100 MILE-AN-HOUR SALVATION
(The Al Walma Story)
By: Al and Gerry Walma
I was brought up as a preacher’s kid. We moved every three or four years. As a child, my relationship with other kids was very short term. The churches that my dad pastored were very often quite difficult. He felt called of the Lord to pastor troubled churches, so he knew there was troube waiting when he took a call.
I have three brothers. One was born in Texas - two in North Dakota.
Everytime the church doors were open, dad had the family go. Whether it was a prayer meeting or Sunday school … every church service all the family had to be there.
I got to where I resented going to church. My folks also paid to send me to Christian school. Very often the schools that were in our town were public, so I had to go to other towns to go to a Christian school.
I remember when we were in Minnesota. I had to go to another town, which was about 15-20 miles away. That was when I was in the 7th and 8th grades. As a result of going to schools that was not in my hometown … I never felt like I fit in. Most of the kids in those schools labeled me as an outsider. Yet the kids from my hometown who went to public schools felt my folks thought I was too good to go to school with them. So I felt really kind of isolated all the way around.
Because of this isolationism, I began to feel angry, bitter, lonely, hurt, and resentment slowly grew inside of me.
When I went to high school, I had to travel 100 miles away from my home. That was when we lived in Iowa. Couple that with having to go to church all the time and hear my folks talk about all the problems they had to deal with in the churches … I grew to really hate going to church. I thought that churches were pretty much filled with phonies, because my dad had to deal with so many lukewarm, compromising believers.
Sure, there were sincere believers too, but I heard mostly about the tough ones - the difficult ones.
Also, being a preacher’s kid, we grew up very poor. We seldom were able to buy new clothes; we always had to buy what was on sale, or used.
Because my dad was involved in the church so much, ministering to other people, he was gone a great deal of time from home. He was so tied up with the church, I felt the church robbed me of a father. (Of course, at the time, I didn’t realize the devil was toying with my feelings and emotions about life and my family situation. It took many years later before I was able to understand that).
When I graduated from high school, I hated church; I hated church people and resented just about everything to do with God.
After moving out of my parent’s house, I moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan. I had no responsibilities, so I lived just for myself. I was very, very selfish. I didn’t care about anyone else, because I didn’t think anyone else cared about me, and I wanted to have some fun.
It wasn’t long before I started drinking a lot of alcohol. In due time I got married. My wife also came from a Christian family who was very poor, and one of her reasons to be married was just to get out of the house.
Within the first two years of marriage, I started resenting and hating my wife. So here we had a selfish, resentful husband and a very insecure wife.
Within months of being married I started running around, cheating on my wife. I had a motorcycle and ran with a motorcycle club. It seemed like the one thing everyone at the club had in common was “wine, women and song.” There were a lot of women; a lot of partying. That was pretty much my life for the first two-three years of my marriage.
Then something life-changing happened on a Tuesday. There were five of us riding motorcycles. We were out in the Marne area, which is west a few miles of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Two of us were riding doubles; the other single. We had big Harley-Davidsons, full-dresser bikes … some of the nicest bikes of that day. We were on a two-lane country road, and we started racing.
The one fellow riding single was quite a ways ahead of us when we started to race. The bike I was riding was on the inside. I was doing about 100 miles per hour, and moving up quickly on the guy riding single. He was doing about 60. I turned to go out around him, only to face an unexpected car coming from the opposite direction. I had to get back in my lane quickly to keep from getting hit, and in so doing, somehow got between the other two bikes, missing both of them by mere inches! Had we hit, we mostly likely would have all been killed at that speed. We were all so shook up, we went to the bar and to have a few drinks to calm our nerves.
The next Sunday I happened to call my dad in Iowa. He knew my marriage was not doing very well though he didn’t know many details, because I didn’t want him to know of course. After our general conversation … he told me something. Here were his words:
“I don’t know what was going on … but last Tuesday, about 10 o’clock, I was having breakfast with some of my preacher friends in town, and we all felt an urgency to pray for you, Al.”
