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EPISODE 30: Achieved Success, but Looking for More - Sue Warnke's Story
Former skeptic Sue Warnke never thought belief in God was an option. Although she achieved business and personal success, something was still missing from her life. Her quest for meaning led her to reconsider the reality of God and Jesus Christ.
- Sue Warnke's blog - www.leanership.org
- Sue's recommended article for skeptics - "Five Steps to God" (by Sue on her blog)
- Faithforce is the Interfaith employee resource group at Salesforce
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
Hello and thanks for joining in.
I’m Jana Harmon and you’re listening to the Side B Podcast where we ‘see how skeptics flip the record of their lives’
Each podcast we listen to someone who has once been a skeptic but who unexpectedly became a Christian, to learn from their perspectives both as someone who resisted God and then as someone who not only found God but is also follower of Jesus.
Achievement and success often drive us. Unmoored to God, skeptics are often believe they can take life by storm and find its fullness and fulfillment on their own. There’s no need for God. As poet William Ernest Henley penned, I am ‘the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Sometimes after reaching the summit of personal or professional success, and the best of what the world has to offer, we’re often left with a sense of emptiness after the temporary glory recedes, wondering is this all there is?
In my research with former atheists, While many reported a positive sense of satisfaction within atheism prior to conversion, slightly more than half (27/50; 54.0%) (Q15) ‘did not find Atheism to be generally satisfying but soberly accepted it as truth.’
This begs the question, are they willing to ask the deeper question - is this all that life has to offer? It is in this moment of existential reflection, a decision is made to keep on or to search for something different, something more. Someone may become open to that which was completely walled off before, or not.
That is part of our story today. Sue found the height of success in Silicon Valley and a wonderful family life, but somehow it didn’t ultimately satisfy her soul. It set her on a journey of searching for something more.
I hope you join in to hear her whole story – not only what informed her skepticism, but what allowed her to reconsider what he once thought so irrelevant. This should be interesting!
Welcome to the podcast, Sue. it's so great to have you here today.
Thank you. It's great to be here.
As we're getting started, so the listeners know a little bit about you, why don't you tell me a bit about who you are, where you live, perhaps what you do?
Yeah, so I live here in northern California, a little town called Pacifica, on the beach. I have a wonderful husband who surfs, which is why we're out here by the beach, and three teenagers. One is a sophomore in college, the other is a senior in high school, and then the other is a sophomore in high school. I work at Sales Force. I'm a senior director of content experience, so basically documentation and videos. And I kind of grew up in Utah and Colorado.
Wonderful. So you grew up, in, you said Utah and Colorado. Let's start back there. Tell me a little bit about your childhood. Also, not only where you grew up, but your family, your community, your friends. Was there any sense of God or religion in your growing up years?
So I grew up in a town called Layton, Utah, which at the time was 95% LDS, Latter Day Saints, or also known as Mormon. And we were not that. My parents were Christian, and at the time, I have this vague memory of going to a children's church meeting, but we kind of walked away from that. They had a falling out with that church pretty early on, so I have a vague memory, but then we were pretty much agnostic. Tried a few different churches throughout that time, but the key was that we were not LDS in this very LDS environment.
So the impact of that is two things: One is that I was an outsider. I really couldn't do all of the events with all the other kids. They would talk about things like their Ward, and I just wasn't part of that. And then also my family and myself in particular was the target of evangelism. Pretty hard core evangelism. Pretty interesting attempts at evangelism. It felt at times like the whole town wanted to convert my family.
So I developed this huge wall against religion of all types and just decided that was not for me. I wanted nothing to do with it. If that was the impact of it, of making me feel like an outsider and making me feel pressured, then I didn't want anything to do with it, and I kind of developed this... I was pretty much anti religious, I would say. I mean I was that friend in college that was sending articles disproving this and that to my friends of faith and having deep, long discussions about how illogical it was and irrational it was, and I really felt like I didn't need that in my life.
