Today I’d like to introduce you to the talented woman in this photograph, Linda Shew Wolf. Linda is a wonderful writer, and she’s also extremely intelligent and exceptionally caring. Over this past year, it has been my delight to get to know her. I’ve enjoyed our conversations, and I’ve come to respect her deeply not only as a person, but also as a sister in Christ. It’s my absolute honor to have this gifted woman on my blog today!
Danele: Linda, I’m so glad to have the chance to interview you!
Linda: Thanks so much, Danele. I’m honored to be featured on your blog. I have admired your blog entries, especially the way you dive in deep on spiritual issues. You have quite an amazing story to tell!
Danele: Thank you, Linda. That means a lot to me! I believe that each of us has something wonderful to share, and I’m eager to learn more about you. Can you describe a time when you dramatically felt the presence of God?
Linda: Sure! I grew up in a Unitarian home in a very liberal community in upstate NY in the 60s. There you have three strikes already against anything that could be labeled evangelical or born-again. In fact, I didn’t even hear those terms until I was much older, in my early 30s and already married with one small child. Through a seemingly random sequence of events (the miscarriage of our second child followed by overworking through my grief followed by a very serious case of pneumonia), I found myself out of answers. Nothing I had relied upon before to explain the meaning of life and of love held me up when I hit bottom. When I finally began to grow stronger and gain my physical health back, I remained emotionally and spiritually bankrupt. It was difficult to go on but I did it, mechanically, for the sake of my husband and little son. The love and hope I had felt before all that loss and illness seemed to have faded to nothingness. The whole world inside my head was an unending desert with only a gray sky over it like a low ceiling.
Danele: Oh, Linda, I’m so sorry! That must’ve been very hard!
Linda: Thankfully, my dear sister Nancy had discovered God in a big way just before all my calamities took place. She had been telling me about the unconditional love of God through his Son but I didn’t buy it. Not one bit. I was afraid she had been sucked up into some kind of cult because this message was so foreign to me. Even more foreign was her unflagging certainty that what she had found was the one and only answer to life’s questions. That is completely contrary to Unitarian teachings of embracing and respecting all beliefs and cultures, of maintaining a completely open mind to all philosophies and scientific discoveries.
Danele: I’ll bet it was quite a mind-bender!
Linda: Yes, but with nothing left to hold onto for strength, I decided to put these claims of Nancy’s to the test. I was almost positive that the route she had taken was not for me, but something about her fervent certainty had captured my interest, and I needed to be absolutely sure there was nothing to this God business for me. I had always been a skeptic, and though I suspected there was some sort of giant intelligence behind the workings of the universe, I felt that belief in the God of the Bible was too limited an explanation.
Danele: So what ended up happening?
Linda: Against my better judgment and completely contrary to my personal wiring, I asked if her pastor would baptize me. This was a huge move for me, and I approached it with the zeal of a scientist bent on disproving something. I decided that if this God she believed in so strongly was real at all, the act of submitting to full immersion and asking for this uncanny thing she called the Holy Spirit would either happen in all its unexplainable glory, or it would fall as flat as I expected it to. Boom, into the cold water I went with the pastor calling upon the name of Jesus to save me. And up I came, soaking wet and the exact same person I was before.
Danele: I have a feeling that’s not the end of the story—am I right?
Linda: You are, but since no angels had started a heavenly chorus around me and no lights had shone down through the ceiling upon me, I figured this experiment was over. Satisfied but strangely saddened, I got dressed. Then Nancy informed me that I hadn’t quite finished the process because I had not come to the altar to pray for the Holy Spirit. I sighed. Why not? I had already humbled myself so much further than I thought possible. Why shouldn’t I finish the experiment and suffer even more indignities? At least that way, I could put the whole shebang completely to rest.
Danele: You’re a woman after my own heart. You figured you’d go the whole nine yards before giving up. I can understand that. So what happened?
