Walking in the Dark
About the Guest
Christian recording artist Michael O'Brien and his wife, Heidi, talk openly with Dennis Rainey about the problems that challenged and often hurt their marriage. Hear what finally began to turn their marriage around.
Christian recording artist Michael O’Brien and his wife, Heidi, talk openly with Dennis Rainey about the problems that challenged and often hurt their marriage.
Walking in the Dark
Bob: Seven years ago, Michael and Heidi O’Brien had been going through a winter season in their marriage – a difficult time – but the cold was beginning to thaw. Springtime was on the way.
Heidi: We were getting up early in the morning and reading My Utmost for His Highest. God was just moving so powerfully in his life and he had had a bad dream, and it just kind of all came out. He said, “I’ve got to tell you, you’ve got to get rid of that Victoria’s Secret magazine. I’ve got to tell you what I’ve been struggling with.
There a hole in my heart tonight.
And I’m missing again that beautiful smile.
I’m just wondering if you’re all right because I’m not.
No, I’m not.
Heidi: But, this is the one thing I’ve always said about Michael and me - when we are in trouble, we run to get help.
An empty hotel room I’ve got some regrets.
Feels like I’m wasting away.
Heidi: It was just like, “Okay, we need help getting through this. We need people who have wisdom, who can surround us and help bring us through this.”
It’s you that keeps me going.
It’s you that keeps me going.
It’s you that keeps me weathering storms.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’ll hear from Michael and Heidi O’Brien today about the help they got for their marriage, and how winter became spring. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Tuesday edition. You know, I listen to that song and I think there is a difference between taking your music seriously and just kind of fiddling around with it. I actually did play guitar for a while at Crystal’s Pizza at 21st and Sheridan in Tulsa.
Dennis: I didn’t know that.
Bob: Yes, I used to – on Saturday nights – go over. I think I made like $20, and I would sing Jim Croce songs and John Denver and. . . .
Dennis: Jim who?
Bob: You don’t remember Jim Croce?
Dennis: I’m sorry. Not on my radar screen at this moment.
Bob: Oh, yes, these were big hits in the ‘70s and beyond.
Dennis: We have a real talent in the studio today, don’t we?
Bob: We have a legitimate musician who is in the studio. I don’t think I could. . . I was just playing with it, but we’ve got the real guy here with us today.
Dennis: Michael and Heidi O’Brien join us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back to the broadcast. I’m amazed after what we’ve talked about this week that you guys came back, but you did.
Michael is a recording artist. He used to be the lead singer of Newsong, but made a heroic choice on March 19, 2006. I want to get to that heroic choice, but to do that I want to back up seven years, and take this storybook marriage that started out with a love song that would cause any young lady to melt into a pool of butter.
I mean the guy has got more lines than an Alaskan prowler. I’m telling you.
Dennis: He was laying it out earlier on the broadcast. . .
But your marriage was in trouble, right Heidi?
Dennis: How serious of trouble? Was divorce an option?
Heidi: Honestly, I would be the type that would throw around the “d” word as a threat, just to try, out of desperation, to get what I wanted from my husband.
Bob: Were you doing that in year one?
Heidi: No, it wasn’t until years into it. But we did have really big, blowout fights in year one – unhealthy.
Bob: You guys had been a part of this music group that traveled around on a bus, The Heritage Singers. You did that, got married while you were in the group. You left that group after you’d been in it for, what, a year or two years?
Michael: I was in it a year.
Bob: Then, did you decide, “I want to be a solo singer”?
Michael: I did. When I look back now, it was not probably the wisest decision, because what I wanted and what she wanted were two different things. She had dreamed (Heidi) that we would be in ministry together, and I was always a loner. I wanted to be a loner.
Bob: You guys were both in a music group, so she sings, too, right?
Michael: That would make sense.
Bob: So maybe doing a husband and wife duet thing – that could have worked, right?
Michael: It caused a lot of pain and a lot of friction in our marriage.
Dennis: So what were most of your fights about?
Heidi: Well, that was the big one. I always say I was like Lucy Ricardo. “Ricky, let me in your show!” You know?
I did. I had that vision of, sort of, having babies who would all be musical and “we’re just going to travel around on a bus and just be this traveling family.”
Bob: Bill and Gloria Gaither, right? That’s the whole idea.
Heidi: Yes, I mean. . .