So these walls that you built towards religion, that persisted, it sounds like, all through your childhood. Even when your parents were nominally Christian or whatever, there was no faith on your part. There was no real belief on your part. And then you just became averse to any sort of religion. I can't imagine feeling like such an outsider in a such a religiously dominated world of which you were not a part and they were aggressively pursuing you. What that must have felt like. I mean if you resisted it to a point of antipathy. You wanted nothing to do with it. What would that feel that? I guess that informed your understanding of who God must be, right?
Yeah. And I definitely don't want to demonize that environment, because they were also incredibly loving. I mean one of the kindest environments you can ever imagine is just about anywhere in Utah. So I look back very fondly and have many friends who are LDS, back then and now. So definitely not in any way trying to paint it in too negative of a light. But there were a few moments. I know once I got invited to what I thought was just a snowmobiling weekend with some friends, and it turned out that it was that, but it was also a chance to sort of get me a little bit isolated, and both the kids and parents kind of surrounding me in an attempt to convert me. So it was quite odd and pretty traumatizing. I think I was maybe 10. So yeah, I built that wall, and then the repeated attempts of my mom to get me to go to church, and I found it so boring. My sister and I would just write notes about how horrible it was to each other. I really did think this was just irrational and quite unpleasant.
So obviously it wasn't worthy of belief and not logical, rational. So what did you think belief in God and Christianity was for? Whether it was protestant Christianity or LDS? What did you think religion was if it wasn't true for you?
I just thought it was a crutch. I thought, "Well, that's nice for you, that you need that little pick-me-up to keep you going, and you can pretend that there's something bigger than this world. And then I also thought it was just superstition. I had a friend who wasn't really very Christian, but she would say things, "I just felt something. I felt a presence," or, "Sometimes I feel like somebody's here," and I would just kind of internally laugh. I mean, there was a lot of arrogance in me all these years, like, "Okay, you can go on and think that." I wouldn't call myself an atheist. I wouldn't say I said there's no God. I just would simply say, "Nobody knows. Nobody knows. It doesn't really impact my life terribly. I'm going to focus on driving my own future."
Just the captain of your own ship?
So it sounds like you did encounter some people who were Christians growing up. It just didn't sound like something you wanted to be a part of.
Yeah. In fact, my parents... Because the public school was so heavily LDS, they pulled me out, and they put me in a Catholic school for high school.
And that also was pretty negative experience. I remember we had to take religion class, and it was led by a priest, and we were supposed to journal about what we were learning about, and in my journal, I would ask questions, like, "I'm not so sure about this," and, "I wonder about that," and I'll never forget, when he was returning our journals. It was kind of a U-shaped classroom, maybe about twenty students, and he threw mine across the tables, and he said, "See me after class." And I was terrified. And I was very much a people pleaser, so that was really shocking. And embarrassing. And afterwards, he said, "Don't ever question my authority." So I was quite, in some ways, traumatized by Catholicism and by the more Christian angle of things as well. Had very few positive experiences related to that.
So that makes sense to me, so that when you actually went to university, it was something that you wanted to fight against, or you said argue with or-
... or whatnot. That it was not something that was even an option for you.
Oh, absolutely not an option, and I was quite angry about it and wanted to debate and sort of fight the whole notion of it.
I'm curious. When you wanted to fight the whole notion of it and you ran into Christians in university, did anyone have any kind of rational, logical, evidential answer? Anything solid or substantive to come back against... Were you even open to listening what a Christian had to say?
I don't know that I was actually open, but I had wonderful examples of Christians in my life. I really did. I dated a man for three years who was devoutly Christian and tried so hard to get me to convert. Even had his father call me and try to convince me. And I worked with really amazing people as well. None of that really softened my heart. I mean, it just didn't penetrate at all. I didn't hate Christians, certainly, and I didn't think that these people were illogical, but I just felt like, "Well, that's fine that you need that." I accepted that, but it in no way got me to change my mind. Really nothing that they said.
So it was just a psychological crutch. Something for people to have a sense of belonging perhaps.
Or maybe they were just raised that way, and so of course they would think that way. So a little bit of maybe even brainwashing. We're all brainwashed in some way. We're all products of our environment, so of course they would be, too. So that was what I thought.