Upon hearing that, a cold chill went up and down my spine, because that was the exact time that I was in serious trouble on my motorcycle.
I have to say something here. Growing up with my family, we prayed an awful lot … but I never thought it did me any good. I was cold to it. I thought God was so far away that He just never could get tangled up with the affairs of this world. To me, He was just too distant.
As he shared, now maybe you can appreciate why chills started going up and down my spine. They were 500–600 miles away, my dad and his friends having no clue the serious danger I was in, and somehow … God communicated to them that I was in danger and had them pray for me.
I was thinking … there were people that far away who didn’t even know me … and they were praying for me? I was stunned, and even want to cry now when I think back to that moment.
Now - I believe God spared my life because of their prayer for me. And … it scared the daylights out of me at the same time!
After that I began to take much greater inventory of my life. Maybe there was more to this “God stuff” than what I realized.
I had moved out on my wife, but decided to move back in with her and try to make a go of it again. Up to that time, I felt my wife had been very selfish, very controlling and manipulative. She was a nurse, and she didn’t particularly like the idea that I would be out drinking most of the night while she was at work. Sometimes I would be so drunk I couldn’t even get out of the chair when she got home at 1:30-2:00 A.M. Of course, that would upset her a great deal, and she would wail on me, even in front of my friends at times, and triggered a great deal more of anger and resentment in me. Because of it, I never physically abused her because of my anger, but I definitely mentally abused her. I would go out of my way to try to make her feel like a worm.
My wife had decided that no matter how bad our marriage got, she was not going to let it end in divorce, and would still try to be a good wife to me. For about two weeks after moving back in with her, I continued to verbally humiliate her and treated her bad. She took it … and amazingly, was nice back.
I don’t know about you, but it is kind of hard to be mean for very long to someone who constantly keeps being nice back, and slowly, I began softening up. I began treating her a little nicer, and in return, she started treating me even nicer. It just slowly began to snowball from there, in a wonderful way. Even though I kept running around and drinking … she had decided that she was going to try to please me regardless of what I did.
She even began going to the bars with me! At the bars, we even began dancing, though neither of us were very good dancers.
As weeks passed, we began feeling a little guilty on Sunday mornings for not being in church, but rather, nursing off our hangovers from the evening before. We were living out by Standale, Michigan (just west of Grand Rapids) at that time, and one time we decided to go to Tallmadge Wesleyan Methodist Church. The church service started at 11 AM, which meant that I could still get bombed out of my mind the night before, sleep off my drunk, and still get to church on time.
We kept going back to the church. This church was different than what I had ever experienced before. There was something in the people I had never seen before. Some of the people would give testimonies, and many would testify of God answering prayer; it was so encouraging. Some people actually smiled … and seemed to have some joy – something else I don’t remember seeing much. The churches I had been to growing up, it seemed to me like everyone was miserable. People didn’t seem happy until they left church. But at this church, these people talked about the Lord as if they really knew Him. I had never seen that before. That was very attractive to me. What did they have, that I didn’t, I kept wondering?
We continued to go regularly to church, and the more I went, the more guilty I began to feel for all my running around, and so I began to run around less and drink less. I was really trying to clean up my life.
On a Wednesday night, December 28, 1970 in fact … I was still going to the same church for 6–8 months by then … an evangelist came to town. By that time, there was something hungering inside me – something was stirring. The evangelist gave an invitation to be saved, and if I remember correctly, I didn’t walk to the front but ran.
I told God, “I’ve made a mess of my life; I’ve tried to straighten it around; I’ve tried to get rid of the sin … but I can’t do it. Will You?”
While on my knees there meaning business with God, I had an experience – the first for me. It was like someone was pouring wonderful warm oil on me. Starting from the top of my head, it ran over my entire body. It just kept on pouring and pouring.
When I got up, I felt like about 100 pounds was lifted off my shoulders that I never really realized had ever been there. The Bible talks about the weight of sin. I felt it lift. It was gone.
