The Mandevilles: Behind Closed Doors
By Christine Wilson McWhorter
The 700 Club
John Mandeville has always loved music. As a professional songwriter, he’s written for Christian artists such as Point of Grace, 4Him, Avalon and Clay Cross. But John’s love for his career almost cost him his marriage.
“My identity was tied up into ‘is this record gold, how many cuts have you got,’” John tells The 700 Club. “You can get caught up in the whole thing. It feeds itself.”
His wife Shelli recalls, “He would work so much throughout the night, up ‘till 4, 5, 6, 7. In fact I would wake up in the morning to be with the kids and he would still be working. My frustration began to build more and more and more. The tension in our relationship was worsening.”
That didn’t fit with Shelli’s idea of the perfect Christian family -- a husband and wife always available to each other and to the children.
“I wanted almost perfection, which was unrealistic,” she says.
John says, “I was actively defiant. I was actively not living the life she wanted me to live. So that was the beginning of real strain for us.”
It seemed the couple couldn’t talk without arguing. The strained marriage and the pressure of work sent John searching for an escape. He found it with alcohol.
“I started becoming more uncomfortable with it, because I don’t believe that that is a medication,” Shelli says. “I don’t believe that we turn to that. When he’s working all the time and he started drinking every night, it was a gradual process, but it kept building into this bigger bomb.”
John also escaped through pornography.
“The more the tension grew, the more my addictions grew. I would reach for whatever medicine was closest and easiest, whether it was a gin and tonic or five gin and tonic,” John says. “I ran to the Internet. Pornography is as easy to get as you want it now.”
John continued to write Christian music, but his heart was trouble because his lifestyle contradicted the message of his music.
“I felt here I am writing songs that people are singing in their churches. I’m winning awards, people are singing about Jesus all over the place, and my own life is a disaster and I had all this frustration.”
Meanwhile, John and Shelli were on the verge of divorce. But John loved his wife and children and wanted to save the marriage. His first step was to pray.
“I figured I had nothing left to lose, so I brought Him my nothing,” John says. “‘I’m giving you my nothing. If you can do anything with my nothing, if it’s redemptive, I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.’”
He confessed his pornography addiction to his wife.
“I really was completely floored,” she says. “I had no idea. I felt like I was a fool, because I didn’t know, and then that moved into, ‘Okay, let’s work this out. I forgive you. We can work this out.’”
Through prayer and determination, John turned from the pornography and quit drinking. But he and Shelli knew that if the marriage was going to survive, they would need help. They sought out a Christian counselor. Slowly but surely, their relationship was healed.
“I don’t believe God waved a wand and everything was better,” John says. “I think what He did was give us the courage and faith to look at things honestly and say, ‘This is really what our marriage is. Is it what we want? Is it a Godly model? Is it what Jesus died for? And if it’s not, what are we willing to do to try and get there?’”
Shelli says, “The beautiful thing in this whole process was that I got to know the Lord in a way that I never would have any other way. So as I sought Him and really focused on what He wanted and what His heart was, He began to change my heart. So my prayers started to change: not so much, change my man but change me and what is in me. What can I do? How can I humble myself?”
“What we really needed was a change of heart,” John says. “We needed to see God change our nature so that we could really live as one, you know that’s a long process. It’s still going on today.”
Today John and Shelli have four beautiful children. John still has a successful music career as a worship leader. He also has a new CD called We Belong to Heaven. These days, instead of pouring his time into his work, he balances it between work and family. He and Shelli are thankful to God for restoring their marriage and building a happy family.
"To us God has been overwhelmingly faithful through hard times, good times, through so many facets of life whether it’s financially, physically, with health issues, with relational issues, He’s been who He said He was,” John says.
Shelli concurs, “I am so thankful to the Lord for what He’s done in our marriage. He’s redeemed everything. My banner that I live with is ‘nothing is impossible with God.’”
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