Okay. So that kind of perception of religion and Christianity and belief in God, how long did that persist? You said you went through college, and you started in the business world. I presume your agnosticism continued, and tell me about that part of your life, when you-
I mean, my entire career, my entire life, I was perfectly fine without God and really did not pursue it in any way, met my husband. We have three wonderful kids. And for Christmas, we thought, "Yeah, it'd be good to teach them about Jesus," just kind of informationally. This person existed and this is what people believe about him. Very lightly, you know? And then immediately taught them nobody really knows the truth, and so explore things as you wish. We didn't want to create a pushy environment for them, where they couldn't ask questions, and where there was only one right way, and that was really important to us. And I think we did raise kids that questioned and that hopefully don't feel pressured by us, but I never personally pursued religion in any way during that period, other than just saying, "Yeah, maybe. Who knows?" Not making a big deal of it.
Okay. And during that time, too, you were achieving quite a bit of success in your own personal or business career, weren't you?
Yeah. I have been very blessed. I put it that way now. As opposed to ‘I was doing so great.’ But I had wonderful parents that supported me, and I had the opportunity and privilege to get an education and a graduate education and have always worked hard, so that can get you pretty far. And I started a PhD program in English and then found there's no real market for that field, but luckily, you could translate that into tech, so I got a job in tech writing, which was really satisfying and very marketable. I did that for two different companies for about 14 years and then, after that, landed at Sales Force as a technical writer and then moved on to management, and that's kind of where I am. Now I lead multiple teams of writers and engineers documenting our products. So really satisfying, super exciting career journey. Very fulfilling. And on the side, wonderful husband and friends, so I wasn't feeling this huge gap. I wasn't hitting rock bottom. Things were pretty good.
So if things were going so well without God or any of that, any crutch, and you were achieving all of these wonderful things, and you had a terrific life and family and career, what caused you to stop and think or wonder or change course? What was going on?
Yeah. So I think I did have to hit rock bottom in some way, so while things were going well, at some point in my career, I started to just feel dissatisfied. I thought, "Okay, I have everything, and I mean literally in a tower." In San Francisco, we have these enormous Sales Force towers, and I'd be looking out, thinking, "I've got a great team, great family, great job. Why am dissatisfied? What is wrong?" And so I had kind of a void in my life, and I could not put my finger on it, and so I figured, "Well, it must be my job. Maybe I'm supposed to do something more meaningful."
So what is it that changed for you? If you had the good life, what is it that made you perhaps stop and think that maybe God is worth thinking about?
Well, I definitely never considered it. It really had to kind of push itself into my life pretty aggressively. So the way it all happened is I had this great life, but I was still starting to feel dissatisfied for some vague reason. I would look around and think, "I've got everything, so why am I feeling kind of dissatisfied?" And so I figured it must be my job. Maybe I'm supposed to something more meaningful than technical writing with my job. Maybe I'm supposed to make this big impact on the world or help people, you know? I had this desire for more meaning. And so I quit my job and pursued a new role that was kind of on the surface more meaningful. It was leadership development. Teaching managers across these Fortune 500 companies how to be ethical and humane and kind and follow best practices. And it was really exciting. I was traveling around the world making this impact. Managers would come up to me... One manager said, "This changed my life!" And I thought, "Wow! That's got to fill that void," you know? And I tried to push it in there, and it didn't fill the void.
And so that was really scary. Like, "This is not solving that need. Well, what is that need?" And then a couple of things happened that really made this kind of a high priority, this pursuit of meaning, and one is that this job was not what I thought it was. It wasn't just teaching. It was also selling these classes, and it turns out I'm terrible at sales, so I was just falling flat on my face. I'd never failed before, in life really, you know? A straight-A student and career progression. And that was shocking. I think I sold $7,000 out of a $700,000 quota. Like one percent, you know? Everything kept failing. I'd get close to a huge deal, and it would fall apart. So that was really devastating to my identity. Because I was a business success, you know? And that evaporated.
