Stories of Transformation…Shae

by Jonathan Haefs

*On Sunday July the 6th, three stories of transformation were shared within our worship gathering at SVCC. These are true stories that come from the lives of people within our faith family. I will be posting all of these beautiful testimonies of the transforming power of Jesus this week. Below is the first of the three. To hear the story read click here.

My head lies heavy on the tinted window pane in the back seat of my mother’s car as my thoughts wander.  This is a road I have traveled before, but I have made this trip towards Camp Winnataska for the past 7 years and lately I find myself lost and questioning – knowing that on the trip home I will be filled with a sense of hope and of happiness that I cannot make last.

In the midst of other young people and adults that seem to be genuinely on-fire for this man called Jesus – my soul is awakened in ways that I cannot explain.  But as I leave the safety and security of that place, the winding bumpy path out of the camp seems to represent the distance that inevitably occurs shortly after I leave.

This road has become part of my never-ending story of renewed hope, followed by a tremendous sense of loss, hopelessness and dread. I hate myself for not being able to make sense of all this.  Why is it so hard to believe?  And why is it even harder to live for Jesus?

We are nearing the entrance to the camp.  My mind shifts and I’m 8-years-old again, sitting on the side of the curb in front of my house waiting for the little bus to arrive. I find myself aimlessly drawing a cross in the dirt, rubbing it out, and then drawing it over again.  I watch as my motions cause the dry ground to spray itself onto the clothes that I have so carefully chosen to wear today.  But it doesn’t seem to matter.

The bus rambles down the street in front of my house. It’s whining engine can be heard long before I can see it.

Just then, the neighbor’s door opens and Lizzy and Theo come bounding out the door in a race for the front seat.  As Theo sprints past her, Lizzy shouts, “Shotgun!!”  I can tell that they are headed to church.  At that moment, it occurs me to that our family is different.

When the bus arrives, it is full of old people smelling like mold and fake gardenias.  Each Sunday morning, I am greeted with smiles that wear traces of the wrong shade of lipstick on shriveled lips and I am welcomed into their world, “Good morning sweet thing.  We are so glad to see you.”  The excitement in their voices doesn’t seem to match the deep lines of age on their faces.

Something about this world is so different from my own world.

These people seem to have some sense of hope that I recognize, but don’t understand. But I am pretty sure that I want it.

The front wheel of my mom’s car hits a deep pothole and I’m jolted back into the present, but not before I hear the sound of my Sunday school teacher, a patient man who listened to my endless questions, “‘Do you think it is possible that we live in a universe that has one God, and that maybe there are other universes that have a God, and then there is one big God over all of them?’

Graciously laughing he leans into me and says, “Yes…. I do think that it is possible.” His words left me feeling the way I feel now — wanting to know and understand more – but not sure how to do it.

My arrival at camp is marked by the usual excitement.  Reconnecting with old friends.  Noticing how much each of us had changed.  Checking out the new guys – and some of the old ones that are now more, I don’t know … developed!  We have a shared history together that makes it feel like we left off where we were last year, as we said our goodbyes in this very same spot.

Before I can even settle into our cabin with my best friend Paige, my conversation turns to my thoughts in the car and I start gushing.  “Paige, this year has to be different for me. My parents just divorced and I have no one.  I’ve tried this Christianity thing every year for the past 7 years and I just don’t know how to be a Christian in a world where no one around me is seeking the Lord. When I leave here, I try holding onto the feeling, the passion, the belief, as long as I can …. but it always fades, and then I am discouraged and become doubtful that the experience was real.   I feel like I just fail God over and over again – always choosing the wrong things. I just can’t leave here and be disappointed like I have been before. I can’t figure out what I believe and I’m not sure any of it makes sense.” My gushing stops and I wait for a response.

Innocently, Paige reacts to my outpouring doubts, “I think being a lukewarm Christian is worse than not being a Christian at all!”

And I have my answer….

I know Paige. Her words were never intended to lead me to a 15-year endurance race down the path of destruction. On the contrary,  I’m fairly certain she was trying to inspire me to push through the pain.

But because I believed I would never really be good enough, it seemed easier to choose to believe nothing at all. I struggled in my own sin, living a self-centered life that was all about me and my constantly changing needs and desires. I thought I was strong and independent, living selfishly, recklessly, and with no regard to consequences.  Sure, there were times when I would hit ‘the bottom’, and cry out to the Lord – but as soon as He rescued me, I would be on my way again – forgetting quickly that He had graciously answered me in my time of need

But when I became pregnant with my first child, I was weary from running the race.  I remembered that feeling I had waiting for the bus to take me to church.  Laughing and playing and praying with people that really loved God at Camp Winnataska.  I wanted what I knew existed, but had no idea how to reach.  I wanted God.

Fourteen years later, my own daughter is about the age I was when I rode that bus to church.  I’m sitting in the service at Shades – the very place where I first encountered the God I now know – amazed at how easily I was swayed by my friend’s words – and grateful that God slowly, carefully, meticulously melted my heart towards him and placed me back onto the path that he had chosen for me.

It is the middle of worship and I find myself deep in thought. I feel goosebumps rise on my flesh without warning when the worship music shifts from something new and familiar to something old and powerful. “It is well,” I find myself thinking, “How come this old hymn never seems to lose its impact on me?

As I stroke the long flowing hair of my now young daughter, who is leaning against me as we worship together with my son and husband, I have one of those rare and life-altering glimpses of God’s impact on my life – and on the lives of my children.

My mind flashes back to my 8-year-old self drawing crosses in the dirt, watching other families share their faith together.  I recall the words that changed the course of my life the first time …. lukewarm …. nothing at all.  The years of trying to do it my way.  And finally, I’m back in the moment.

“It is well with my soul.”

He has given me a life that is centered on Him; one that fulfills me in ways that the world couldn’t even begin to do.  He has blessed me with a new family – a church body that encourages me, teaches me, and holds me accountable.  He has replaced my broken family with a community that supports and loves me – even when things are difficult. And he is teaching me – and my family – what it means to stand on His word and His promises.  He is showing us what it means to walk by faith, and not by sight, and the journey is both amazing and beautiful.

My name… is Shae Wall.

Story: Shae Wall
Writer: Anna Lee
Reader: Anna Lee