I was working at a factory at that time; I had been there for a number of years. I had been running with some of the women who worked there at the factory, and all of a sudden they saw this change in my life. I went from an adulterer to a preacher like almost overnight – preaching to them!
There were other Christians in the factory that had been praying for me when I had been living such a lifestyle of sin, and I even began preaching at some of them for looking at all the pornography that was around the shop and compromising their Christian witness. I never liked pornography before, but now I hated it, and I became very vocal about it.
Well, when I would go on break, some of them would put one or more nude pictures of a woman on my machine. I was working on a die-cast machine with a pot of hot aluminum, and I would just wad the pictures up and throw them in the boiling pot of aluminum, and they would get a big kick out of it.
I got so disgusted with this routine, I started actually going out of my way to look for pornography around the shop so I could get rid of it before they could stick it all over my machine, and they didn’t like that. They started getting quite upset at me.
They had some sort of grease - erasable ink pens there at the shop that wasn’t a permanent marker. I had big flaps on my die-cast machine, and I took one of those grease ink pens and wrote something like this on the machine flaps:
“I am blood bought – redeemed by the blood of the Lamb – saved – sins forgiven …”
I don’t remember exactly everything I said, but it was all biblical truths, and underneath what I wrote, I signed my name.
That was a statement in that factory, and I left it there.
Well, after a few days … there were about a dozen others who signed their names under mine!
Then management found out about it. They didn’t want me writing things on my machine, so they called me in the office and told me to remove it off the machine. I got a bit upset at that and said, “Hold it. You allow pornography all over this place, and you won’t allow what I have written on that machine, which is only good?”
They started spitting and sputtering about it, and the shop foreman said, “I’m a Christian too … but we just can’t allow this kind of stuff to be written around here.”
I then remarked, “You mean it’s okay though to allow the pornography?”
He said, “Well, uh, well, uh … we’ll get rid of the pornography if you get rid of that.”
I conceded, because it was their machinery after all, but it did bring change there at the shop after that. God honored my stand.
After that, we got involved with some Teen Challenge people. They were ministering in Greenville, Michigan, almost every night. They would go street witnessing. We saw drug addicts and prostitutes and people of all kinds give their lives to the Lord and get set free – many instantly. It was incredible how God moved during those times. That was front line spiritual ministry for sure – the real deal.
God completely restored my marriage as well as we both began to mature in the Lord. Sure it took a lot of hard work, but it was well worth it. Selfishness and pride is not something that just disappears overnight. It takes a lot of surgery from God to get rid of those two sinful character qualities or traits. Rejection and hurts don’t always disappear over night either … but here is the truth of the matter: it can start overnight.
I thank the Lord from where I came from – for the wife and family (five daughters, and grandchildren) He has given to me.
Over the years, God has used us in several different capacities to minister Jesus to lost and hurting people. It’s been an interesting and exciting journey.
If you ever have any doubts that God is real, I’m living proof that God answers prayer. Had I died on that motorcycle that day, I would be in hell today. I thank God for having parents who kept praying for me all those years when I was in rebellion to God. Parents – husbands and wives – never quit praying for your children and loved ones!
Is being a born again Christian believer worth it? It is life changing – trusting your life to Jesus Christ. I wouldn’t trade it for anything this life has to offer. There is nothing in this life that even comes close to comparing to the joy of living in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I’ve tasted of that spiritual life that he promises in John 10:10, and I’ve tasted just the beginning of what is waiting for me in eternity.
“I have come to give life more abundantly.” -- John 10:10
I only hope you don’t wait a moment longer to taste of this spiritual life that He offers you as well.
I’m the oldest of six children. I grew up in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. My father worked out of town and was only home on the weekends. That put a lot of pressure on my mother of course, which brought tension in our family, because my mother had to also try to fill the shoes that a man should be doing. So for five days a week, mom tried to fill both roles, but on weekends that changed when dad was home. I think this constant change played a major roll in my marriage, because I saw a mother who took control. I probably tried to control Al without my even realizing it, simply because it had been what I had experienced growing up. However, he was cheating on me and made no bones about it, and that alone caused a lot of my emotions to be stretched. It was easy to see he was out of control, and I thought it was my responsibility to try to make him be more responsible.