And then on the home front, so I have a son with special needs, and those needs were just starting to show themselves right about this time, and so health wise, all sorts of problems were happening with him, and we just were not able to find the help that we needed. Everything was like a shut door, so my identity as a businessperson and as a mother were collapsing. I was not a great mother, helping my ill child. I was not a great businessperson. So who was I? I was like nothing! And I was very depressed about that. I remember I was in a hotel room on one of these business trips, and I said, out loud—and I certainly did not think of it is a prayer, and I was not in any way intentionally talking to God, but I just said, "Wow! I give up. I don't know what to do!" like, "I cannot fix this." And I just had never said that before, had never said that out loud, and of course, now I see that as a prayer, as the white flag, and after is when God just came into my life in these really systematic ways.
Wow! Wow! So that was a major turn of events. So you were praying even though you really didn't know it was a prayer. It was that point of, I guess, laying whatever you held of yourself down and saying, "I can't do this anymore."
Some point of surrender, but you it wasn't real clear at that point, I'm sure, what you were surrendering to or to whom.
But things changed. So tell me about that.
Yeah! So very weird set of things started to happen right after that. I mean just immediately. I woke up the next day, and I flew home, and I remember I had this huge desire to listen to Christian music, which I had never wanted to listen to before.
In fact, I used to mock, and I used to say, "This is so cheesy," and I didn't even know how to find it, but I just went to Spotify. This urge was so great. And I typed God, and up came this really beautiful music. And I just found it enthralling. I mean I could not stop listening to this. It just was kind of filling me up in some strange way. I was kind of embarrassed. I didn't want my family to know. I would listen on headphones and things. So that was one.
And then shortly after that I was reading through some medical material for my son, and weirdly, in this medical article, there was a paragraph about God. And it didn't fit. And it was talking about how belief in God can be as healing or more healing than any kind of medication. And it was saying we are surrounded by a world created by God, and that was weirdly appealing and filling me up as well.
And what it made me do is picture somebody in my head from my past. Clear as day, I thought of my kids' old karate teacher, who I knew. He had invited me to church once. And I turned him down. But I remember I used to sit in the back of the karate studio and watch how he trained the kids. No matter how good or bad they were. No matter how old or young they were. Even the parents would take his class with him. He loved them. He loved them for who they were, and just was like this funnel of love in a way that I had never seen before, and he was who popped to mind, and I thought, "Oh, yeah! He invited me to church," and I somehow got the courage to text him. I had his number. And I said, "Long time no chat," and, "Can I go to church with you?" And he said no. No, I'm just kidding. Of course! And then that was a really kind of big moment for me.
I bet he was shocked.
Yeah. He was shocked.
Out of the blue!
Yeah. I didn't even tell my husband that I was going through all of this. It was all just kind of keeping it inside at this point.
So then you went to church with him. For the first time as an adult. Curious, I presume.
Yeah. I had taken my middle daughter had expressed curiosity once, and I had taken her to a couple of churches, I think. Just trying to allow her to question and everything. But yeah. For the first time on my own volition, I went to church, and it was this tiny little church in my town of Pacifica, and I walked in, and it was a pretty transformative experience.
And at the very end... And I remember crying. For some reason, I was in the back, crying, and at the very end, these two people went under this big cross, and they said, if anybody wants prayer, we'll be right here, and I was like, "Oh, my gosh." So something gave me the courage to go up to them. I'd never asked for prayer or been prayed over in my life, and I just said, "Can you pray for me?" And they put their arms around me and said this beautiful prayer, and I was crying, you know? And I just thought, "Wow! There is something real happening here." And that made a really big impression. I was very confused, but I kind of drove home in tears and dried my tears and just thought, "I don't really know what's going on here," but that was a big step.
That would be a big step. From someone who was rather agnostic and really resistant to God for so long, and then you surrendered in some way and became open, and then somehow He shows up. You feel, in a sense, a palpable reality that there is something more than you had thought before.
So I guess at that point you were very open to exploring whatever this was. Tell me about that.
