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Discovering God is Enough

Discovering God is Enough

Best-selling female comedian of all time Chonda Pierce has had a difficult life, but she is known for her incredible sense of humor. Hear how the Lord, and laughter, got her through an abusive childhood, the early loss of both sisters, a devastating estrangement, and her husband’s untimely death at age 53.
Original Air Date: April 17, 2017

Chonda Pierce: I lost my husband, and, and I never thought I would dream, happen to say that I never dreamed I would be a widow. It’s what they call spiders and old women.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And now, I am one. And people say weird things to you like, “I’m sorry to hear you lost your husband,” which really sounds irresponsible.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: It’s not like I laid him down at Walmart and forgot where I put him.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: “I’m sorry to hear your husband passed,” like a kidney stone. What?

John Fuller: Chonda Pierce joins us today for a winsome message on finding your true identity, not as a widow or a wife, but as a daughter of God. We’ll hear more today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller.

Jim Daly: Chonda Pierce is an extremely successful Christian comedian. She earned the nickname The Queen of Clean. I like that. With seven comedy albums that were ranked either gold or platinum, which is amazing, plus several books for adults and children. But as is often the case, Chonda’s comedy comes out of some painful experiences in her life. And she found that humor was how God equipped her to cope with these situations.

John: And that’s what she’s sharing with us today. And here now is Chonda Pierce speaking to our staff a few years ago on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly.

Chonda: I grew up a preacher’s kid. For any of you that don’t know what I do, I didn’t set out to be a comedian. I was trying to tell my testimony, and people kept laughing in my face.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: So really kind of hurts my feelings. So after I got through therapy-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I decided I could make a living doing this. I grew up in a holiness church, which would explain these leather pants.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: We all have a little rebellion in us we have to keep continually giving to the Lord.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: But I’m grateful for my holiness roots. I really did grow up where their hair was tall, the sca- the skirts were long. My grandmother never wore lipstick, makeup, never adorned herself in any way. She was a godly ho-… She was ugly, but she was a holy woman.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And I can say it ’cause she’s my grandma. She died when she was 98, had never wore a pair of slacks in her life. Isn’t that precious? So just before they shut the lid, me and some cousins put some jeans on her. We thought that’d be so funny.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Just like when she got to Heaven, I wanted to be there so bad so she could say, “Lord, these are not mine, Lord.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I did not put these on me. And I could tell you who did.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: She’s going to hell in a hand basket.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I heard that my entire life. Say that again, you’re going to hell in a hand basket. Do that again, you’re going to hell in a hand basket. Wear that again, you’re going to… I was 14 when I asked my mother, “How big is the hand basket?”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: ‘Cause me and four cousins are going to hell in the same hand basket.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And who’s carrying the hand basket to hell? That’s what I want to know.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I say you take that guy out, we could be eternally secure.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: But then we’d have to be Baptist.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Oh, I got a million of them. I’m in a different denomination, a different building almost every night of the week. And I used to try to keep up with every one of them like a little Christian schizophrenic.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I would stand in front of the bathroom when I first started my job. This is the truth. I would say, “Can I wear lipstick? Maybe I better not wear lipstick. Should I par- put hair up? Can I leave my hair down? Should… Can I wear my earrings? Maybe I should wear slacks; the platform’s awful tall. No, I better wear my church dress.” My husband got so frustrated one time, he took out an eyebrow pencil and wrote across the mirror, “G-R-A-C-E, grace.” I said, “Who in the world is she, and what does she have to do with this?”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I grew up where I learned everything about the Old Testament, and the New Testament, I learned in flannel.

Audience: (laughs) Yeah.

