, the thought that crossed my mind, more frequently than starting a new life, so to speak, with this other woman, was climbing on my motorcycle, and just going to California, and leaving it all.
Dennis: Sherry, you’d filed for divorce and had two different dates. He talked you out of it twice, but something happened on the third date that you set?
Sherry: Yes, I was praying about it. I think my biggest fear in this whole thing was I didn’t want to be divorced. I had studied a lot, and God made it very clear in His Word that He hates divorce. It just broke my heart that I was going to do something that He hated; but one night, in my prayer time when I was praying about what to do, He said very clearly to me that if I did not let Scott go, He could not bring me the Christian husband that He had for me. So, my prayers, at that point, changed from “Fix, God” to “Father, I thank you so much for the Christian husband you have for me. Please let it be Scott!”
Dennis: So, you had the hope it might be him.
Sherry: Absolutely; hope and prayer—absolutely—because I had prayed for God to show me Scott through His eyes. He just showed me this broken, little boy, painted into a corner—didn’t know how to get out of the mess he had created. I realized that He could be greater than what he was walking out.
Dennis: So, you were going to leave the third date intact?
Sherry: Absolutely. That was tough, especially coming up a couple of days beforehand, because Scott pulled out all the stops, at that point. He was more drunk than he had been, and he was threatening to kill himself. I just would hand him the phone and tell him to talk to the counselor because I had to do what God had told me to do.
Bob: You were trying to push every manipulative button—
Bob: —you had at your disposal.
Scott: Yes, I was pulling out the big guns. Yes.
Bob: Threatening suicide?
Scott: Yes; and I’ll be honest with you, Bob, that wasn’t strictly manipulative at that time. I had—much to Sherry’s chagrin—a year or two before went out and just took a bunch of money out of our retirement fund and bought a motorcycle. I thought many, many times, during that last few months, of just taking it up to about 100 and right into a bridge abutment—thinking that would be easier than dealing with the mess I had created.
Bob: Where did the turning point come for you?
Scott: Well, Sherry stood firm on that divorce date; and it turns out, it was the day of our 14th wedding anniversary.
Sherry: Now, I didn’t set that! The court does that sort of thing. I had nothing to do with that.
Scott: She stands firm that she didn’t pick the date; but I have to say it’s just—to me, that’s evidence of the hand of God in the midst of this mess. To be able to say to folks that we divorced on the day of our 14th wedding anniversary is powerful. We went through the divorce, and Sherry was devastated. We actually rode together to the court house. It was her idea. I wasn’t really sure why she would want to do that, but we did. She cried the whole way home, and I berated her. I was very verbally abusive to Sherry during these years; and on that day in particular, I was even more so.
I took her home, and I went on a three-day bender. By that time, the folks I was working for had started to notice that I was smelling like alcohol all the time—not just early in the morning. I had been drinking during the day. I started using prescription drugs, also, at that time, and just went out—spent three days, a mess.
Then, I was at a party with the girlfriend and called over to the house to say good night to Steven, our son, and spent a little too much time on the phone, as far as my girlfriend was concerned. We got into a fight, and I confessed to her that I still had feelings for Sherry. So, she threw me out. She actually gave me a black eye—hit me.
Dennis: Your life was unraveling; huh?
Scott: Quickly, quickly. Really, everything I owned in the world, at that point, fit into the back of my pickup truck. I called Sherry—it was about midnight, I think—and she allowed me to put it in the garage. We got into an argument at that time. I was drunk.
Sherry: He wanted to go upstairs and see our son.
Scott: Wanted to go upstairs and see our son; and she, thankfully, would not let me. I say thankfully now. At the time, it made me infuriated—left to go to a hotel, rundown place—
Sherry: —and called me a couple more times to make sure I knew you were unhappy with the decision to not allow you to come into the house.
Scott: Yes. Finally, Sherry called my sister and said to her, “I can’t deal with him anymore. He keeps calling me. I have to take my phone—unplug my phone. Will you call him and talk to him?” This is probably 3 o’clock in the morning, at this point.
Dennis: This is the same night?
Scott: Yes. I mean, I had a great job. I had a great family. I had a beautiful home. Our son was healthy and doing well. I really—I had everything you are supposed to want, everything that we strive—at least in the American dream kind of thing. I just burned it all down. I just burned it all down.
I was sitting in that hotel room and really was at the bottom of my own pit that I had dug. When you go far enough down into the hole, you can only see up. My sister called me, and we talked. She said, “Are you in a hotel room?” I said, “I am.” She said, “Why don’t you open the drawer of the bed stand and take the Bible up? We’ll read it together.” I said, “Well, I’m either going to kill myself; or I’m going to talk to her, let her read the Bible to me.”
