By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama BaptistNovember 4, 2010
Looking over the edge of a cliff is sure to make even the most adventurous person nervous. But for Sandi Patty, it’s a chance to see the divine.
“Living on the edge isn’t always the most comfortable existence, but it’s a place where we tend to do more looking around for help, which, for Christians, means looking for God,” Patty said.
In her new book, “The Edge of the Divine,” Patty reveals how she looked for and found help in dealing with both internal and external struggles through her relationship with Christ.
Her first original album in seven years bears the same name, and both projects are very personal in nature, offering an insight into why the Dove and Grammy Award winner took the bold step of having lap-band surgery Aug. 26, 2008.
One of the most difficult challenges in the post-surgery process was changing her focus on food. Breaking up is hard to do, Patty admitted, so she wrote a breakup letter to food, which she shares in her book.
“I’d seen that overeating is more about what’s happening in my head than in my stomach,” she said.
The surgery didn’t come without risks either. A year after the lap-band surgery, Patty had an anxiety attack. With the help of her doctors, she realized she had to take special care when on tour.
Having the surgery was not easy, Patty admitted. She has lost between 75 and 80 pounds and said she would like to lose 10 more pounds. But to tackle the external issue of being overweight, she had to face serious internal issues.
“I kept coming back to that point of realizing weight loss is an inside job,” Patty said. “Jesus didn’t go through (His) ordeal so that we could merely survive. He said He did it so we could have life and that we might have it more abundantly.”
So the surgery was only part of Patty’s journey, as she had to come to terms with a dark secret and the reality of forgiveness. When she was 6 years old, she was sexually abused by a female friend of her family.
“She did not hurt me, but she touched me in ways that traumatized me,” Patty said.
The daughter of a minister of music, Patty’s family often went on tour singing at various churches around the nation. The abuse happened when she was left in the care of a trusted family friend, as her parents were on tour. When they returned, she kept silent about the abuse and buried the memories until adulthood.
Patty wasn’t hindered by the abuse in regard to her music. Her life was fairly normal, and she joined her family on tour and crafted her singing ability. Then, when she was 18 years old, she discovered the “perfect” role and auditioned for The Kids of the Kingdom singing and dance team at the Disneyland Resort in her home state of California. Confident from her audition, she called the office a few weeks later after not hearing anything. She was devastated to learn that they loved her voice but felt she was too heavy.
But Patty was not about to let the rejection stop her. She enrolled at Anderson University in Indiana and eventually joined Bill and Gloria Gaither on tour. Her voice and name would become one of the most recognizable in Christian music with songs like “We Shall Behold Him.”
Patty also married, had four children and continued to focus on her music. Everything seemed to be perfect. But her marriage to John Helvering was literally falling apart. Crisis would follow when she admitted an adulterous relationship during her marriage, and the backlash from Christian radio stations and fans was harsh.
In the turmoil, Patty fell in love. “Before the court finalized the divorce (from Helvering), I fell in love with Don Peslis, a handsome, talented singer who performed with my backup group during national concert tours,” she said. They married in August 1995.
In the book, her music and her conversations, Patty is open and frank about her struggles with weight and relationships. She said her current projects and journey have helped her to see the first step in change is forgiveness, the second step is preparation for change and the importance of truth shouldn’t be ignored.
Patty said forgiveness was the key to healing in all aspects of her life. “I think that in order to really make a change you have to really forgive yourself and (others),” she said. “You have to unearth some not-so-pretty chapters in your life story and come to peace with some very difficult ones. I really do believe in my favorite verse, John 8:31–32, “and the truth will set you free.”
Looking back is not something Patty does. She continues to do the one thing that honors God and brings Him glory — sing.
“For so many years, I really didn’t know how to be verbal,” Patty said. “I would find that I would be drawn to those songs that would say what I wish I could say. For so long, the songs were my heart. They still very much are, but I’m learning to use my words.”
For more information, visit http://www.sandipatty.com/.