You might have heard that Bible verse about peace surpassing understanding. But, can that actually happen? When you are in the midst of hardship in your life can peace really win the battle over worry? Steve knows firsthand the transformation that happens when you exchange worry for peace.
Steve Sunshine: I am naturally a worrier. I am not that super strong person who doesn’t worry about anything. I am good at worry. Somehow, I’ve managed not to worry or obsess a lot about this. I have about other things, but not a lot about this. And that’s got me wondering. You know, the expression, peace that passes, understanding… that it could be considered a cliche because people use it so freely. Peace that passes understanding. I think that’s really what this is. This is peace that passes understanding. I have a piece that I don’t get. I know it’s from God and I’m glad I’ve got it.
Narrator: We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. They are changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness, instead of harshness. There’s a new passion, a new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back to Life. A podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Steve Sunshine: My name is Steve Sunshine, and I co-host the morning show on SPIRIT 105.3, and for me, my faith journey began early when I was really young. I grew up as an agnostic in a Catholic family. We stopped going to church when I was eight but by the time I was a teenager, I had a pretty negative impression of Christians.
I guess it was just the vacuum of not really knowing them. I thought of judgmental, sour, no fun. The same kind of things that you hear people talk about all the time. Here’s the thing though, at the same time, I was convinced that these Christians were like that, I was also weirdly attracted to Christianity, to Jesus too. I wouldn’t have been able to put it in words exactly what it was I was attracted to because I would, I, it was like, it kind of haunted me. I would pray on and off occasionally before bed. I remember praying as a teenager and, and nobody knew about this. I wouldn’t tell anybody. I remember asking for God to forgive my sins.
I remember asking Him to show me who Jesus was. Is he who they said he is, is he, was he just a good teacher? Was he a historical figure? Was he a fictional figure? You know, what’s the deal with Jesus? And I, I asked him to show me, and he didn’t for a long time. Eventually he did. Of course, at one point in my early twenties, I even went to a random church occasionally, and would always have to talk myself into going.
Always was really glad I went and then have to talk myself into going again. And I bought a Bible at one point, I walked into a Christian bookstore. There’s an older lady behind the counter and I said, hi, I I’ve never owned a Bible and I’d like to buy one, what can you tell me? And so she was, she like jumped to it.
You don’t get this opportunity every day at a Christian bookstore. And she helped me out. But I, it never stuck. It just didn’t. Then in my mid-twenties, I had what ended up being kind of a rock bottom experience. I got engaged. Oh, I guess I blew how it’s going to end. Huh? I got engaged to a girl, happened to be Jewish, and she wanted a Jewish wedding. Rabbi told me that he could do the wedding. I didn’t have to convert, but I couldn’t be an adherent to another religion if I wanted to be married in the synagogue. So, he said, so are you and I, and he was friendly about it, but as I was thinking about answering the question, I felt like something inside of me was saying, don’t, don’t say yes to this.
So, I said, yes. And meanwhile, our relationship around that time, and I’m not connecting these, that exact event to this, but our relationship was coming apart. We had several red flags that probably should have ended. It said it’s been fun, but this isn’t going to work. There are a bunch of reasons I could pile on top for you. The one that really got us was eight days before the wedding, she attempted to take her own life. Now, thankfully she did recover what she took wasn’t that strong. She was never in any serious physical danger and thankful for that. But that was the end of the engagement obviously. I went into kind of a tailspin New Year’s Eve, that same year was the anniversary of us getting engaged. And I remember being at a hotel at our, with a radio station, a secular radio station I was working for at the time, we were having a big event. It was like an oldies concert, I think. And the, the station management decided it would be a good idea, because these were a bunch of disk jockeys to get everybody a room, so they didn’t have to worry about anybody driving home. So, I guess I’m glad for that. That was wise. I saw the anniversary of that engagement as a good excuse to drink too much. And as I walked back into, toward my room at the end of the night, and there were a bunch of teenagers from a youth conference, I had seen them before they’re sitting out in the hallway still there.
I remember noticing how they’re still there, kind of hanging out, talking, and I walked past them, and I went inside and promptly got sick. The next morning, there was a knock at my door, and somebody said, excuse me, it’s the hotel management. Are you all right? We got an inquiry about your health. Those kids. Those judgmental sour Christians checked on me. How dare they? I never forgot that.
A few years later my career took me to a new state. Moved to Michigan where I met my wife, Gaye. We didn’t know she was my wife yet. We were friends for a long time before we ever even considered dating. We set each other up with our friends. We were Harry and Sally, because everybody thought we were going to be a couple except us.
We did date. And she started going back to her pastor because I was asking her all these faith questions. And so he was, he was helping her out. Well, maybe you should say this. And in the middle of all that, I get transferred to another radio station, a state over in Wisconsin. We weren’t sure how seriously we’re taking a relationship yet.
We hadn’t really gotten to that point. But I knew for some reason that when I got there, I was going to try to find a church. And so, I visited a few. It was good, but, but I started to lose interest over time again. And people tried to be nice. I mean, there was one church where they came to my house and brought me a loaf.