Chonda: Isn’t it sad? They don’t even use flannel in church anymore. They’re too busy with the fog machine.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I miss the good old fashion flannel craft. You hang a sheet of flannel up in the Sunday school class, you put the people up there, and you learn their stories. Now, my church was very small and very poor. We only had one set of people, so Mary and Delilah looked exactly alike.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Which can confuse a kid growing up. Course, if you got to the story of Zacchaeus, we’d cut one of those guys in half.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Hang him up in a tree somewhere and, yeah, then the next week, we’d teach on healing, and we’d tape him right back together again.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: That is my childhood where we would play in the baptistry when nobody was looking. So we were dunkers, and, uh, where we could not mix bathe, or you’d get pregnant.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: This is true. There was… W-… You were not allowed to go swimming with the opposite sex ’cause mama said that’s, you could get pregnant that way. So the hard part was that my dad was pastoring in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Do you know how long you have to stand at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and wait for every man to get out-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: … so that you can go swimming? Course, I did. I don’t think it warped me, because I didn’t go s- get to go swimming. I think, you know, it’s probably saved my life. I couldn’t have get in that water with those culottes on.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Culottes would have killed me.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: We wore more fabric to the beach than we did on Sunday morning. Just interesting culture, interesting time in my life. And as I look back, and the very thing that became great fodder and great material was also the very thing that probably has also been a thing that r- established boundaries in my life and established good ideas in my life. Now, not all those things were scriptural. My mama argued and argued and argued, “If the Lord had meant for you to have holes in your ears, He would have put them there. Hezlamicah 22:4,” which, you know, I, I, uh, I looked it up, but I couldn’t find it. She said, “Just trust your mother.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I wanted to get my ears pierced. You’d think that was gonna be the end of the times. She just cried. She just boo-hoo’d. “You cannot get your ears pierced. It’s just terrible.” So I was 18, and I’m not proud of this. It’s just part of my testimony. Snuck out of the college dorm, went down to a jewelry store and told those people, “Pierce my ears. I’m 18 now. I can do what I want to.” And they put that little thing up there, pierced my ears, and I stepped out of the jewelry store and two nuns completely dressed in habit walked by. And I knew it was a sign from God, and I took them out. It scared me to death.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Now, I just wear those little slip-on, slip-off, ’cause when that trumpet blows, you can slip these off and be ready.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Just an incredible time I’ve had. This is my 25th year in standup comedy, and I never thought I would make it this far. Thank you very much. I thought I’d be kicked out of so many churches by now. So grace and mercy abounds out there, I’m just telling you. It’s very, very good. Had probably the most difficult childhood along with the most sanctified childhood if that makes sense. I had a big brother. He was the oldest. The hopes and dreams of all the generations to come. Firstborn children, you know who you are. You get on the nerves of everybody in your family.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: They, uh… And then I had a big sister, the firstborn daughter. She’s just beautiful. Her hair bows matched her socks. You know, she kept her s- her clothes in hues of color in her closet. She was the most organized girl I’ve ever known in my life. She was beautiful. Mother had a way with… My brother’s name was Mike, and then Mother got creative with our names. Charlotta was my big sister. Her name came from my father, Charles, my grandmother, Lottie, and mom put their names together and made Charlotta. I thought that was so beautiful. And Charlotta was just so all that and a bag of chips, so together.

But my little sister, Cheralyn was a sweetheart. She was really, really sweet. Her… My mother had two girlfriends, Cheryl and Lynn, and put their names together and made Cheralyn. So that was really, really cute. And of course, then I was the middle girl, Chonda, ’cause my, uh, mom drove a Chevy, but my dad like Hondas. And so-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And I, I wish that was a joke.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And all the while, while we had so much fun and laughed and goofed off, it was so important to my mother. We, we had to dress alike. Now, I don’t think every preacher’s kid back in the ’70s had to do that. I think my mother just really set out to add as much dysfunction to our lives as possible. We had to dress alike. We had drawstring skirts ’cause elastic was too worldly. I think McCall’s 2243 was our pattern.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: We had little bow tie blouses, we had little patent leather shoes with the lacy socks. You know what I’m talking about? We looked really cute. It was hard on my brother, but he, um-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And then one day, crisis came. It, it… The interesting thing in my childhood, it was great and fun and righteous and joyful and, and merciful, and it was as dysfunctional and painful as could be. I was the age of 14 years of age the first time I heard the word manic depressive. And we went as a family to find out how it could keep dad’s mood in a more even keel, and what was going on with him when he would swing so high and manic, and then add an addition to our house or go buy another car we really couldn’t afford, or he would get so engaged in, in visiting and, you know, hanging out with people in the church, it would just try to burn off that adrenaline, that manic state of him. And when none of that would work, he began to turn on inappropriate relationship. And I don’t remember a time in my childhood when my dad pastored a church where there was not something inappropriate and secret that we had to keep quiet. And he would preach on Sunday.