I think it may have been fear of a failed marriage more than any love between us that caused me to try to kill Al with kindness. Nothing else was working, so I thought I had little to lose.
By this time our first baby came along, and that gave me extra incentive to try to see the marriage somehow work.
All the while we were going through the conflict we had, I knew I wasn’t walking right with the Lord. I had not turned my life over completely to Him, partly because I wasn’t sure God was real either. Something had not clicked between God and me.
I remember one time in particular where I made a deal with God. I told God, “God - I know I’ve got to change and turn myself over to you completely, but … you know … you’ve got to do something to prove to me that it’s real, and make this church thing a real thing to me. So what I need to have done - I need to see my husband walk to the altar and commit to the Lord. If you’ll do that for me … I’ll give you my all. You’ll have it.”
I never truly thought I would ever see it happen. Well – I saw it happen! It happened just the way Al told it, and so I kept my end of the bargain with God. I turned my life over completely to the Lord as well, and I’ve never regretted it.
After that, I had great hope that the marriage could work, because now we had God’s help instead of trying to make it work on just our own abilities.
Though there were many trying times, God saw us through, and little by little, he began trimming selfishness, anger and pride off our lives – the three sinful characteristics that keep marriages from being the most fulfilling.
Al turned into one of the most Christ-like men and husbands a woman could ever hope to be married to. I went from being one of the most insecure wives you could have known to the most secure. Al made me feel so secure as we both grew in the Lord.
I thank God for allowing me to be married to him, and working a miracle in our marriage and in both our lives. If both people will allow God room to work, it can happen for any couple, but both have to be willing to make any necessary changes in their own personal lives, rather than just expecting their spouse to change. Both have to diligently understand and apply the principles God has given in the Bible for a marriage to work and be fulfilling. Both have to make a commitment to God and each other to make it work, and stick with it.
Feelings of hurt and resentment are what the devil uses to break up so many Christian marriages. One or both will get hurt, and rather than communicate that hurt to their spouse in a way their spouse can understand it and let God deal with them on it, hurt feelings can easily get buried rather than be brought out in the open, and the devil absolutely delights in hurt feelings getting buried. Hurt feelings makes one so vulnerable to someone else outside of the marriage.
When a person in a marriage no longer has feelings of love for their spouse, but once did, nine times out of ten that person is carrying so much hurt and resentment toward their spouse bottled up inside them, they will become attracted to anyone else who will give them any quality, tender attention. Hurt people are the most vulnerable to the ravages of divorce. Hurt people are wounded and vulnerable sheep the devil absolutely delights in preying on. Hurt people are almost always angry people, and anger left bottled up for very long inside a person almost always causes a person to quit caring for the one who has hurt them.
I feel to say this a little differently: The root cause of infidelity in most Christian marriages is because of bottled up hurt that gets buried rather than communicated to the one who has hurt them. If the pain is too great to vocally express it, a letter can be written. Writing one’s hurt down and giving it to their spouse can be a very wise way of dealing with conflict.
If two Christian believers will learn early in their marriage the wisdom – the discipline - of both of them going to God in prayer quickly when hurt has been inflicted and share to God out loud so their spouse can hear, the hurt feelings their spouse has caused them … not using it as a platform to whine to God about one’s hurt, but to tell God they each are truly sorry for anything they have done to help cause the friction that is going on in the marriage … couples would be truly amazed at what God will do in their relationship. Approaching marital conflict in that manner frees God to truly do the impossible in Christian marriages.
Al and I didn’t know this when we entered marriage. It took a lot of trials and tears and prayer to learn how to work through our hurts and pains. I’m just passing along what we had to learn the hard way, and I hope it helps someone else.
Thank you and God Bless You for allowing me to share my heart.
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