Linda: There I was, miserable and confused on my knees at the front of a tiny little church in upstate New York. Women from the church milled about or huddled in small groups praying and talking in hushed tones. Someone was playing a quiet organ in the background. Right behind me knelt Nancy, her hand lightly on my back as she prayed with me. Only I wasn’t praying. I didn’t know how. Someone came by and, taking pity on my misery, suggested I just say Hallelujah. Okay, I tried that, but with zero gusto. How many more painful minutes would I have to invest before I could turn and apologize to my sister? Sorry, but this just isn’t for me. Then something odd happened. I had my eyes squinched tightly shut because the last thing I wanted was any eye contact. I felt like the lowliest worm on the planet. Two women nearby were talking and I realized they were talking about me. One said, “Do you think she’s close?” I held my breath. Oh, if they only knew how far away I was from anything they were experiencing. Then came the astounding answer–“Oh yes. I’m sure of it.” I was incredulous. How could she sound so confident and happy when I just wanted to curl up and die? But something about that response became a pivot point in my soul. I found that I was happy for her, for all of them, for the faith they had. With a flood of sad relief, I was glad that they could be in such a place in their souls, even though I couldn’t approach it. With the warmth of that relief, I gave up myself, my rights, my hopes, my worth, and I accepted that I was indeed nothing. Something about that shift seemed so right. Before I had a chance to do anything else about it, though, reality itself seemed to shift. I knew that I wasn’t hallucinating, but something was happening now that was unlike anything I had ever experienced.
Danele: Please tell me more!
Linda: It was as if a warm, inviting fog spread out before me and I was walking through it. I knew that I would not be able to see where I was going, and it was clear that I was being given a choice. I could walk ahead to whatever was waiting or I could go back to the endless desert and gray sky I knew. The air seemed charged with invitation and purpose. I knew what I wanted. Without hesitation, I moved forward into the fog. Instead of falling off a cliff as I expected, I had the sensation of falling up, as impossible as that sounds. I was immediately standing on a high, green plateau above all the world, a 360-degree panorama of earth and sky, mountains and oceans all around me. It was dizzying and glorious. As I stood there, awestruck, I heard a woman’s voice behind me. It was both singing and sobbing, almost painful to listen to, and it was a language I did not know. However, the message of the song was beautiful and somehow, I understood it perfectly. Just as I was beginning to latch on to the words, all about the depth of love and sorrow in this life and a promise of the great joy of being one with each other, I was just as suddenly right back in that tiny church. Only this time, I wasn’t huddling on my knees. I was raised up high on my toes, my arms spread high over my head, looking up, and I was laughing and crying and singing all at the same time…And that woman’s voice, in that other language? That was me. I knew then, even though I didn’t know a single word of the Bible yet, that I had found God beyond all possible doubts.
Danele: Wow, that’s so amazing! Thank you so much for sharing that powerful experience with us! God is truly awesome, isn’t He!
Linda: Yes, He is.
Danele: Now, Linda, I’d love for you to share the back cover blurb and a purchasing link for your book, A Firefly Life.
Linda: It’s 1968 and Melanie is turning thirteen. It seems like everyone is growing up faster than she is, but that doesn’t stop her from being an incurable romantic. When a gorgeous new boy shows up in her boring, small town, she’ll do anything to be noticed by him. When an unexpected sequence of events lands her the job of trusted babysitter for his unusual little sister, Melanie is thrilled to be admitted to his inner circle. But then she has to figure out what really matters—a chance to be around him or staying true to her family and her best friend. Read this dramatic coming-of-age story and be immersed in a time of turmoil and change in the heart of one memorable young girl. http://www.amazon.com/Firefly-Life-Linda-Shew-Wolf/dp/1515356906/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446356637&sr=8-1&keywords=a+firefly+life
Danele: Linda, it’s been such a pleasure talking with you! I’ve enjoyed it more than you know!
Linda: Danele, I really appreciate your big heart and your thought-provoking questions. Thank you for having me as your guest!
Friends, Linda Shew Wolf is such an amazing person! If you would like to learn more about her or her books, please follow the links below. I hope you have a wonderful day!