So I was kind of sitting with all of this, and I was going on a business trip, another business trip, so while I was there, I was unpacking my things, and I got a text from this karate teacher. And I was still in the wrong job and still unable to fix the situation with my son's health, and this text said, "Sue, I pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal Himself to you today."
How did you feel about that? Did you understand that language? Did that seem kind of weird? I can't imagine.
You know, I did not understand it, but I felt it. I understood the feeling of it. I understood that this man took time out of his day to send me a prayer, to send me something quite bold. I mean it makes me almost want to tear up now. I sat on the bed just holding my phone, like holding this prayer, like this was just pure love in my hands, you know? Unsolicited love. And I will never forget that. How powerful that felt. Even though I didn't understand it. And so I sat there and just kind of meditated on it, and it was only about 30 minutes later I get a phone call, and I'm thinking, "Okay, what's this about?" And it's my Aunt Jean in Texas, who, of course, would not have had any contact with this karate teacher, and she sounded really nervous, and she said, "Sue, this is going to sound weird, but I'm supposed to call you right now, and I'm supposed to tell you about God."
And of course I thought, "Oh, my gosh!" I just got this text from the karate teacher almost preparing me for this call. I feel to my soul that God heard the karate teacher's prayer and really compelled my aunt to call me. Because we had never talked about religion before. I mean I knew she was a Christian, but I had no interest in it my whole life, so it was quite bold for her to call me, and I said, "What made you call me?" And she said, "Well, when Missy died..." Missy was her daughter who had died of an aneurysm long ago, and she said, "I felt the same urge to call her, this urge from God to call her, and I didn't, and I always regretted it, because that night... Maybe I could've called her before the aneurysm. Maybe I could have told her I loved her." And so she said, "I vowed that if I ever got that feeling again, I would obey it, and I had that feeling tonight. I'm supposed to call you. It's very powerful."
And she didn't preach and she didn't lecture. She just told me what it meant to have God in her life and to be able to pray. And she told me stories. She told me two to three stories of God showing up in her life and lifting burdens and transforming things, and it was so beautiful. I was absolutely in the presence of something. And I had a decision at the end of it. What am I going to do with this? Is this the wildest coincidence, or is it real? So I was at that moment as the call was ending.
Yeah, I would imagine you would... As she's speaking about God showing up in her life, I can't imagine that you wouldn't be thinking, "Is God showing up in my life right now?"
Yeah. It couldn't be coincidence. Thirty minutes from the text. And it had been years since she had felt that urge, and then it's all on you.
It would be hard not to think that, in C.S. Lewis's terms, the hounds of heaven are kind of focused on you at that moment and that you felt that in some way. How did you respond to this focused personal attention from God?
Well, I had to decide in my head, is this really God? Because that whole thirty minutes was really a decision point. Before, it was like, "Wow, this is weird." Now it's like, "Wow! I think God might very well be real," you know? "Oh, my God!" And I'll never forget that kind of decision, because it's like a door opening to a universe. It's like you realizing what you thought of as the universe was actually like a room, and opening the door and seeing there's an entire world out there. There's an entire existence. There's an entire way of thinking and living and being. There's a God. There is a God. There is God, the God! And all of that, I just couldn't deny it anymore. I couldn't deny what had happened, like physically. These things did happen. I have the text. I even snapshotted on my phone the time that Aunt Jean called. I wanted this evidence. These things happened. And I can't deny that. And then I can't deny how I feel, which is just what it felt like.
My mom passed away a long time ago. We were best friend. She had cancer. And it felt like I was being held by her. That's what it felt like, is being in the arms of someone that loves you more than anything else.
That's very profound, very powerful language you're using.
I decided I would verbalize that before we hung up, and I just said, "I believe you," which was a big step, actually really saying I believe in God. I think it's true. And we hung up.
And real. Yeah.
So that was a major turn for you. I imagine that your husband was a bit surprised. Your children were surprised. Tell me about that.
