NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, August 14th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Christian musicians often write songs to inspire and motivate. But I recently met up with a dad who says he had to learn the hard way, how to use his music to simply love his family.
MICHAEL O’BRIEN: So, my oldest is Megan. She’s 28. I have Michael Jr., 25, Joseph, 22…
MYRNA BROWN, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Singer, songwriter, and keyboardist Michael O’Brien not only loves to talk about his family…
SONG: Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus…
He gets to make music with them…
O’BRIEN: Hard to put into words, except, you know, it’s just a thrill.
SONG: Abide, abide, oh abide in me…
On his latest project, O’Brien sings duets with each of his four children and his wife of 31 years.
SONG: When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down…
O’Brien’s music is more than a collection of favorite hymns and songs. Much more. Each musical moment spent with his family is a reminder of what he almost lost.
O’BRIEN: And I’m grateful for God’s mercy, for His redeeming love, and for Him restoring something that we thought was dead.
Michael and Heidi O’Brien were married in 1989. But he had a secret addiction. It took eight years before O’Brien finally confessed it to his wife.
O’BRIEN: Six years old… Playboy magazines. Thirteen years old… hardcore pornographic material and videos. And then, you know, playing some of that out through high school and college. Just know this. I was completely lost. Christ was not at the center of my life. It was me, me, me and darkness. And then, I got radically saved at 23. But the reality is I never really dealt with the sin.
After O’Brien’s confession, he found healing and freedom from pornography by bringing it to Christ.
O’BRIEN: I ran to God because where else could I go? Where else could I go? 1 Thessalonians says, this is the will of God, your sanctification, that you abstain from sexual immorality, that each of you knows how to control his own body, and holiness and honor not in the passion of lust, like the gentiles who do not know God. And so that’s a good sign that you’re in Christ, if you’re running to Christ.
Although painful, O’Brien’s wife, Heidi, found strength to offer forgiveness to her husband.
O’BRIEN: She was devastated and crying one day, and everything inside of her wanted to turn away. Like cross your arms and turn away from me and everything inside her, by way of the Holy Spirit, was turn toward, turn towards (me)
God gradually restored their marriage. In 1999, O’Brien became the lead singer for the Christian band Newsong, bringing with it a whole new set of challenges.
O’BRIEN: And we’d literally see thousands of people come forward, giving their life to Christ. Problem is, Myrna, I was on the road, if you add up travel dates, studio dates, about 235, 240 days out of a year. And you know, if you do the math, you can realize that’s not real healthy for a family.
O’Brien was now a father of four with little time to nurture his fragile marriage or his family.
O’BRIEN: Heidi and I almost divorced in 2001 because of my selfish life. I don’t know how else to say it. Just gratifying my sinful nature and not really taking my role seriously as a father.
After seven years with Newsong, O’Brien left the band to focus on his family. He started with his marriage.
SONG: One and Only
O’BRIEN: I wanted to write her a song. I’m a musician. I can write a love song. And so I began out of the overflow of my heart because of what God was doing in our marriage to write this song called One And Only.
O’Brien says from that one song came an entire collection of Christian love ballads. And that launched a series of marriage enrichment date nights held across the country.
O’BRIEN: Me talking to men about purity—her talking to women about submission. I’m just thankful for the opportunities that we’ve been able to do this together. It’s not just me doing my thing, we’re doing things together as well.
A heritage of harmony to pass on to their children.
O’BRIEN: You think about the legacy. All my kids love music and I just pray they’ll keep on using their gifts for the glory of God as well.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.