She started to read Isaiah, Chapter 55, to me. Chapter 55, verse 7, says, “Let the wicked man forsake his ways…and turn back to God…for He will freely pardon.” I said, “Well, maybe, maybe, maybe there is a glimmer of hope there.” We hung up the phone, and I tried to sleep—maybe got an hour or two of sleep—had decided that I was going to come down to North Carolina, where my mother is still currently living, and stay at her place for awhile because she was visiting other family.
On the way down to North Carolina—it was a Sunday morning. I remember exactly where I was. I was on Interstate 95—just before the split to go to Norfolk. It was probably—I don’t know—12 or 12:30; and there was a preacher on the radio. I just happened to scan through. I usually listen to CD’s. I happened to scan through the radio, and I’ve no idea what preacher it was. I didn’t hear his message.
All I heard was—when the radio stopped scanning, it stopped on this station. I heard him say, “If you are lying at the bottom of your own personal pit and you need someone, not to throw you a rope, but to come down there and get you, say this prayer.” He, on the radio, shared a sinner’s prayer. I said that prayer, along with him, as I’m driving down the highway at 70 miles an hour. I didn’t stop. I just was driving while this happened. It’s amazing to me that I was able to keep control of the vehicle because, I’ll be honest, I felt it all leave.
Dennis: The weight of sin?
Scott: The weight of it—I physically felt it leave. I physically felt—I had been traumatized by the enemy with hallucinations for years of a particular automobile accident that we went—it was a fatal car accident. It was just horrible, and he pulled that out. Whenever I was maybe feeling like I didn’t need another drink, he would play that card. He would—I remember him saying to me, “When you drink, you don’t see that.” I just remember distinctly hearing that. That was—it was gone.
The desire to drink was gone. The anger, the burden of that anger left me. I physically felt lighter. I really felt my shoulders lift. It was just an amazing experience.
Dennis: What you did was—you gave your life, you yielded your life, you surrendered your life—
Scott: I did.
Dennis: —to Jesus Christ.
Scott: That’s right.
Dennis: You said, “Be my Lord, my Master, my Savior, my Redeemer.”
Dennis: “Come and take this wicked man and redeem him.”
Scott: “God, I am tired. I cannot run from You. I cannot resist You. You’re what I need. I can’t fool myself into thinking that You’re not what I need anymore. I know what the truth is. You’ve revealed it to me in this amazing way; and God, redeem me.”
Yes. I continued to North Carolina, and Sherry caught wind of my transformation.
Bob: Now, wait. How did she catch wind of your transformation? Oh, from your sister.
Scott: Through my sister, yes.
Bob: You told your sister, “I had this thing happen on the way down.”
Scott: Yes, I stopped, and I called them. I didn’t even have a cell phone at the time. I stopped at a pay phone, and I called them and told them. They were skeptical. I mean, they were privy. Sherry had walked with my sister through this trial.
Bob: Well, here’s a guy who has been manipulative. You’ve got a pattern of manipulation. This could be the latest trick you’re pulling out of your bag.
Sherry: True. However, his sister had just been so crucial in my walk with Christ, and helping me through this whole couple of years, and praying for Scott, and praying for his salvation. To hear her say that it was a true transformation, I had to check it out. I had to talk to him.
Dennis: You had some hope for that.
Sherry: I did!
Dennis: When was the first time you heard from Scott?
Sherry: It was a couple of nights after that phone call. It was very brief, very tenuous; but he sounded so different. His voice sounded lighter. The anger was gone. He was gentler on the phone. He was soft-spoken. He was just—it sounded like a different man.
Dennis: Did he tell you about his conversion to Christ—his commitment to the Savior?
Sherry: Briefly, very briefly. We didn’t go into great detail with that, but we started studying The Purpose Driven Life together. Through that—sharing each day what we were reading, and talking about how we felt about God, and learning about Him, and our relationship with Him, I could see that he was not lying—that he was not manipulating—but that it was genuine. He had such a hunger for God—to learn about Him, to know about Him. Then, in turn, to pursue me—it blew me away. It was more than I expected.
Dennis: There was one additional element that you mentioned—that you’d begun to listen to Christian radio, and you found FamilyLife Today in the process?
Sherry: Absolutely. We had one Christian radio station that I could get, where we were living in Connecticut. That was my lifeline—was listening to FamilyLife Today, and listening to the wife that I wanted to be, and listening about the husband that I had wanted Scott to be, and hearing about the Weekend to Remember®, and just praying that someday we’d be able to go.
Dennis: Even though you were divorced?
Sherry: Absolutely. Even while he was living with his girlfriend, that was my dream, that was my hope, that was my expectation.