Yeah. Well, I'll tell kind of the next phase first, which was still I had to process all of that. So I remember after we kind of hung up, I fell to the floor really and just sobbed for, like, three hours, really thinking back on a whole life of taking credit for the blessings that I had been given, taking credit and knowing, like, the whole time God was there. The whole time He was doing it for me. And how unappreciative I felt. And how just really sorry I felt. And I remember trying to pray, and words wouldn't come out, and then finally, once I went through all of that, I realized what my prayer would be. My first real prayer to God was, "I'm sorry." And I could verbalize that. And it was like instant forgiveness. Instant load off my shoulders, instant euphoria, almost. And I texted the karate teacher back, and I said, "You're not going to be what just happened." And he said, "Praise God. Get a Bible and read John." So I found a Bible, and that kind of started this journey, and I went back home after that, and I stumbled back in this church, and I told the pastor and a couple of others, like, "How do you give your life to Jesus?" And he said, "Let's talk about it. Let's pray," and we just said a really messy prayer, and I feel like I had already converted in a way in the hotel room, but that was nice to verbalize and to say, "I give my life to Jesus, to following Jesus."
And so yeah, then how do I integrate that back into my life? I'm really careful about not talking about my family in public, just to protect their privacy, but I can just share real vaguely that definitely it was shocking to have your mom come home as a born-again Christian. I say that proudly. I'm a born-again Christian. Even though I know that carries a lot of negative connotation, and I would've never thought I would ever say that. That's pretty shocking to your family. But we had lots of really good conversations, and it turned out to be just a wonderful thing for all of us, and I now tell my story, like here, and they're very, very proud of me for all of this growth and change.
Yes, I would imagine so, and how wonderful to have that kind of support. Calling yourself a born-again Christian, that does carry with it a lot of preconceived notions and connotations.
I imagine, working in northern California, Silicon Valley. How is that received as a successful businesswoman in northern California in the business place, in the workplace. How is being a born-again Christian taken? I would imagine that would have challenges of its own.
Yeah. So that was an interesting part of all of this. I feel like it was only a few weeks after I converted, or maybe a few months, that I got an offer to come back to Sales Force, so I feel like that was a gift from God and that I was there and not just for myself, not just to make me happy, but to bring faith, to make it safe to have a faith in the workplace. And so I wasn't sure how to do that, but I was really clear that that was part of the reason I was coming back there, is to be a leader of this movement within the workplace, and so I was very scared. I didn't even want to wear my cross at first or tell people about it. I was really scared. I remember I started by wearing... it was like a flower cross, so it almost didn't look like a cross, you know? And I would wear it to one meeting, and I'd think, "Okay. Well, nothing bad happened. Nobody mocked me. Nobody yelled at me. Maybe I can wear it to two meetings," and then I'd eventually wear it all day, and then made it a real cross, and as I was testing the waters there, too, I also was searching for people that were professing anything related to faith, maybe like in their signature on their email. I noticed somebody had a Bible verse. And I noticed someone else had posted something about faith. And so I kind of found them, and we started a quick little Bible study, a prayer group, and it grew. It grew from two to five to now it's hundreds of people all around the world. Very quickly.
But then that wasn't the whole story. That's great, to have that and have a safe place to pray and talk about your faith in the workplace, and most companies are kind of growingly having things like that, but that wasn't still a kind of top-down initiative. So that's another thing I focused on is, "How do we have faith be recognized as a legitimate form of identity?" For some people, their faith is their number one identifier, over their gender or race or cultural background. And so what about those folks? When we say, "Can you bring your full, authentic self to work?" If that's your number one identifier, you should be able to. In fact, that should be celebrated. As long as you're not pushing it on others, you shouldn't have to hide it. In fact, that will lead you to probably leave if you can't express that side of you. So we worked with the leaders and formed Faith Force, which is an official employee resource group at Sales Force, and it's hugely popular.
That's fantastic. Very bold and I think innovative and really courageous in this moment. I like the way that you say that, is that identity. The [number marker?] typically in Christianity is that that's who you are and your primary identifier as a follower of Christ, and all of those other things are secondary to that.
