Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 06/09/21

Oh, what an untangled web we weave when we practice to believe. That paraphrasing of Sir Walter Scott, may also serve as an apt summary of the life and philosophy of Michele Pillar. The three-time Grammy-nominated recording artist began her career over 40 years ago when she was just 19.  She recounts her remarkable journey of pain, trauma, abuse and, ultimately, positive faith and healing in her book Untangled, The Truth Will Set You Free. While the book came out in 2016, it has continued to be well received and has garnered some renewed attention when Pillar talked about it on Dr. Phil last month. Our conversation follows the book’s trailer. She talks about the growing up the child of alcoholic parents, a secret abortion she had when she was only 17 and her contemplation of suicide about a decade later.  For anyone facing tangled up in feelings of shame and despair, she has a message of profound hope.  Also, check out the video for her inspirational song You Untangle Me at the end of this post.

JWK: What led you to write this book?

Michele Pillar: That’s a great question. You know, often times we see ourselves as playing a certain role in ministry and we get stuck there and the Lord tries to move us forward. For me, often times, that’s been a tug of war. I started as a recording artist in Christian music when I was 19. When I stopped recording after doing it for almost 15 years, I was tired. I had toured up to 200 dates a year. I just felt like my ministry days were over because, you know, a recording artist can have a shelf life. So, I just kind of felt that was then, I was young, I was a recording artist and that’s over – but I spent time alone with the Lord during that hiatus time that I thought was permanent retirement. Actually, that was the most valuable thing I could have ever done – just to be alone with God, be out of the limelight, out of public ministry and really take care of some unfinished business of healing that I hadn’t really (earlier) taken the time with the Lord to do. Nor, did I really know how to do it. I think (as) a Christian artist I was sincere but I was trying to be an example of what a Christian looks like and, therefore, I ignored a lot of my brokenness.

So, after this time of quiet with the Lord (during which) I made lists of things. I talked with Him about growing up with an alcoholic mother (and) and an alcoholic father. When I became a Christian, I thought that just all disappeared. You know, the result of that. But, again, when I was quiet with Him, I realized that the residue of growing up in really a broken home was still hanging around. The effects of that were still part of my life even though I loved the Lord and it was affecting everything I was doing.

So, anyway, the Lord just took time with me to connect those dots and to do some deeper healing. Then, lo and behold, in the year 2000 I fell in love with writing. I didn’t think I’d ever be an author but I just had this love for it. I just couldn’t stop writing and I took classes. I just loved it! After I had been writing for about ten years on different projects that I ghost wrote – I wrote for a newspaper – the Lord kind of jumped out of the bushes and surprised me with “Guess what? I want you to tell the truth.” He just spoke to my heart (and said) “I want you to tell the truth about how I really healed you.” I actually argued. I said “Why do I need to tell my story, Lord? I’m a has-been recording artist. Nobody remembers who I am.” I didn’t see any value in me anymore as far as (being) a public figure.

And, I’ll never forget it because, John, when I got really quiet and I listened, the Lord spoke into my heart and He said “If you’ll tell the unvarnished truth about what I’ve done for you – and really tell the truth, like from the bottom of the valley up to the victory (telling) the whole journey – I’ll use your story to get into the story of the reader in places I can’t go.”

JWK: I did watch your interview with Dr. Phil where you spoke about the shame you felt after having an abortion. How did God lift you out of that?

MP: I had an abortion three weeks before I came to know the Lord. I was 17. I was dating a guy that was way older than I was. I’m sure I was trying to get out of my mom’s house. I was trying to find a father figure. Of course, when you’re 17 you don’t know that. You just make these choices and you don’t know why you’re making them. It didn’t take me long to wind up pregnant and alone. I wound up in an abortion clinic. Roe vs. Wade was (about) 90 days old. So, there I was. I had the abortion. Then I came to know the Lord and, even though I asked for forgiveness of my sin in general, I really didn’t know how to bring my abortion to the Lord to ask for forgiveness. I just stuffed it under the rug.

So, I carried that shame around for many years – decades really – all through ministry and touring with Billy Graham and all kinds of things. It wasn’t until I was in my late 40s/early 50s – and I thought my abortion was ancient history – (that) I was scheduled to have  writing session with my dear friend BeBe Winans. The night before the writing session I prayed and I said “Lord, what do you want us to write about?” I wasn’t thinking about my abortion. It wasn’t on my radar – but it was on God’s radar. You know, the Lord will do that. He’ll unearth things that we’ve long buried because He still wants to heal it. He still wants to set us free from the shame.

So, I had a dream that night. I went to sleep and I had a dream. I dreamt that I was in this beautiful field with all these children. They were dancing and singing and the colors were brilliant. It was just not like any dream I had ever had. And this little tiny toddler crawled up toward me and he touched my finger. I reached down and he touched my little finger and I knew I was looking into the eyes of my child. And, without any word spoken, this child said to me “It’s okay. It’s okay.” Then he turned around and went to play with the children and I woke up. I had tears running down my face and the Lord just began to reveal to me that my child was healed the moment he left my body – but I wasn’t healed.

