The debut album by America's JILLIAN, was produced by Jimmy Peterik of top AOR band Survivor ('Eye Of The Tiger'). Mike Rimmer spoke in depth to the lady who has really discovered God's healing power.
If you've been hurt by the circumstances of life; if you've been damaged by the actions of others; if you've struggled with self esteem because of what others have said about you; if you've given up believing that your life can ever change, given up believing that God cares about how things are; if the baggage from your past is still a heavy load that you carry around, read on and allow God to restore hope to you.
There are some songs that you just cannot get out of your mind. Jillian's "Til The Water Runs Clean" is one such song. I originally discovered it and the album 'As Is' when I reviewed it for this magazine in the summer of '96. The power of the song never left me and something about the album kept nagging at me to investigate further. Months later and a few phone calls later, I'm glad I followed the prompting because, as you'll discover, Jillian's music, life and ministry offer hope for those who are in despair.
To understand Jillian, it's important to start at the beginning. She was abandoned on the streets of Los Angeles as a little girl and for eight years was bounced in and out of 12 foster homes and orphanages. The outcome was that she learnt not to trust and she learnt nothing about love. Jillian describes her early memories: "Mostly what I remember as a little girl were the episodes of pain. There was physical abuse; there was sexual, verbal and emotional abuse. I would have given anything for a Christian foster home back then."
Finally, Jillian was adopted at the age of eight by a Christian family; however the bad seed had already been sown into her life. Jillian describes some of the problems: "Even being adopted into such a godly family, I was still unable to accept their love nor able to trust. I was so afraid. I had so much shame and fear and I was crippled emotionally growing up. In high school I remember finding a temporary pain reliever in drama and music. I loved the theatre because I could be somebody else instead of me. I'd sing big heart-wrenching songs and started writing poetry at 16. Actually, some of the songs on the album I started writing at a young age."
Even as a young adult, Jillian could not break out of the cycle of abuse, which had begun as a child. "When I got to college," she explains, "I got in a very violent date-battering relationship with a young Olympian. That lasted for several years. Because of the roots and the things I'd grown up with, I'd never learnt proper boundaries and would allow people to abuse me and allow myself to be a victim."
I ask Jillian to explain in more detail how her childhood experiences translated into adult behaviour. "I think that in the first few years children really develop their security, trust and self worth." She continues, "I had no parents, no home, and no bedroom with toys to play with and no friends. When a child grows up in an environment where they're not loved, nurtured, cared for and are physically abused, they automatically grow up with extremely low self-esteem. This is what piggy-backed the date violence and battering later in my life. When my boyfriend first hit me or grabbed me too hard, I really thought nothing of it because I had grown up that way. Even though I was in a loving, adopted home, the first eight years of my life really developed in me what I thought I deserved in life. The process of learning how to break that was really where the healing came - learning who I was in Christ, and how to forgive. It's renewing by the Word of God that changes your heart, life and mind."
Before Jillian discovered the healing that Christ could bring, her life was to take a further downward twist. She moved to Hollywood to work as a model. The pinnacle of her career was when she was chosen to be the model to launch Giorgio perfume in America. From the outside you would think that this affirmation would wipe away any insecurity but this wasn't so. Jillian remembers, "I used modelling as a cover up. I thought if I could look good on the outside people would never know the pain I tried to hide on the inside. I remember when I was done for the day; I'd go back to a lonely hotel room. I remember looking in a mirror and as I wiped off my mask of perfection that I wore for that day, I would see that little girl. I was so ashamed of her; I knew that she was showing through as I was trying to cover her up. It was like a big secret that I lived to hide. I just couldn't do it any more and after a few years I just collapsed. That's when I tried to commit suicide."
Jillian ended up in hospital and that's where she gave her life to Jesus Christ. Jillian made promises to God that if she made it out alive she would make sure that, no matter the consequences or sacrifices, she would serve him for the rest of her life. She remembers, "I knew that I had a choice that I would either serve Christ and give my life to him or that I would always keep running. I knew that I couldn't run any more or survive so I made the decision to give my life to Christ. That was the start of not only my deliverance but of something that was long awaited. I'd been running most of my life because I'd never believed God could love someone like me. I'd made too many mistakes and thought I was no good."
Like many people who have been hurt through the actions of others, Jillian went through an inner healing time of learning how to forgive. "I had a lot of people to forgive." She says, "But the hardest person to forgive was myself. I'd made a lot of wrong choices and I was drowning in the consequences of my own sin."
There's a popular misconception that God always waves a magic wand over our problems to make them disappear. I wondered whether Jillian's healing had been a gradual process? "I really believe and teach that healing is a process," she responds. "We don't just wake up one day, ask Christ into our life and everything is okay from then on. We've all got issues beneath the surface that we need to deal with - things in our past. For me it was a process and I believe the same for anyone else."
Shortly after that time Jillian moved to Nashville where she lived for several years. She started singing, performing and ministering all across the country. When her ministry started she would share little bits of her story. As she would leave the concert she would see broken people who were identifying with her pain and didn't know what to do. In response, Jillian started doing altar calls, then sharing more of her story, adding the songs that had been written especially for her story and soon it developed into a ministry.
The personal nature of Jillian's hurt means that she has learnt to be vulnerable when telling her story. I wonder how far the healing process freed her to help other people? "It was difficult when I was starting out. But I've just seen so many incredible results and how the Lord has used me to help young people and older ones as well. In altar calls we see everyone from children to grandparents who come forward because of issues of pain in their lives like rejection, abuse, divorce. We are so crippled today. We are living in one of the most violent generations this world has seen and I can quote what Mordecai said to Esther: 'You are for this appointed time,' and that's how I feel. The Lord has brought us into this ministry and this is the appointed time where I really believe it's going to explode because of who we're ministering to - a hurting generation."
That ministry forms the background to Jillian's music. The songs on her debut album for Rugged Records 'As Is' form a powerful testimony to the dynamic power of God to change lives. However, it may not have been this way. When Jillian was still living in Nashville, she had been invited to a concert and met Bryan Adams backstage. Supporting Bryan was Journey. Jillian remembers: "They had wanted to produce me and wanted me in New York. What they wanted me to do was to leave my ministry and go secular. It's amazing how the enemy can come in and tempt you with something. But I know my calling is for ministry. Ministry comes before entertainment." Thus Jillian managed to resist the temptation.
Around the same time she met Jimmy Peterik, from the rock band Survivor. He was responsible for one of their most successful songs, having written "Eye Of The Tiger". He also offered to produce her and proved to be more open about her ministry and songwriting. The song which proved to be a breakthrough was "Pool Of Bethesda". Peterik had reservations about Jillian's songwriting. She explains how things changed, "Jimmy Peterik had just gotten off an airplane. I was on my way to Chicago to work on the album. I'd written the lyrics to 'Pool Of Bethesda'. I got out my piece of paper and shared it with Jimmy. This is a man who's not a Christian, who's written some great songs and won Grammies. He looked at the lyrics and said, 'That's going to be your "Eye Of The Tiger".' That was the moment he recognised me as a writer and we ended up writing 90 per cent of the album together."
Showing page 1 of 2