And it’s one of the driving forces that every time I get a chance, I do look at men in my audience, which is very few (laughs), and I tell them constantly, “The best thing in the world you can do for your family is the man that you are on Sunday, it must be the man that you are on Monday,” because when it’s not that way, it sends such a mixed signal to your children about who in the world is the Father God, and how is He involved in my life.

I can remember so often that finally a doctor put my dad on lithium, a little blue pill that I think would have helped. And back in 1969, that was about all that they could come up with. And a group of people circulated a little petition through the church that if the pastor took medicine for his mind, they would have no confidence in his preaching. And in his un-medicated, un-counseled mind, it got worse and worse. And that little pill would have changed my life. But instead, I saw how taken upon themselves. And sometimes in our self-righteousness, we begin to tell others how God is supposed to heal them. When everything I’ve learned and read is God’s ways are not our ways.

Little lady came up to me one time and said, “I don’t think you should talk about taking antidepressants. That makes your faith look weak.” I said, “You need to take your glasses off and drive home.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Yeah, it went over about like that, too (laughs).

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Some things we’re still not sure about. My big sister got in a car to head off to work early one morning in 1976, and she was hit head-on and killed instantly at the age of 20. And when that kind of trauma comes into a home that is already unstable, it, it just wreaks havoc. The devil loves bad times, doesn’t he? And he loves to compound them all with shame and regret and frustration. And so we buried Charlotta in a beautiful little cemetery in Tennessee. And it was about 19, 18 months later, my little sister came home from high school, and we were very close. My brother had moved away. He was much older than the rest of us, so we were very connected and very close, kind of surviving this trauma together. My father had left town, and, and Cherlyn got a sore throat. We thought it was, uh, uh, the flu bug at first. And they ran some tests and found out she had leukemia. And 21 days later, she died.

I remember standing at the gaping hole as they lowered her body in ground and noticing that my sister’s g- other sister’s grave was still dirt. The grass had not had, uh, yet a chance to grow. And I yelled across that gaping hole to my mother and about five little church friends and my father way off in the distance with someone. And, and I hollered at that gaping hole and said, “Well, we’re dropping like flies.” And everybody kind of chuckled, and then, “Ooh,” about like a few of you did. It was just a very inappropriate thing to say, but it was a great relief for me.

And I learned then that sometimes you could shout out your humor or you could make a joke or a sarcastic remark to deflect what was really going on inside. And I praised God that at some point in my life, God flipped the switch for me and taught me what a gift that hearing the voice, the sound of laughter, the medicine that it can really be. And it wasn’t long until I found myself in counseling and trying to find relationship with God not based on my mama’s religion, not based on my grandma’s religion, but based on the Word of God and what it says to me, and how God feels about me. I think those are the miracle moments of my life.

John: You’re listening to Chonda Pierce on today’s episode of Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. And you can learn more about her story in her latest book, Life Is Funny Until It’s Not. We’ll send that out to you for a gift of any amount to the ministry today, either a monthly pledge or a one-time donation. You can also request a free audio bundle that contains this message and three other uplifting shows. Donate and request those at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast, or call us for details, 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459.

Chonda: Married my high school sweetheart. Best looking man in my high school, a stud. Sat right behind me in speech and drama class, stud muffin.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Little more muffin than stud there at the end, but-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: We came from very interesting and probably similar dysfunction, but we, uh, you know, we loved each other very much. And it was difficult at first because my mother didn’t really kind of prepare me about, you know, life, married life. I didn’t see what, you know, a good s- family structure looked like. So we had to make some of it up ourselves. And then some of things, she didn’t even give me the talk, you know what I’m talking about?

I was 23 years of age when my mother came in my bedroom the night before I got married (laughs)-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: … and said, “Tomorrow’s your big day. Guess it’s time we had that little talk.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: 23, a senior in college, and she’s gonna give me the talk. And she would always whisper it, “I guess we need to talk about S-E-X.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I was raised with such a fear of God and, uh, terrified that He’s waiting to pound me at any minute if I just step out of line. If my hymn is the wrong length, he’s just waiting to get me. Um, I was rea-… My grandmother, “You want the Lord to come back and catch you kissing that boy? You want the Lord to come back and catch you in the backseat of that car? Do you want the Lord to come back and catch you in that movie house?” Do you know how hard that is on your honeymoon when you’ve been raised like that?

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I had to put a do not disturb sign and a note to Jesus on the door.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: “Dear Lord, if you come back today, please circle the block. I’ve waited a long time for this.”

