Gunnar’s name means warrior but he spent his life as a worrier. He was lost. He needed constant approval. He never felt like enough. When he found himself in the ER on a course to destruction he finally faced the truth that he was not living the life God wanted for him. His surrender changed everything.
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Gunnar Simonsen: Sure. I regret a lot about my life, but the gift in it, through Christ the Redeemer, is that I’m the person I am now because of it. It’s given me the lens of appreciation that he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And that all these things could actually also include my everything in between.
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.
Gunnar Simonsen: To be washed over, to be made clean, to be shaped and new, to be known by hope, to be held by you. These were the words that I had written in my journal on October 11th, 2017, as I stood on the shore of Moton falls in Southwest Washington, mesmerized by the Lewis river, as it raced by had crashed up against the rocks that were lining the river bed. The impact caused this sort of mist to fill the air. You would’ve thought that it was actually raining down from the sky, but it wasn’t. It was late afternoon and getting dark, and it was here in that moment where my long-held head knowledge of Christ took the 18 inch journey to my heart. All along, I thought my head knowledge was actually heart knowledge.
I should have known because all along, I was still trying to earn it. I remember standing there and feeling the weight of my world, my life, my choices, my hurts, my pains, my sorrows, my guilt, my shame, my sins, my regrets, and everything in between, as it became too much to bear. For most of my life, all I knew how to do was fight.
This is what a relationship with the law looks like instead of one with Jesus. I’m beginning to see that now. I cried out to God on that day. I couldn’t do it anymore. I was surrendered. I gave up the fight. I let go. My wheels were off. I couldn’t carry that weight anymore. I was 47 years old and had spent most of my life living as someone I was never meant to be.
My name is Gunnar. It means warrior, but for years, I was a worrier. Just one letter changed the trajectory of my life. For many like me, like one letter, just one hurt is all it takes to hijack our identity and replace it with something close enough. After 47 years of living as such, close enough had led me to a place where I was absolutely lost.
I worried about everything. I worried mostly about what others thought about me. I needed constant approval. I feared rejection and abandonment, leaving what approval or affirmations I received as never enough. I mortified now at how that must have impacted others around me, or those closest to me. Though I was fortunate to have somehow found myself in incredible places and to have been able to do unique and incredible things for my work, things like running multiple businesses and leading them with a team around me to profitability. To traveling the world, speaking to audiences, and consulting various thought leaders yet, sadly for them too, that was never enough.
Or simply put, I never actually felt that I was good enough. I was never confident or content in who I was. Always fearing rejection, I let myself limiting beliefs, skew the work I was doing back towards me needing affirmation. That same goes with my relationships. It was always transactional, and I didn’t even know it.
It was like a blind spot that had me walking around, wearing jeans with a hole in the pocket. Every hill I ever climbed was one to die on, always seeking to prove myself. I thought I knew God and to know God, so I thought, was to earn that, which was already gifted to me. I thought perfection was the way to his heart and how I could prove myself to him, therefore earning his approval.
Impossible as it was, I kept striving. I kept worrying that it was never enough. I was a worrier living in a Warrior’s body, but for what? If the body keeps the score, my years of worry in time would take the lead. A couple of months before that moment of surrender on the shores of Bolton Falls, on August 19th, 2017, I found myself in the emergency room. I was experiencing chest pains. After a few weeks of trying my best to push through, like my dad would have, and my brother, I finally went to urgent care to get checked out. Not long after the doctor on staff sent me directly to the ER. I’ll never forget the last words he spoke to me. He’s like literally standing like right in front of me. And he looked me right in the eyes and he said two words that struck deep: stress kills. When I arrived with the ER that day, my life was a wreck. But instead of admitting that I had become resigned, that how my life was, is just how my life was going to be.
I was a stress eater and was extremely overweight. My marriage was in shambles, and I was a mess from years of veering off course, doing everything I could to avoid rejection and abandonment, while also at the same time projecting this person, I was never meant to be. I was on life support, and I knew it.
This was my now or never, but when I left the ER that day something had changed in me. I suddenly had a resolve. The warning light had been on for years. I just never did anything about it. I kept thinking at some point I would, when I was ready, but you can outrun on the outside that what you’re battling on the inside. Immediately scheduling an appointment with my doctor, as well as a therapist, I went to work on my myself. It was around that time that I was also asked to host a small group table at church for a series called the heart of mercy. I didn’t want to do it. No way. Absolutely not. I didn’t feel worthy of doing it. My head’s knowledge was unraveling. The gig was up, but for some reason I did it anyway. I remember looking at the series timeline and what we’d be discussing when it hit me. I knew right then and there, why I was in the place I was. I knew that by the time the series was over, that I would have to step back into my past and face my greatest hurt.
It was around the fifth week of what I remember was a seven-week series, when I found myself on a call with the person that had caused said hurt. After weeks of talking about a heart of mercy, just a few months removed from the emergency room for my heart, it was on that phone call that I uttered three words that would change my life. I forgive you. With that, it was like a Boulder the size of the moon was taken off my back. Weeks later on the shore of the Lewis river at Moton Falls, I too would hear those same three words. And for the first time in my life, receive them as they were meant, a gift.
My life hasn’t ever been the same since surrendering my heart to Jesus on that cold, late afternoon October. I got myself healthy and lost nearly a hundred pounds. Forgiveness has a way of doing that. I got myself outta debt. I found my identity in Christ and not in what others thought. I got to know God’s word and surrounded myself with some incredible men.
My relationship with my daughter blossomed as well. However, I did go through a divorce. Even in that God met me there. I would eventually meet this beautiful woman at church who glows the love of Christ with all her being, fall in love and get remarried. Life is still so new to me. I’m 52 now, and for the first time I’m experiencing what it’s like to love and to be loved.
I never could before. How could I? You can’t give what you don’t have. God’s love was always a free gift. Sure, I regret a lot about my life, but the gift in it, through Christ the Redeemer is that I’m the person I am now because of it. All of it. It’s given me the lens of appreciation that he causes all things to work together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. And that all these things could actually also include my everything in between? I got nothing. I have no words, but humbled. That he could take my mess and turn it into his message, blows me away. To him be all the glory for certain I haven’t arrived yet. I have a long way to go. I still have my struggles, doubts, and fears, but now I have this savior. His name is Jesus Christ. And, and check this out through all of this, this is what I learned. He never left me nor abandoned me. I’m humbled. You can’t script this. You can’t out script God. He loves this so much. A worrier no more in training. My name is Gunnar and because of Christ, I’ve been brought back to life.
Narrator: We’re 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.
And if you like Brought Back To Life, please give us a five-star rating and a review. You can follow Brought Back To Life podcasts on iHeart radio or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also just tell your smart speaker, play Brought Back To Life podcast. I’m Sam Kelly. Rebecca Beckett produced this episode. Our audio editor is Scott Karow. And thanks for listening to Brought Back To Life from Purposely.