Sandi Patty: 'Broken on the Back Row'
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
ANDERSON, IA (ANS) -- Sandi Patty sat huddled on the back row of a church
in Anderson, Indiana, about 12 years ago, hoping that nobody would recognize
For this most talented singer, it was a long way from the three United
States Inaugural Gala events that she had sung at and her appearances
on "The Tonight Show," "Entertainment Tonight," "A
Capitol Fourth with the National Symphony," and ABC's 2002 "In
Search For America: A July 4th Musical Celebration," among the many
programs she was featured in.
Sandi Patty had been honored with 39 Dove Awards, five Grammy Awards,
three Platinum and five Gold recordings, and was the most-awarded female
vocalist in contemporary Christian music history, yet on that Sunday morning,
her life was in a complete mess and she knew it.
Patty has now written a book about her experiences called Broken
on the Back Row (Howard Publishing) and she agreed to speak to ANS
about this painful episode in her life.
I began the interview by asking her what the title of the book meant.
“It refers to a Sunday morning when I was sitting on the back row
of my church – North Anderson Church of God in Anderson, Indiana
– and I realized that there were things in my life that just weren’t
right,” she began.
“I was visiting that church for the first time and kind of didn’t
want people to know I was there and so I wanted to hide on the back row.
At the end of the service, the pastor said, ‘If you have been visiting
with us here today we are so glad that you have come and if you want to
tell someone your name, that’s fine, we just want to know it, but
if you just want to sit on the back row of the balcony today and just
cry, we want you to do it; that this is a place of healing for you. And
that really began a wonderful journey through grace and forgiveness for
GOING THROUGH A DIVORCE
“I was going through a divorce and I was coming to grips with some
decisions; choices I had made in my life. I had had an affair and I was
going down a not so good path. I really needed to get things right; as
right as you can be. Sometimes there are choices that you still feel consequences
many years after, but you can always start.
“I guess that was one reason that I wanted to write this book.
Wherever, you are in your journey, you can always start today to make
things right. So that was that day for me.
It was probably about 12 years ago. It was the lowest place in my life.
I was tired of playing damage control, wondering if somebody was going
to find out. I said to myself, ‘I’m done with this. If I don’t
ever sing again or make another record, I just have to be right and clean
before you Lord.’”
When asked if she had been feeling guilty about her affair, Patty said,
“Absolutely, it was a perpetual thing. You don’t know how
to get off but you need to.”
CRITICAL LETTERS FROM CHRISTIANS
When the news broke about her divorce, she said she received many critical
letters from Christians.
“I have to say that I understood every one of them,” she
said. “I hurt a lot of people; not just the people in my own family,
but the ripples of that are widespread and I hope as people read this
book, they are not going to see a bunch of excuses. Here’s why I
did this and justification. It is sin and it always will be and there’s
no explaining it away. Sin has consequences and my actions and my choices
hurt a lot of people.”
Patty went on to say, “I think the main reason I wrote this book
– because it’s no fun to sit down and write and tell all the
junk about your life – is that there is hope that follows all of
that and when you can get in a place when you can go down that road towards
restoration, it is a beautiful thing. God is part of truth and wherever
there is truth, and even though that truth is hard to bear sometimes,
God is part of it!
“He is part of that healing process and I want people to know that
they don’t have to be stuck in their sins and they don’t have
to be stuck even in their grief and their guilt; that God can move them
through and truly He is the God of second chances.”
When asked what she would say to someone who is living this double life
at the moment, Patty said, “Stop and go and find someone that you
can be completely honest to and speak it out loud. You need to make some
bold steps right at first and it is very hard to do, but I have found
that if you speak a secret out loud, it gives it a lot less power. And
when you can finally begin to speak it out loud and begin to say, ‘What
do I need to do?’ It’s more than just repentance, but there
may be some restitution involved. There may be people that you have to
go to that you have hurt and you need to ask forgiveness from. My pastor
encouraged me that there can be restoration and what those steps are.”
Sandi Patty is now married again to Don Pesli who works at the Anderson
University. “We have been married for over 10 years now. We are
a blended family. We have eight kids altogether. I have four and he had
three when we got married and we then adopted our youngest. There are
a lot of really fun pictures in the book. The book doesn’t just
get stuck in the junk, but it moves forward and moves through the whole
thing. I am able to share the joy that is in my life in these days.
“I really stepped off the road for probably six or seven years.
I sang a little bit here and there but not a whole lot. It was a good
thing as I was able to find God again in the community of faith.”
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
“I have begun performing again and there is an enormous feeling
of thankfulness and gratefulness, because there were initially a number
of churches who canceled my concerts, and understandably. I would have
done the same thing had I been in their shoes. But now churches have again
begun to ask me to come. They told me they knew where I had been in my
life and they said they wanted me to come and share about God’s
love and grace and forgiveness. I didn’t have to hide the bad, but
I could share about the good, so every time I am asked to sing somewhere,
it means the world to me.”
She said now that she is back out on the road again, people will come
and share with her about their own lives. “It’s just amazing
what they tell me,” she said. “I am much more encouraged from
somebody else who will share the tough stuff of life. But if somebody
just says that life is perfect and you just have to pray more; that’s
a tough one for me.”
Sandi then revealed that she has changed her name from Sandi Patti to
Sandi Patty. “Patty is the name that is on my birth certificate.
When I made my first recording probably 25 years ago, there was a misprint
on some of the pre-publicity material and they spelled it Patti and so
11 years ago, I can’t immediately fix all the mistakes in my life
at the snap of a finger, but I can fix my name and I want my name back,
and so that’s why we fixed the long standing mistake.”
GOD OF THE SECOND CHANCE
She concluded by saying, “When people have read the book, I hope
they will take away a sense that God is the God of second chance -- not
so much for my life as my story is my story and me God are really okay
-- but for their life. I hope the reader will feel encouraged to perhaps
straighten out some things in their life and to give encouragement to
their friend or someone in their church or workplace that is going through
a tough time.
“I hope that more than anything that they see a hope because it
is really about hope.”
For more information on Sandi Patty, go to her web site which is www.sandipatty.com.
Dan Wooding is an award winning British journalist now living in Southern
California with his wife Norma. He is the founder and international director
of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News
Service (ANS). Wooding is the co-host of the weekly radio show, "Window
on the World" and was, for ten years a commentator, on the UPI Radio
Network in Washington, DC.
More from ASSIST
Assist News Service is brought to you in part by Open Doors USA, a ministry
that has served the Suffering Church around the world for nearly 50 years.
You can get more information by logging onto their website at www.opendoorsusa.org.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.