Bob: Scott, do you remember that phone call—the first time you called Sherry after you’d come to faith?
Scott: I do. I remember intentionally being brief. I didn’t want to get into a whole dissertation about what had happened because I had been so manipulative in the past. I didn’t want Sherry to think that I was trying to convince her, at that time.
The Holy Spirit had really given me an understanding of what creating trust requires. Words can be—well, words are not effective sometimes. Words are not what it requires. What He showed me was just that consistent behavior, over a period of time, is what it would take to re-earn Sherry’s trust in our marriage.
I didn’t want to try to give her a sale. I didn’t want to give her the hard sell. We just kept it brief.
Bob: Did you have hope that the marriage might be able to be repaired?
Scott: I felt very confident it would.
Scott: Yes, yes. As illogical as that sounds—yes, I felt confident that I was supposed to be with Sherry.
Dennis: All the damage you had caused—all the hurt?
Scott: Yes. Really—folks ask us—we share our story with folks quite a bit. They say, “Wow! That’s so great that God has restored your marriage.”
I’m kind of a car guy. I’m a gearhead at heart. You think about restoration of a rust bucket—taking it back to like showroom-new—the way it was when it was brand-new. Our marriage—I didn’t want to go back to something when it was new. I wanted a new marriage. I wanted our marriage to be redeemed.
I knew that I had been redeemed by our Savior, Jesus Christ. I had taken the brokenness, and the sickness, and just the twisted wreckage of my heart and given it to God; and He had given me a new heart. He had transformed me. I knew, through that hope, through that process—I knew that God had done that for me. I knew He could do it for our marriage. I mean, it was really not a question for me. Whether or not it would actually happen was up to God, but I knew He could.
Dennis: Here’s what gave you the possibility of that—even having the remotest hope that it could occur—Jesus said in John, Chapter 5—this describes what happened to you and, really, to you, too, Sherry. John 5:24—Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My Word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life.”
Dennis: You were dead—
Scott: Yes, sir.
Dennis: —in your trespasses and sin, and disobedient to God—both of you. Bob and I, too, before we met Christ.
Dennis: He met you in that state of deadness. Just as He was resurrected from the dead to eternal life, He brought about new life in you as individuals so that there could be the hope of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and something totally new.
Scott: That’s right.
Dennis: As we’ll hear later on, there was something totally new that occurred that really will astound our listeners.
Bob: Well, you know some of our listeners have heard the end of this story because for about a year and a half now, Scott and Sherry, in North Carolina, have been hosting Art of Marriage® events—taking the resource that our team put together and using it in local churches, where you guys have been the hosts. You share your story as part of sharing the DVD’s for The Art of Marriage. You’ve seen God do some amazing things through this tool and your testimony, coming together—in a number of settings.
We’re hoping that there might be a few hundred, maybe a few thousand couples, like Scott and Sherry—maybe your story is not as dramatic as theirs is, but all of us have a marriage story that we can share. Together, with the DVD’s that our team has put together, you can host a Friday night/Saturday event in a community, in a local church, with a group of friends. See God work through this resource powerfully in the lives of the couples who attend that event.
Our team has put together a bundle, in hopes that our listeners will order the DVD’s and a couple of manuals. What they’ve bundled in is a certificate for a Weekend to Remember marriage getaway for a husband and wife to attend together. You can use that for yourself, or use it as a door prize for those who attend The Art of Marriage event that you host. All of that is bundled together and available at a significant discount off the regular price.
There is more information online about this bundle. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and look for The Art of Marriage bundle. Again, it includes the DVD’s, a couple of Art of Marriage manuals, and the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway certificate. The offer is available for a limited time, this week and next week. It expires a week from Sunday. If you are interested, now is the time to go online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Call 1-800-FL-TODAY and order your Art of Marriage Kit with the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway certificate included. FamilyLifeToday.com is the website; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY.
I should also mention. We have also come up with The Art of Marriage online edition for those of you who would like to view The Art of Marriage and go through the material as a couple. You can order the manuals from us. We’ll send those out to you. Then, we’ll send you a code so that you can view the videos online on your laptop, on your iPhone®, your Android® phone, on your iPad®—whatever is most convenient for you.
The online edition is now available. If you’d like more information about how you can view The Art of Marriage at home over a weekend or every night for six nights—whatever works for you—go to FamilyLifeToday.com, again, for more information; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. We can let you know how you can sign up either for the event kit or for the online edition of The Art of Marriage.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to hear the conclusion of Scott and Sherry Jennings story and hear how God has been at work through you guys to minister to couples throughout the state of North Carolina. I hope our listeners can join us back tomorrow for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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