About the Guest
Love can have its ups and downs. That's what Christian singer and songwriter, Michael O'Brien, and his wife, Heidi, found out after they got married just a few short months after they met. Today on the broadcast, hear more about their courtship and the challenges they faced after getting married.
Love can have its ups and downs.
That was not the case for Michael O'Brien when he was the lead singer of the group, New Song. Here is Michael's wife, Heidi.
Heidi: For many years in our married life there was not a foundation of trust. And our first year was so rocky, but as you walk through life together and you grow together and you build trust and you persevere, that goes away, little by little. You just absolutely get to a place where you think, "No, I am the only person in this man's heart."
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, August 22nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We're going to hear about how Michael and Heidi O'Brien have persevered not only through the first years of marriage but throughout their entire marriage, and it's a great model for all of us. Stay with us.
Heidi: He made me swoon. I don't know what else to say. He just – he did. He made me swoon.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Wednesday edition. I was thinking, when you and Barbara – you got married in '72, right?
Bob: So you're at 35 years of marriage this year?
Bob: And you were both in ministry when you got married?
Dennis: That's correct.
Bob: And did you think, at the time, that being in ministry would be an asset or a liability to your marriage?
Dennis: Oh, no question.
Bob: It would be …
Dennis: Asset all the way.
Bob: That ministry would make it easier?
Dennis: Oh, yeah. The thought was you're headed together toward a common mission, and common goal, you're in spiritual battle together, I mean, how could you ever turn against one another?
Bob: And when did you find out that there might be some liabilities associated with being married and in ministry together?
Dennis: Probably on the honeymoon and for sure in the first year of marriage after there were a lot of tears. I mean, our first year was – I wouldn't want to repeat our first year.
Bob: What is it, though, about ministry that makes it uniquely challenging to the marriage relationship, do you think?
Dennis: Well, I think, first of all, you're on a spiritual mission together, and so if I understand the Bible, we are in an unseen battle. There is a battle that rages around us and sometimes in our midst that is known as spiritual warfare, and I think a marriage that is engaging around God's purposes ultimately comes under attack itself. I felt like, many times, our marriage was – well, that there was an enemy trying to drive a wedge between Barbara and me.
Even a couple with good hearts headed in the right direction can end up squandering their birthright, their spiritual birthright.
Bob: And you've talked to a lot of pastors, you've talked to a lot of guys who are in ministry, and one of the challenges you face is that ministry seems so right and so noble that how can it be wrong to be back out traveling to speak here or doing this ministry assignment. How can that be wrong even if it is hard back home, shouldn't that be something your wife just understands and deals with, right?
Dennis: Well, certainly, there are those who have secular jobs, if I can use that term. I actually think we're all employed for spiritual purposes regardless of what we do, but there are those who have to travel as a result of their job, and because of that have some extra stresses that are placed on their marriages, and I don't think a person who is in ministry is excluded from this battle, Bob, and many of our adjustments, arguments, conflicts, battles, occurred around either leaving for a trip, traveling, or coming home and readjusting to one another. I mean, while I was gone, Barbara would do fine pretty much. She learned how to independently function on her own, and then, all of a sudden, I show up.
Bob: Some guy is back in the house.
Dennis: And he's got some issues, you know, and it when it was just her issue, she only dealt with hers but now it's both of us. That can have an impact on a marriage relationship.
Bob: We've got some guests who are joining us in the studio today who – actually, the two of you started off kind of in ministry together. Michael and Heidi O'Brien are in the studio with us, and you met while you were both involved in a singing ministry, Michael, is that right?
Michael: That's correct. I had auditioned down in Miami, and Heidi had auditioned where she was living at the time, it's in Dallas. And then, actually, we first met in Dallas when I went for my second audition.
Bob: This is an audition to be a part of …
Michael: A group called Heritage Singers. And we basically met in the hallway there at the hotel, and I was dating somebody else at the time, and so she wasn't interested at all. I was completely absorbed …
Bob: No, wait, you were dating someone, so she wasn't interested. Does that mean you were?
Michael: No, not at the time, no. I was dating somebody else, though.
Bob: When did you get interested?
Michael: I checked out on this relationship that I was in about a month later. And I didn't want a girlfriend. It was too complicated.
Dennis: So you broke up?
Michael: Yeah, we broke up. But she stayed in the group, too, so there was a dynamic there that was kind of tough.