Dennis: I was thinking of the Von Trapp family - kind of an Irish family singing together.
Bob: The O’Brien – instead of the Von Trapps, the O’Brien Family Singers? That could have worked, right?
Heidi: Well, I’m an okay singer, but I’m not a great singer. I’m okay. When you move to Nashville, that’s a real humbling experience because in any given church, people can just sing circles around you. I mean, there’s so much talent!
I just kind of did not have the talent to make that work, and so I just tried to fit in however I could, but in my heart I was just holding onto bitterness, bitterness, bitterness. Then God just started saying, “Hello! You have so many other things. Did I create you so narrow that if you don’t do this, you’re never going to have joy in your life?”
Heidi: So, when I finally let go of that, what freedom, you know? That was like killing me.
Heidi: Because every time he went out, I loved him and was excited about everything that was going on, but inside it was just like, “That is so unfair. People are clapping for you, saying you’re great, and you’re eating all of this good food while I’m home eating peanut butter and jelly and doing dirty diapers. Nobody cares about what I do. I’m not getting any pats on the back.”
I just looked at his life, and was thinking, “This really stinks.”
Dennis: Well, added to that, here’s somebody who’s up front where people are applauding and just because he’s good with an instrument or two and can connect with the audience around a song, doesn’t mean he’s good as a husband, as a father, and as a family man.
In essence, you were failing in that regard, right?
Dennis: When did it finally dawn on you that you really weren’t being the man God created you to be in the most important relationship a man has in this lifetime, with his wife and with his children?
Michael: It was during the dark ages (that’s what we call them) probably five or six years ago. Heidi was dealing with some things in her own life, and I had this battle looking at women and fantasizing and all of these things.
Dennis: You were exposed to pornography as a child?
Michael: I was six years old, and then more of the videos when I was twelve. There was a lot of pain there.
Dennis: Did you ever tell Heidi you had seen this stuff?
Michael: No. She only knew about my drugs and alcohol. She had asked me on many different occasions if I struggled with this and I told her, “Absolutely not.” She asked if I struggled with looking at other women, and I just didn’t want to be completely honest. I just didn’t know how she would handle that and basically I was scared. I didn’t want . . . I thought that was. . .
I had Christian men even say to me, “You know, Michael, that’s just what guys go through. They’re very visual. That’s a normal thing.” But I knew it wasn’t. It wasn’t. It’s not what Jesus did.
Dennis: Michael, a recording artist, pretty big ego, pretty tough to admit, pretty tough to come clean, to someone else outside the marriage?
Michael: Extremely. I realized when I confessed this to her and she literally broke down and cried and I just sat there. I was realizing that my sin was affecting not only me, but the one I love the most. It was later on when – and I thank God for this book – an amazing book just changed my life in this particular world: Every Man’s Battle.
I remember just finally having a strategic way to fight. The bouncing of the eyes – I started to put this into practice. At first, Heidi was a bit offended that I was doing this. She was asking, “Why? Am I not good enough for you?” But over time she realized that every time I did it, I was championing our marriage.
Heidi: Well, if we were watching something on TV, he might put his hand up or turn away if there was some image that was going to be stirring for him. In a woman’s brain, it’s just so hard to connect with that. At first, I was kind of thinking, “Wow! You’re really weak. What’s your problem?”
But, then, as we walked through it, and once again, read more books and got more counsel. . .
Michael: Really, God began to bless me in my body. He began to bless the marriage bed. He began to bless our conversation. Another book that helped me verbally, in talking to Heidi, was The Five Love Languages. I began to realize what her love language was and I remember so many times I would think these things. It wasn’t like I was making it up. It was things I thought, but I just never said it out loud.
So I would say, “That meal was amazing,” or “Wow, you look beautiful today.” At first, I think even then she didn’t know if it was coming from my heart or not, but then she really understood what I was doing.
Bob: So this was. . . Was that morning that you confessed to her the beginning of the dark period, do you think?
Bob: How long were you in it?
Heidi: A good five years. A good five years.
Heidi: Because, you know, just undealt with sin in your life – it accumulates and it wreaks havoc. I ended up with mental illness. I was diagnosed with everything under the sun. It started off with anxiety disorder, then panic disorder, then depression, then manic depression.
I, ultimately, at one point after the birth of my fourth child, ended up in a psychiatric clinic for a nice little stay which was no fun. I was suicidal. I was just absolutely a mess.