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: All that to say, we, we had an incredible time. We went to Florida for our honeymoon to get some sun. We got a, a daughter instead. Um-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: A few things my mama left out of her brochure.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: Just the love of my life, so much fun. Just a great guy. He was a writer. He used to write murder mysteries for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. About every other story he would write was about killing his wife and burying her in the backyard, so.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: So I stayed on the road as much as possible.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: He’s crazy. So sweet. And out of the clear blue, it’s along s- winding story of how we got there, but we had a tragic thing happen in our home where you do what you think you can do, as a parent, you do all the very best things, you think you’re doing right, and we had a child that up and decided they’d had wanted very little to do with us, and it just rocked our world. We wanted to be grandparents, and she had the key to those kids hearts, and we were not allowed in. And it devastated our little home.

And me, I will say, I got busy working. I fell into the same traps that th- my mother did. Maybe if I just teach another bible study, maybe if I just take on a couple of more concerts, maybe g- maybe God will listen to me then. Maybe He will hear the desire of my heart as I cry out in pain as a mom. And, and I, I think I, I became my mother. I know I have her hands and her hips.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I’m learning that every now and then, a thought process rolls through my head and comes out of my mouth, and it sounds like her. And now, I’m deeply depressed.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: But all that to say, my husband spiraled into alcohol. Now, I knew nothing about alcohol growing up in a very, uh, holiness ch- you know, church. We, we use Welch’s Grape Juice for communion. I mean, we would… If it even smelled like it was getting a ferment in it or something, we’d toss that out ’cause you’ll go to hell drinking that real stuff. I mean, I’ve been in a few churches that serve the real stuff. I get in line a few times just to test it to see if it is.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And my husband spiraled. His health declined. For about five years, I watched him struggle through that. I got off the road. I tried to do what good wives do. I tried the tough love and all of those things, but try as I might, he died. I lost my husband, and, and I never thought I would dream, happen to say that I never dreamed I would be a widow. It’s what they call spiders and old women. And now, I am one, and people say weird things to you like, “I’m sorry to hear you lost your husband,” which really sounds irresponsible.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: It’s not like I laid him down at Walmart and forgot where I put him.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: “I’m sorry to hear your husband passed,” like a kidney stone. What?

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And so he passed away. You know, you do romantic odd things in the middle of your grief and that first initial trauma. And we were in the middle of building a house out on the farm. We had decided to move from our, our home, which was an hour away. We were gonna move closer to the farm so we could take care of things more as we got older. And we were in the middle of building a house. And when he passed, I just knew that would be the most perfect place to put him. So I had them come and dig up the footers, take away the lumber. I told the contractor, “Thank you, but no thanks,” and we buried him there on the farm. I knew not to put him in a cemetery by my mother.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I’m just saying, resurrection morning, if he came out of the ground and that’s the first person he saw-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: … I was worried he might not want to go.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: It’s been three years, and then the unthinkable happened. Those well-meaning girlfriends, the one that tries to tell you when it’s time for you to move on… How do you regulate that for someone else? They came to my house, and they left me a note on my laptop sitting on the counter. And it just said, uh, it had a password and a username and my credit card. So they stole my identity to do this.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And they just said, “We did this because we love you.” And you open it up, and it was four, uh, dating sites that they had signed me up for. Now, isn’t that wonderful? Match.com, uh, Christian Mingle, which I think there’s a little mingling on there that’s not too Christian if you ask me.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: There’s another one called, uh, Plenty of Fish or something, and it’s free, and now I know why. It’s pretty-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: … l- loose and free (laughs). And then what’s the… Oh, the other one was OurTime. You have to be over 50 to be on OurTime, which really means you have very little time left at all.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And by the pictures on there, you better hurry up.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I told someone, “This is either gonna be the best material of my career or the most depressing thing I’ve had to do in my life.” I, uh… Th- they wrote me up an online dating profile. Now, here’s the truth. If you run across it, let me just tell you the truth right now. I have never done yoga in my life.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: My downward dog is squatting in the woods somewhere. I do not-

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: … do yoga. You know, they tried to make me sound all youthful and fun and energetic. I don’t exercise five time a day. I walk to the fridge.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: You know, and so they wrote this whole profile. The men’s pictures on there… Here’s what’s problem with the world today. The men my age are looking for women b- about 30 years younger because they are pretty sure that’s what they deserve. They’re t- gonna need that to push their wheelchair up the hill.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And so, uh, you get these pictures. One man’s picture still had a oxygen tube under his nose.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I’m like, “You couldn’t move your oxygen tube long enough to take the picture?” And evidently, none of these men online have friends, because no one has taken… They’re trying to take their own picture, and they don’t know how to take a selfie. They stand in the bathroom and take a picture of themselves.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I’m sorry, what is the creative process of that?