In thinking about your story, thinking way back, when you criticized belief in God and Christianity as irrational and illogical, as a crutch, I can imagine the skeptic listening to your story and saying, "Oh, she just kind of had a powerful experience of God. She's now one of those who needs God as a crutch," and you're an intelligent woman and a thinker and very rational, so how did you fuse those two things together in terms of justification for the things that you believe?
Yeah. Well, I started studying in great depth, found some really trusted mentors to kind of help me through that, and what I found was good data. What I found was... Almost nobody describe that Jesus existed. Very few people deny that. Or deny that He was crucified. Nobody denies that He had followers, that He had these apostles that kind of spread His message all around the world. There's enough evidence of that that is historical, not necessarily written by other Christians. And we know that Christ got crucified, so obviously it was very risky to express this kind of belief in Jesus, and they did go into hiding after he was crucified. They went into hiding, were scared for their lives, and then something happened. When Christ resurrected. Something happened the size of a resurrection.
Nothing else can explain it that would lead to the entire world changing, that would lead to these apostles not only not hiding but risking their lives and most of them dying to tell people what happened. To tell them, "He came back to life! I saw it! That means what He said is true. That means He's the Son of God, the one and only Son of God. I saw it! I witnessed it. I experienced it. I experienced these miracles," and enough people back then professed that to their death that it changed the entire course of history, and they wouldn't have done that for a lie. They wouldn't have all universally said this lie that He came back to life if it wasn't true. There would be no benefit to them to do that. And so that, to me, is the sticking point here. Did He live? Yeah. Did He call himself God? Yeah. Did He come back to life after death? Well, it sure seems that that is true. And if that's true, then what He said was true, what He said about being the Son of God is true. And that's something we have to reconcile. That's something that we should think about. Well, what does that mean? If it's true, that changes everything.
Yeah. It sounds like you did due diligence to really look at the rational evidence for your belief. You knew that God was real, and you wanted to substantiate the truth of what you felt and experienced with God, and I appreciate that about you. It is almost mind, heart, and obviously your life coming together all at once. Now you said there was a moment where you had, it sounded like, everything the world had to offer, but yet, you were dissatisfied, that somehow all of your achievements and your success didn't fill up something in your soul. And I'm wondering, after belief, and you found God, has that sense of emptiness been filled? That sense of dissatisfaction moved to satisfaction or abundance. Did it make a difference?
Yeah. I mean absolutely it has, but I wouldn't say that it's a miracle cure-all, in the sense that life is still super hard. My son's medical concerns only got worse. They're very severe. And so every day we deal with that. And there's no clear solution. And it'll be a battle for the rest of his life. And yet I don't feel alone in that battle. So I take walks with my dog, and especially when there's a lot of unknowns, and I just feel like, "Okay." I pray every day, and I say, "Okay, I think this is what I own," and I listen. Like, "Is that what I own? Okay, that's what I own." And it's not God telling me, but it's a clear feeling, like, "Okay, this is what I'm supposed to do today. Please help me with that thing." Maybe it's an appointment with a doctor. That's what my focus is, and I do need to step forward into that. And then the reminder, "I've got the rest." And I'm like, "Yeah. You've got it, God. You carry the entire weight of this thing. You carry the future of my son, of me, of my entire family. You own it. You own all of it. And I'm going to do this one baby step today." And that's so much more manageable than thinking, "What am I going to do next week?" "What am I going to do next year?" "What if this happens to him?" "What about when I die? Who's going to take care of him?" I don't worry about all of that anymore. I honestly don't. Like, "God, what do I do today? That? Okay. I can do that." And it changes everything. I mean it is just like having just your best friend, your best parent, your best coach, just telling you, "I've got it. You do this. I do that." Teamwork, you know?
Especially, I'm thinking, looking at the world today, there's just so much fear.
And so much, I guess, sensed need for power, among many, wherever you go. And so what I hear you saying is that you really have a peace that you didn't have before and a sense of... really peace whether it's in this life or what's to come. And I would imagine that would inform everything about your life.