Michael: I’m in Newsong at this time, by the way.
Bob: You’re on the road?
Michael: I had joined Newsong and I was doing the altar calls. People were coming forward, giving their life to Christ, and my family was falling apart at home. It was horrible. It was the dark ages for us.
Bob: Were you writing music during this time?
Michael: I was. In fact, I was writing records.
Bob: Was any of what you were living coming out?
Michael: No. It was . . .
Bob: Were you keeping it all kind of hidden from everyone except just what the two of you knew? I mean there had to be friends who knew what was going on, right? Did the guys in the band know what was going on?
Michael: Not all of the guys in the band. Maybe one – one or two.
Bob: Were you afraid, “If this leaks out, my career is over”?
Michael: I wasn’t so much afraid of that as much as I was concerned for my wife. I loved her. I wanted her to be happy.
Michael: I knew God had a better way. So I began to do what God was calling me to do and He dealt with the purity issue and the communicating with Heidi. God restored that love that had so far gone.
Bob: I wonder how many listeners would describe where they are today as the dark ages? They think, “I don’t know if our marriage can make it. We’ve gone to our church and gotten counsel like Michael got from a pastor who said, ‘Divorce can be liberating’.”
Or maybe they just haven’t told anybody because they’re afraid or ashamed. If a couple is in that situation, how would you counsel them?
Dennis: I think they have to take a page from what Michael and Heidi have done. Go to the church. We’re talking about a church that will put you together with a counselor who will tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear – biblically-anchored counsel.
Secondly, also take a page from their commitment to one another.
As you were sharing your story, I don’t know what I expected, but I thought the “dark ages” would last for 30, 60, maybe 90 days – that there had just been a brief period. But you all went through a long, dark shadow; a long valley. You didn’t quit. You hung in there with each other, even in the midst of days when you continued to hurt each other. You remained committed.
Bob, I just come back to the basis of what the Bible teaches about love. Love isn’t a feeling. Love’s a commitment. Love’s a covenant. It’s a promise. At the essence of the promise is a person saying to another person, “My integrity is good. I’m going to do what I said I would do when I said, ‘I do.’ I still do, and I’m going to remain committed to you even though right now this doesn’t feel very good.
The reason this is so tough in this culture is that there are so many other voices in the culture – even in the Christian culture and community – that are telling you to bail out, as they told Heidi and Michael to do here. But there are also voices that are luring toward sin – adultery, fantasies, denial of where you are.
That shouldn’t be an option for a Christian.
Bob: You know, if somebody today had chest pains, they would go to the emergency room and say, “I have chest pains. I wonder if there’s something wrong.”
Bob: Somebody has marriage pains, and they say, “Well, I’m not going to tell anybody. I’m going to keep it to myself. We’ll try and work this out. I hope I can take care of it.”
You’ve got to find help! Whether it’s going to our website FamilyLifeToday.com; whether it’s coming to one of our Weekend to Remember® conferences; . . .
Dennis: Right. Getting a book. . .
Bob: Getting resources; getting help from people. You’ve got to address the issue so that you can get better.
Dennis: You’re not going to get it done on your own. And I just want to say a word to, perhaps, people who aren’t in their own “dark ages.” They’re not going through a valley of any kind, but they know, perhaps, a Christian celebrity. He may be a pastor at their church; he or she may be a songwriter, singer, entertainer, author, communicator; someone who is famous because of God’s favor.
Be careful about making the assumption that because they’re good at what they do they are therefore good at everything else. Step into their lives and express concern if you see their lives beginning to perhaps move toward destructive behavior.
I’m thinking, Bob, of our interview that we did with the sportscaster Pat Summerall and how he told of his alcoholism, womanizing, and all of his destructive behavior, and yet no one, no one, ever called him to account.
Bob: They knew what was going on, and they never called him on it.
Dennis: Exactly! Now, he wasn’t surrounded by Christians, but I have to believe there were some Christians in the crowd.
Bob: Yes, there was a group that finally did get together and had an intervention and that’s what finally turned his life in the right direction. He went to the Betty Ford Clinic and that’s where he read the Bible and where he came to faith and got sober and got the help he needed.
In fact, it may be that our listeners have never heard that conversation with Pat Summerall. I’ve asked our team to set up a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com if you’d like to listen to those interviews. Just go to FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there for the Pat Summerall interviews and you can listen to those.