Dennis: You were traveling a lot together on the road?
Michael: Yes, we were …
Heidi: Eight singers …
Michael: Eight singers, sound man …
Bob: Oh, wait, eight singers and your ex-girlfriend is one of the eight.
Bob: In the bus all the time?
Dennis: Oh, this is three's company, isn't it?
Heidi: Very crowded, very crowded bus.
Michael: But at that time, you know, Heidi is doing her own thing, I was doing my own thing and …
Bob: You guys are friends, that's it?
Heidi: Okay, the truth of the matter is I was very young and very infatuated and a major groupie of him, and I thought I was hiding it, this major crush, but everybody – everybody knew.
Dennis: You were a groupie of Michael?
Heidi: Oh, yeah.
Heidi: Oh, I just heard him sing, and he just made my heart pitter-patter.
Dennis: So were you aware that there was this kind of cult following?
Michael: One of the girls in the group – not my ex – but another girl said one day while I was eating, that she was interested in me. I really didn't think much of it.
Bob: Said that Heidi was interested in you?
Michael: Yeah, that Heidi was.
Bob: And you thought, "Oh, well, that's interesting."
Michael: Yeah, and then one day I saw her – and this is a true story – I walk across the parking lot while I was in the bus, and I looked at her, and I thought, "That is the most amazing walk I've ever seen in my life."
Bob: Now, you'd been on the road singing with her for how long?
Michael: Two months.
Bob: And, all of a sudden, that walk got you?
Michael: It was just like …
Dennis: Had you not looked around the band and seen who all was in the group?
Michael: I don't know what happened. It was just like a light bulb.
Bob: How long before everybody else in the group knew that Michael like Heidi and Heidi likes Michael and something is going on here?
Michael: I was pretty childish at the time, kind of boyish the way I approached even Heidi. I remember even saying, "The word for the day is yes." Am I right, honey, when I said …
Heidi: Yes, but you're skipping a little bit ahead. We actually had our first kiss on November 1st …
Heidi: And we were married a couple of months later.
Michael: Not a couple, honey.
Michael: Is March 3rd a couple after November?
Bob: November, December.
Heidi: Oh, no, no, I'm sorry.
Bob: January, February.
Heidi: I'm bad with numbers.
Michael: She's really good in details but really bad with numbers.
Heidi: I'm bad with numbers, I admit it. I'm a words person.
Bob: But she remembers November 1st.
Michael: Well, so do I. I wrote a song about it.
Bob: Oh, you did?
Michael: Yeah, I did.
Bob: Would you mind?
Michael: You're going to make me do it?
Michael: It's not – okay, I guess I could try.
Bob: Sure you can.
Dennis: We have a little keyboard here in the studio.
Bob: We've set this up because we know that when a man and a woman meet and fall in love there are lots of songs that get written that nobody ever hears except the wife, and we thought, "Well, that's no good. We want to hear about the first kiss."
Heidi: [whispers] You're going to like it.
Bob: Am I? Okay.
Dennis: I have two comments to make. Number one, why is it that some guys get all the lines?
There are some great lines in there. I've never had a line like that in my life.
Bob: I can attest to that, too, by the way.
Dennis: But the other thing I was going to say is I was watching Heidi. She was closing her eyes, and she was back to November and the first kiss, and I have to ask Heidi, is that right?
Heidi: Really, I mean, I hate to be corny, but it was. It was like a movie moment for me. It was absolutely fireworks, and he made me swoon. I don't know what else to say. He just – he did, he made me swoon.
Michael: I remember going back to the hotel room, and I was standing with two guys in the group.
Heidi: Not us together.
Michael: No, we were separate, and it was the sweetest kiss I've ever had in my life. I mean, I kept on looking at the guys and, like, guys, you don't know. You just don't understand. It was amazing.
Bob: Okay, now, even hearing that story and hearing that song, here is where it starts to get a little problematic. There are women who were driving along listening to that song and you singing that on the radio, and they were starting to swoon, too, but they were swooning about you because you've got that great voice, and they were imagining you were singing it about them and, all of a sudden, they're off in this romantic fantasy.
Bob: Do you think? You don't think? Yeah, come on, you know that, don't you?
Heidi: Well, yeah, I mean …
Bob: You know that when your husband is singing these love songs, I mean, you know it's about you.