Yeah. It's very manageable. That's what I would say. Sort of no matter what happens, and I really mean that. I think the worst tragedy ever... I feel like I could manage it because I don't have to fix it. I don't have to lead it. And I don't have to carry it. I can carry my part. And it is a great sense of peace. And it takes work, too. I mean I have to carve out that time in the morning to look back, and I think God for what He's done for me the day before and acknowledge Him, and I go through the Lord's Prayer, and then I look at my day ahead, and I say, "What am I supposed to do today?" And it's usually one thing. And then I ask Him to help several people in my life, and He does, and I go into my day. And it is every single day like that. And it is now quite... Just peaceful.
Yeah, it sounds like it's driven by both peace and purpose.
And purposes that are not only in your world but beyond yourself and purposes for the world, especially with what you've done with regard to prayer and bringing forth faith in the workplace in such a substantive way. You're to be applauded for that. I think that takes immense boldness and courage, and you are obviously a woman who possesses those things.
So as we are coming to a close, I wondered if... Picture your former self. Just angry, just resistant at God, no need for God. Perhaps somebody is just the least bit curious, though, and you could be somehow that karate teacher in someone's life or just based upon your own journey, what would you tell a curious skeptic?
I would totally empathize with them first, because I think a lot of Christians, when they're trying to convert others or they're trying to persuade others, go about it so poorly. And that was my experience on the other side of things, so that's the last thing I would ever want to do is pressure somebody, so really just empathizing. At least my reasons, I get why to be skeptical. I think it's perfect legitimate. I'm surrounded by people who are legitimately skeptical. They're not crazy. You're not a heathen. You're not all these terrible words that I think you might be depicted as. It's awesome that you question. It's awesome that you push back. This is so great. That's what God wants of all of us, you know? And if you're ever interested, I'm here for you. That's what I would say. The worst thing you can do is pressure somebody.
Definitely from the perspective of the Christian who is trying to be the best follower of Jesus that you can be. Don't be ashamed of your faith. Own it. Wear it proudly in the sense of never show shame for being a follower of Jesus. He's a wonderful Person to follow and the Son of God and that's one thing. And the other thing is just be loving and encouraging, and at the right time, people will ask you questions. Don't be afraid to bring it up in the sense of, "What's your faith background?" "How did you grow up?" "What are your thoughts about faith?" And really listen and care but don't manipulate. Don't pressure. That isn't your role whatsoever, and it's not reflective of Jesus. So I would just tell the skeptic, "I totally get it, and that's awesome that you question."
Yeah. Because truth is not afraid of being questioned, right?
Yeah. Jesus can take it.
Yep, yep, absolutely. Is there anything else you want to add to your wonderful story before we end here, Sue? Any thoughts or anything you think that we've missed?
I would end with Revelation. One of my favorite passages in there, "Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anybody opens the door, I will come in and dine with you, and you with me." So I just want the whole world to know that scripture, that God is waiting. He's been there the whole time. He'll be there the whole time, and He will come in as soon as you open the door, as soon as you say, "Okay, I give up. I actually can't solve this whole life thing on my own. I don't know, but I guess I need God. I guess I'm open to God." Then He will come in. He will come in, and he will be there with you forever. So that's my wish.
Well, you are certainly a living, embodied testimony of that verse coming to life. And I'm so grateful to you, Sue, for telling your story. It is a beautiful story, an amazing character arc, you know? Moving from complete disbelief to just an amazingly beautiful ambassador for belief in God and Jesus and Christianity and the life that it can bring you. And I also appreciate your honesty with all of that. It's not all roses. It is a journey. It's a daily struggle. But just like you said, there is someone who's greater who's in control who loves you, who is with you and for you and has purposes for you, and in Him you have peace.
So with that, again, thank you, Sue, so much for joining me today.
All right. Here we go. I'm going to-
Thanks for tuning into the Side B Podcast to hear Sue’s story. You can find out more about her, her blog, her work with Faith Force at her website: www.leanership.org. I’ll include this along with some of her recommended resources in the episode notes.
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In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to seeing you next time where we’ll be see how another skeptic flips the record of their life.