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: You’re in the bathroom one day, and you go, “Well, you know, the lighting’s good in here.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I think I’ll take a picture of myself.” It’s disgusting.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: And so I said, “Well g-… I… Uh, let me just do this myself. Let me write my own profile. Let me write who I am.” And it has a, a paragraph on there on eHarmony, on all of them, “Write a paragraph about who you are.” And then it dawned on me. I have no idea. First of all, I was a wife for 31 years. I was David’s girlfriend all through high school and college. I was a mom and very much still a mom to my son who’s really great. But he’s 27. He needs to move.

Audience: (laughs)

Chonda: I was a daughter of a pastor. I’m a standup comedian. Got platinum records and gold records hanging on the wall, but who am I really? And so you peel away all the pain, you peel away the grief, you peel away the dysfunction. Who am I, and what would I put on this paragraph? And then the sweet saints of the church come back in my ears and begin to whisper the Sunday school lessons, and the beautiful songs, and the scriptures that I’ve heard all my life that are brought to mind when I need them most. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. The God of the universe counted the hairs on my head. He kissed me on the cheek one morning and rocked me and cuddled me and loved me and told me I’m great. And then He placed me in my mother’s womb. And that same Father God started life with me, and He will end life with me. He is my comforter and my God. And I have found out that with Him and because of Him, I am enough, more than enough.

John: Hm. That’s where we’ll have to end this message from Chonda Pierce today on Focus on the Family with Jim Daly as she shared her story with our staff.

Jim: I love how Chonda brought the message of her faith around full circle. Uh, she began with humor about the foibles of her strict religious upbringing. But here at the end, she acknowledged that the foundation of faith she learned as a child was solid and trustworthy, something she could count on during difficult seasons. That’s a great truth about God’s faithfulness to us.

John: Mm-hmm. And I think a lot of people would have been very bitter, and they would have blamed God if they’d gone through just some of the things that Chonda endured.

Jim: Well, that would be very natural, uh, John, and I’m sure some of you have similar stories of loss, brokenness, and dysfunction. We tend to share those things. I know I do, being orphaned at age nine. That’s tough stuff, but the Lord brought me through it. And He can do that with anybody. Uh, maybe you’re still in a dark place and haven’t reconciled with God over, uh, these issues. If that describes you, uh, can I urge you to contact us? That’s why we’re here. We have a team of Christian counselors who are prepared to spend time with you on the phone, pray with you. Uh, so don’t wait. Don’t make that the excuse. Call us today and begin your journey back into God’s loving and healing embrace.

John: Hm. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459.

Jim: And if I can, let me encourage you to donate to the work we do here at Focus on the Family as we provide resources like our counseling team free of charge. Uh, we are a listener-supported ministry, and we rely on contributions from donors just like you. And when you make a donation of any amount, we’ll send you a copy of Chonda’s latest book called Life Is Funny Until It’s Not. Uh, it goes into much more detail about her life story than what we were able to cover today. And we’d like to provide you with, uh, more clean humor. So we’ve assembled a very entertaining collection for you. Visit us online for complimentary access to family-friendly comedy, uh, that you’re sure to enjoy, including this message from Chonda Pierce.

John: Yeah. You can access that free audio bundle and get your copy of Chonda’s book at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Or call if you have any questions. Our number is 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, 800-232-6459. Have a great weekend and join us again on Monday when we’ll hear from Alli Worthington. She’s the mom to five kids, as she shares encouragements for moms.

Alli Worthington: God sees us as we are, how, how good we are, sometimes how bad we are, how we hit the mark some days, how some days we don’t. But He calls us worthy and He calls us enough for our children. He gave us our children intentionally. He knew that we would be the perfect mom for our kids. And every place that we don’t do everything perfect, He’s gonna make up.

John: On behalf of the entire team, thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller inviting you back as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.

Today's Guests

Life Is Funny Until It's Not: A Comic's Story of Love, Loss, and Lunacy

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