And I want to remind our listeners, too, that Michael and Heidi O’Brien are going to be joining us in February on our second “Love Like You Mean It” marriage cruise. We’re leaving from Miami and heading out into the Caribbean Valentine’s week. We leave on Monday morning, February 13th; get back on Friday, the 17th. Along with Michael and Heidi O’Brien, Sanctus Real is going to be with us; Matthew West; the Annie Moses Band; Darlene McCoy; Paul Overstreet. Of course, Dennis and Barbara are going to be speaking and I’m going to be speaking. Voddie Baucham is going to be onboard and Gary Thomas, the author who wrote Sacred Marriage is going to be with us as well.
I was talking to our team earlier this week and I asked them about how many cabins are still available. They said that we’re about 70% of the boat sold. I said, “Well, before they’re all gone, could we maybe do special for FamilyLife Today listeners?”
After we talked about it for a while, they agreed that this week, and this week only, FamilyLife Today listeners can sign up to join us on the “Love Like You Mean It” cruise, Valentine’s Week 2012. If you pay for your registration, your spouse comes along free. They said the offer’s only good this week and the folks have to mention that they’re FamilyLife Today listeners in order to take advantage of it.
So, if you want to go to our website FamilyLifeToday.com, there’s a link there to the “Love Like You Mean It” page. It will give you all the information about the cruise: dates, locations, everything. Or you can call for more information. 1-800-FLTODAY is the number to call. Just make sure when you’re ready to register - and you have to register this week to take advantage of the special offer - make sure to identify yourself as a FamilyLifeToday listener so that when you register and pay for yourself, your spouse comes at no cost.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information or give us a call – 1-800-F as in “family,” L as in “life,” and then the word “today.”
We want to make sure that we take a minute here and thank those of you who from time to time will get in touch with us and make a donation to help support FamilyLife Today. In fact we’ve got some listeners who we refer to as “legacy partners.” These are folks who make a donation to support the ministry on a monthly basis. Your support is so valuable, so much appreciated. Thanks for standing with us here at FamilyLife Today.
I know there are others of you who from time to time will call or will go online and make a donation as you are able to do that. We appreciate you as well. Your support is what helps to cover the cost of producing and syndicating this daily radio program, keeping it on the air on your local station and on our network of stations all across the country, and of course on the internet throughout the world.
We appreciate your partnership with us. This week, if you’re able to help with a donation, we’d like to say “thank you” by sending you a book by Dennis and Barbara Rainey about praying together as a couple. One of the things that a lot of couples desire to do, but for whatever reason it’s difficult and it’s awkward, Dennis and Barbara have addressed in their book Two Hearts Praying as One. It’s our gift to you this week when you support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.
Make your donation online at FamilyLifeToday.com and be sure to type the word “HEARTS” in the key code box on the online donation form so that we know to send you a copy of the book on praying together as a couple, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone. Just ask for the book on prayer and, again, we’ll get it out to you. We are grateful to you for your standing with us and your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Now, before we wrap things up today, we’ve asked Michael O’Brien if he would sing a song from his CD Something about Us. It’s a song he wrote for his wife. In fact the title of the song is her name. It’s “Sandra Heidi Anne.” Here is Michael O’Brien:
“Sandra Heidi Anne,
Sixteen years, still holding hands
Every day’s a sweet romance
Every day’s a new adventure
This extraordinary love can be extremely complicated
But it’s more than enough to sustain me, contain me
Sandra Heidi Anne,
We’re strollin’ down love’s boulevard
I tip my hat to my wishin’ star
On this sentimental evening
I require no invitations for quiet walks and rendezvous
My only expectation – please forgive me – is that you’re with me
I possess what others dream about
If you should ever doubt it’s true
It’s undeniable, indefinable, incomprehensible
Sandra Heidi Anne,
I’m the only man for you
Can’t imagine what I’d do if you weren’t in the picture
To have and to hold you is all that I desire
And in case I haven’t told you, you’re amazing, so amazing
Sandra Heidi Anne,
Sandra Heidi Anne”
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
*Song: Keeps Me Going
Artist: Michael O’Brien
Album: Something About Us, (c)2007 Miracle Productions
Song: Sandra Heidi Anne
Artist: Michael O’Brien
Album: Something About Us, (c)2007 Miracle Productions
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