So, I went to the writing session and BeBe Winans was the first person I told out loud about my abortion. I said “I prayed about what we should write about today but we can’t write about this. I mean, we can’t.” And I’ll never forget what BeBe said. He said “Michele, we have to try. You had a dream. That was from God. We have to try to write this song.” And we wrote the most beautiful song.

It’s called Found. It’s on my 2016 CD but I’ve been able to sing that song to literally thousands of women now at women’s conferences (and) tell them about my dream. It’s a very beautiful and gentle way for those women to face the fact that might need healing as well…And men as well. I mean, for every woman who has an abortion, a man has an abortion…I just love that God is never finished with setting us free and redeeming us. You know saving us and giving us the gift of salvation is instant but restoring our lives is a lifetime journey. I think, as a Christian, for a lot of years I didn’t understand that. I just didn’t understand that there’s no shame in restoration (even if) that takes a lifetime for all of us.

JWK: I like what you said to Dr. Phil. You said “It doesn’t take as long to heal as it does to get hurt.”

MP: John, that’s right. Often times at the women’s conferences I speak at women will tell me “I don’t want to open that can of worms because, if I start crying, I’ll never stop” or “If I face what happened to me – if I really look into that – it’s going to hurt too much.” So, they run from it and they think it’s going to take so long to heal because it took so long to get hurt and they’ve been hurting for so long. But when God gets a hold of it and when he bathes it with His Word – His Kindness and His Healing Touch – (we find) our wounds are connected with a lie. Something like we don’t matter, we’re ugly or we’re not enough – or maybe it’s wrapped up in fear. So, when you go into God’s Word you find…that the truth is the opposite…You find out about what God thinks about what you went through and how He wants to set you free with the Truth of Who He Is and who you really are instead of (the negative things you’ve been told) you are. With His Word we become healed – and it doesn’t take long. It really doesn’t take long.  .

JWK: There was a point in the interview where I believe you were talking about hearing dark voices in your head that tried to get you to surrender to the lies and submit to being engulfed by shame. Having been through depression myself, I can relate to that struggle. Sometimes, I think that what you describe – and what people with depression struggle with – is somewhat similar to what the country is going through. It seems to me that, as a nation, we are up against dark voices trying to convince us wallow in past mistakes and failures – as if they define us – rather than moving forward together in grace. It’s like what national psyche is struggling with is a larger version of what depressed people go through. Do you think there’s anything to that?

MP: Absolutely. I mean we’ve all been through a lot with the pandemic. We’ve been alone a lot. We’ve had more time to sit and think – and to worry, be anxious, to be broke…all these different pressures. I think (we should) realize that we are in a broken world and that we are in a battle between good and evil. I mean you don’t have to go far to see that. You can see it on the news at night.

But, personally, when we find ourselves backed into a corner…and we can’t see anything beyond what we feel and how helpless and hopeless we feel, that’s when, if we’re not careful, those dark voices (can attack us). For me, it was years ago. It was when I was only 28 years old that I was in that corner. I was backed into that corner from failure and disappointment and embarrassment. I just felt like my life didn’t matter anymore…and the only way out was to commit suicide.

Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It’s not the answer. It’s a lie from the pit of hell. When you can recognize that (you’re under attack from the lie)…call out to God and say “God, get me moving forward. Get me help! Help me, God!”

(That’s) first of all. Then find the help you need to see life as God created it in you and for you – and to be able to see your life as valuable. We need help doing that – from not only God but professional people and, sometimes, medication…

…I found myself there one night in 1985 and I cried out to God. I knew I was standing on the brink of eternity and I knew it wasn’t a good thing at all. I mean I saw the darkness and I talked to the darkness. It’s in Chapter One of my book…I said “Jesus, please help me” and I felt someone sit down next to me on my bed.

John, it was a real as I’m talking to you. The room was dark. I was in the dark, so I couldn’t see – but I could feel this Presence sit down next to me and I knew it was Jesus. He wrapped His Arms around me and He began to talk to me and tell me about my life, tell me how much He loved me, how many things he has for me to do – like talk to you today, like talk to all these (readers) today. You never know what is ahead that God wants to use you for. You can’t give up. You can’t buy the lie. You can’t!

So, here we are today talking about it, thank God!, because Jesus met me in that place. So, I pray that if anybody’s (reading) this (who) feels like there’s no hope, that they will be able to stand up and say “No, that’s a lie. I was born with a purpose. I was born with a plan of God and I’m going to be brave enough to find out what that plan is. I’m not going to cop out, I’m not going to listen to the lie and I’m not going to (surrender to the lie). That’s my prayer for everybody (reading this) today. 

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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