I didn’t know what to do with that. But the next Sunday I almost didn’t go. Last, the last minute, I checked to see if I could find a church service. I could still make it to in the yellow pages, and there was one sitting there and I thought that’s not far from here, from where my apartment was. I, I could get to that.
All right. All right, I’ll go. So, I went, and it was like, God turned on the lights. It was not, not a Thunderbolt, exactly, but it was like all of the, what they were saying in church started to make sense to me. And I realized that some of them, some of the things that they were teaching, I already believed in some of the things I needed to work on.
And some of the things were surprising and some of the things weren’t, but I began to see the gospel, including all the rules in the Bible, all the do’s and don’ts as being part of a larger, under the umbrella of a love story. One by one, my objections began to fall away, and I did come to know Jesus. I think it’s really easy to think, when you read the Bible kind of a surface level, you see a lot of you shall thou shall not do this, or don’t do that. And it’s easy to see why somebody would get the impression, and I did, I certainly did, that it’s all about performance and why can’t, you know, being good enough. And, you know, we talk about that all the time. How it’s, it’s not really about that. It’s about God’s grace. But that’s not necessarily the most obvious place a beginner is going to go with this. And when they just kind of hear the headlines of what’s in the Bible and all of that. So, I think the way he peeled back the layers and showed that it’s not random. God didn’t create order for the sake of order. He, he did it because he knew this was the way he could be in relationship with us. And that was his desire. It was motivated by being in a relationship with us. I don’t think I ever knew that. That the reason for God doing everything he does with us is that so he, we can, we can be with him and he can be with us. Gaye, moved to Wisconsin. Later, we got married.
Fast forward a couple of, maybe a year or so after we’d been, we’d been married. I was at home by myself, and I was thinking about that conversation with the rabbi those years earlier. I had said, I didn’t believe in any other religion, even though there was a voice inside telling me not to. And I just kept praying Jesus, I’m so sorry. I did that. I’m so sorry. I did that. So, Gaye comes home and says, doesn’t even know obviously what I’ve been thinking about, and she says, I was just listening to the radio on the way home, and I just heard my favorite stories from the Bible, about how Jesus forgave Peter, after Peter denied him. And I just thought, wow, this is a real God.
This is real. And it was just a really important touchstone for me. Well, we had one awesome daughter, named Camille. And we’d always wanted to have more than one, but it wasn’t happening. And we started thinking about adoption, and this is where my faith was tested in terms of, if I ask you to do something, that’s not that easy, or little scary has a lot of unknown to it, will you do it? I started thinking about, and we started thinking about adoption at a Steven Curtis Chapman concert, when he was beginning his adoption journey with his first daughter from China. We looked into domestic adoption; some doors closed. I had taken a couple of mission trips that got me really thinking about the differences in the way people live in other parts of the world.
And so, we started thinking about international adoption. And began just trying to see where, where we could find some information. We talked to a neighbor from Vietnam who had some thoughts, and then we found out that that wasn’t was not going to work. That door was closed. We, we were pretty sure we wanted to adopt a girl because we’re a girl house.
At this point, you can pass clothes down and just seem to make. So, we started looking at adoption agencies and we saw that you can get adopted an older child. You don’t, you know, it’s not just necessarily an infant and they, they had little profiles and you could learn things about the children. So, we looked at that for a while and my wife was praying about this whole thing, and she based on something she learned in it, we both learned in this Bible study, she was praying about, is there anything of what we’re trying to do here, God, that’s not really from your, of your will. Is there something that’s of our own desires? And she thought of the age of the child, and she thought of the sex. And as soon as she thought of this, the gender she saw a little boy’s face in her, in her mind. And it was one of the kids we saw on the profiles. It was, it turned out to be Meyer from Haiti. She showed it to Camille, because I was at work, and she showed it to Camille who was six years old, what would you think if we adopted a brother instead of a sister and she said, I think that’s a great idea. We need more boys around here. So, we thought we’d get the two boys are disgusting or something like that. We didn’t have the money. God supplied what we needed. If that sounds like a cliche, I’m sorry. But he did. He started with the very beginning. We had like nothing, we had nothing saved for this. And Gaye had some, her mom had passed away, she inherited some land and it’s sold, and it’s sold for the amount of money we needed to get started.
Then somebody would surprise us with a, with a gift. Or we had a grant that we applied for come through what, right when we were thinking this isn’t going to work. And he just kept coming through. And we had everything we needed, and we didn’t, we didn’t skip a meal or anything like that.
Then the time came to go to, to Haiti. We all went. Gaye who actually had gone on an earlier, by herself to tip, finalize a visa, and me and Camille, who is nine by this time. We had had one warning. They said, when you get to the airport, when you’re leaving, keep your paperwork with you. Somebody could pretend to be an official with the government and then take your paperwork and hold it for ransom.