Bob: But there are women out in the audience wishing it was about them.
Heidi: Well, I think that that's true, but that would be true – Michael has gotten that – whenever you're on a platform of any kind, women want you, they do. They see that – women crave leadership, and they see that person on the platform, especially on a spiritual platform. No matter what women say and whatever the feminists say, down deep inside women want a spiritual man to love and to protect them, to lead them, to cherish them. So whether you're a pastor or a Christian singer or anybody that has a kind of a platform, and they're going to see you, you're going to have women who want a piece of that.
Bob: So does that bug you?
Heidi: There was a time …
Bob: Yeah, has that bugged you?
Heidi: Yes, there was absolutely a time – the first, for many years, in our married life there was not a foundation of trust, and I can completed relate to that first year. Our first year was so rocky. It was just crazy. I feel like we're a miracle. I don't know how we made through our first year, and I don't know how we made it through what we call our "personal dark ages."
Really and truthfully yes, it really did bother me, but as you walk through life together, and you grow together, and you build trust, and you persevere, that goes away little by little. You just absolutely get to a place where you think, "No, I am the only person in this man's heart."
Dennis: What you're describing is an enduring love.
Dennis: And I don't mean to demean your song, in any way, because when you sang that song on November 1st, and that moment occurred, and the magic of that event and the romance of that – that's all real, but that's puppy love.
Dennis: I mean, I was going to ask you, would you trade what you had then for what you have now?
Michael: Not in a second.
Dennis: Not in a second. What about you, Heidi?
Heidi: Oh, my goodness, you are so much better with age and to mature and grow and become who you are.
Bob: You were a nice boy, but you're a nice man.
Michael: A lot of people speak that into my life, like, you know, "You need to stop being a boy, and you need to be a man. Be a man." I've heard probably the last seven years over 100 times – be a man.
Bob: When you proposed did you sing your proposal? Did you write a song for your proposal?
Michael: No, I have to be honest, again, I'm not – I was not a romantic. We were in a mall. We were in mall!
Dennis: I'm just glad you didn't do it on the bus with the rest of the band there.
Michael: I said, "Hey, do you want to go elope?" and she said, "Yeah," because we had kind of been talking about it, and I called information …
Bob: "Hey, you want to go elope?" "Yeah." Oh, man, this is going to sell a lot of romance records right here.
Michael: Yeah, it's not good, but eventually we ended up downtown Fort Worth, and the jail Justice of the Peace married us.
Michael: Five minutes – yes.
Dennis: Huh? You can actually do that today?
Heidi: Well, we had to get – we had to write up an excuse as to why we didn't have to have the regular three-day waiting period, and we explained we were in a traveling singing group, we don't have a car, we just happened to be in my hometown and have access to this car …
Michael: Have to do it today, no blood test in Texas.
Heidi: And we had to go present this summary of our argument, and we had it signed in divorce court. That was the judge that was there. He goes, "I hope we don't see you here again." We're, like, why? "Well, you just had your marriage license signed in divorce court."
So the actual regular Justice of the Peace had left for the day and, literally, we're running – I don't know why we're telling this, this is horrible. Nobody do this, this is just – don't – this is not a good godly way.
Michael: Really, it was not good, it was not.
Heidi: But it is a funny story.
Dennis: You're running where?
Michael: We're running to the jail Justice of the Peace because the other Justice of the Peace is out. So we run …
Heidi: In the correctional facility, there's, you know …
Michael: Yeah, the inmates are getting married, and we ended up going in there. Manuel Valdez married us in five minutes.
Bob: So was it back on the bus and singing that night?
Michael: The next day. We didn't tell anybody. We wanted to have a marriage celebration, which we ended up doing later in the year.
Bob: And you …
Dennis: Hold it, hold it, hold it. I've got to figure out where you went from – was it Juan Valdez …
Dennis: Manuel Valdez – where did you go from the jail?
Michael: We went to eat dinner …
Heidi: Oh, this is an awful story.
Michael: We went to eat dinner with her parents and family.
Heidi: My family, and they had just …
Dennis: You went with your family?
Heidi: Oh, yeah, it's terrible.
Dennis: And did you tell them?
Heidi: No, I didn't. They had just told me and warned me not to run off and go get married.
Michael: So you understand that we were very childish in some of the decisions that we made when we first got married.