And we’re like, while you’re trying to get your kid out of the country that’s not good. So we, we were very much on guard for that. We spent, but we spent five days first near the orphanage, getting to know Meyer and getting him, helping him get comfortable with us. And we get back to the airport and sure enough, there’s a woman running after us saying, “Monsieur, monsieur! I need your papers.” And I started arguing with her, and I’m thinking, am I going to end up in Haitian jail at this point, which I did not want. Camille had Meyer’s hand really tightly clenched in hers. And Gaye was praying from Isaiah, they will carry your little sons back in their arms. They will bring your daughters back on their shoulders. And the, the immigration guy who at first didn’t know what to do, look me in the eye and said, sir, I promise you’re not going to lose your paperwork. He must’ve known what we were thinking.
Well, it turned out this woman was legitimate. The other thing that happens in Haiti is that the rules change a lot. So, the rules had changed, and the agency didn’t know yet. We were got to be the ones to tell them about that rule change, that there was another check, and everybody was fine with us being, even being suspicious. They didn’t seem to mind that. And Meyer came home and has enriched our lives. So, I’ve had the privilege of being in Christian radio now for since 2001. So over 20 years, I’ve had the chance to, to share my faith. To use the faith that, that God has grown in me in, in conjunction with the profession that I, that I was already in. And that’s just really cool.
One of the toughest things to to talk about over those years was when I was diagnosed about three or four years ago with Parkinson’s disease. Early onset. I had, it started to have some weird symptoms. I remember thinking it was carpet, carpal tunnel or something like that. And I realized that actually not someone even with carpal tunnel is, but I was having a hard time moving my fingers on my right hand. Typing became really hard. My, my, my wife noticed that I dragged my foot when I walked. My, somebody had noticed that my face looked uneven. So I went in to the doctor and they tested me, MRI, cat scans, all that other stuff and found no tumor. No evidence of a stroke. Those are the first two things we were worried about. But then later a neurologist saw me and diagnosed me with Parkinson’s disease. So the hardest thing about that, harder than really hearing the news was going home to tell Gaye, my wife. I knew like, how am I going to say this? How am I going to say this?
And I get all the way home and she’s waiting for me at the front door because she knows that normally what I do is I’ll call on the way home and say, Hey, everything’s fine. Do you want me to pick up anything at the store? So, I said, let’s just go inside. And then I told her, and obviously she was very upset. But she said to me, she would be with me no matter what. And that meant a lot. Meyer, our son is a teenager by this time, he was very quiet as he tends to be with anything that’s potentially emotional. Camille, our daughter was in college at the time, so we had to call her, and she just said, this doesn’t mean we’re going to lose you before we thought, sooner than we thought, does it? And we were able to say, no, doesn’t, doesn’t seem to mean that, but you know, it could mean some other things. And so we we’ve just kind of dealt with it.
There’ve been some interesting, kind of cool things that are available, like an exercise circuit class for people with early onset. Parkinson’s which, by the way, I mean, if you see somebody like me, you may not notice anything really. It’s not, it’s not severe yet. It, it could very well become that way. But I was, I was very glad to meet different people who’ve experienced the same thing. But I couldn’t help this feeling that I was joining a club, no matter how nice of a club that it was that I really didn’t want to be in. I am in a clinical trial right now. And the good news is I’m typing again. That’s kind of crazy that that that actually worked, but Hey, this stuff works.
The thing that’s remarkable about the way this is going in terms of the way I’ve been able to deal with it is that I am naturally a worrier. I am not that super strong person who doesn’t worry about anything. I am good at worry. Somehow, I’ve managed not to worry or obsess a lot about this. I have about other things, but not a lot about this. And that’s got me wondering, you know, the, the expression, peace that passes understanding. That, that could be considered a cliche because people use it so freely. Peace that passes understanding.
I think that’s really what this is. This is peace that passes understanding. I have a peace that I don’t get. I know it’s from God, and I’m glad I’ve got it. Camille will be the one more likely to wear her emotions on her sleeve. And I think she’s following, has followed my lead on that or our lead on that. Meyer tends to keep things inside, so I don’t know for certain, but he seems to be taking it more or less in stride. Once in a while, he’ll say something that, or show some care for me. Cause one of the symptoms is that you can fall down, either lose your balance easier. And so, if you trip over something that word normally you would have just stumbled and caught yourself. Sometimes you don’t catch yourself and you just fall down, and you feel kind of silly. He has caught me once or twice, when I was about to fall. So, I think he’s more attentive in that way. Like physically attentive. I think that’s you know, being an athlete and everything, that’s the way he tends to think of things.
And so that’s been really cool. Gaye, I just think she’s been strong. We try not to dwell on it. And most days you don’t really have to. This is all about, a CS Lewis talks about putting things, right again. You know, where he’s moving everything toward the day, when all things will be made right. And, and he’s inviting us into that.
And you know, we obviously you have to accept the invitation, but it’s there. God loves you so much that he’s willing to track you down to have a relationship with you. He’s willing to do what it takes to provide for you in that relationship through good times and through bad times,
Narrator: We are telling these stories of transformation so you can know and understand the power of Jesus in your own life. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus and how he can bring you back to life, visit us at onpurposely.com/whoisJesus. You can follow brought back to life on apple podcasts, I heart radio or wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks for listening to Brought Back to Life from Purposely.