Dennis: I want to know how many lashes her father gave you when he found out.
Heidi: It was devastating, it was, and that was part of that whole rocky first year because we kept it a secret, but somebody outed us, and my parents found out and were just absolutely – and rightfully so – I mean – I would be crushed, absolutely devastated – drama, pain.
Dennis: What a great way to start a marriage.
Bob: And you stop and think if I came to you with this story, "Hey, Dennis, let me tell you about this couple I know."
Dennis: Yeah, yeah, and let's talk about the odds of this thing going the distance.
Bob: Yeah, what would you say?
Dennis: I'd say they better have a fierce commitment to Jesus Christ because that will be the only thing that will see them through ultimately to know how to love one another. And, frankly, that's all any of us have when you really get down to it. All of the romance and doing everything perfectly, it still boils down to two very different people, and we haven't talked about how they're different. I mean, here we've got Michael over here who – give them the "Reader's Digest" version of where you came from.
Michael: Drugs and alcohol.
Michael: Miami, Florida – pornography at the age of six.
Dennis: Singer, songwriter?
Dennis: Living from paycheck to paycheck?
Michael: Singing in bars, bar managing.
Dennis: Yes, and you married somebody who was exactly like you, right, Heidi?
Heidi: Way polar opposites.
Heidi: Well, I just was raised in a generational Christian family with just so many boundaries and very protected, extremely sheltered, and I'd only dated, really, one other person besides my husband, and it was very different.
Bob: Your mom and dad send you off for a year or two with a Christian singing group thinking there is no safer place that she could be than in this environment, and she gets swooped up by Michael.
You know, I had to think, Dennis, as they were talking about this season of their marriage, I thought about the book that you and Barbara wrote, "Rekindling the Romance" where you talk about the seasons of love in a marriage, and new love, what you say is an easy season to be in and to go through, and then there's a season of disappointed love, which you say is a normal part of a relationship. We're all going to go through seasons of disappointment.
But then there is the deep, cherishing, committed love that a husband and wife can come to as they persevere in marriage, and I think we've seen a model of that in the story we've heard today.
I want to let our listeners know that we have copies of the CD, "Something About Us," that features the song that you sang earlier, "November's Kiss," and we've got that along with the book, "Rekindling the Romance," both of those are in our FamilyLife Resource Center, and, in fact, if you are interested in ordering both of those together, we can send along at no additional cost, the CD of this conversation with Michael and Heidi O'Brien.
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com. You'll need to click on the red button that says "Go" in the middle of the page, and that will take you to the area of the site where there is more information about the book and about the CD and about other resources available from us here at FamilyLife.
Again, it's FamilyLife.com. You click the red button that says "Go" on the home page, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and just mention that you'd like the resources we've talked about here today. It's 1-800-358-6329. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY, and we'll be happy to make arrangements to get these resources out to you.
As we were hearing your story, and I was thinking about it both from your perspective as a young couple getting married and also from the perspective of parents watching all of this happen and not being exactly sure that they like what's going on, and, Dennis, I was thinking about the Challenge Fund that we have during the month of August where listeners have been calling us and making a donation to FamilyLife Today and challenging other folks who share their circumstances to also support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We've heard from parents who have teenagers or old children, where they're struggling, and they've called to say "We appreciate the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You've helped us with these relationships, and we want to support the ministry, and we want to challenge other parents of teens or young adults who are struggling. We want to challenge them to support the ministry as well."
And then I was thinking about couples who are in their first years of marriage – some of them in some very difficult circumstances. One listener called and said, "I want to challenge all those who are in a troubled marriage to consider donating to the ministry of FamilyLife Today. You have helped me as we've tried to work through some of the situations in our marriage. I want to help support the ministry, and I want to challenge others to do the same."
So we appreciate those of you who have called and have made donations and challenged others. We want to encourage those of you who are regular listeners to consider responding to some of these challenges and making a donation today. You can do that online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY. Again, the number is 1-800-358-6329 or donate online at FamilyLife.com. We're listener-supported, so these donations are what keep us on the air in this city and in other cities all across the country, and we appreciate those of you who stand with us financially in supporting this ministry.
Well, tomorrow we are going to hear more from Michael and Heidi O'Brien. We'll hear some more music from the new CD, and we're also going to hear about some of the difficult later years in your marriage. I hope our listeners can be back with us 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'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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