My Long and Traumatic Journey to God

Living Stone News – Print  February 19, 2011

Estelle P. Shrum writes intimately about her traumatic childhood years and also shares the traumas in her daughter’s life. But through all of her suffering, God called to Shrum to give her all. She said, “yes.”

While watching “The 700 Club,” I laid my hands on the television screen and asked Jesus Christ into my heart and to lead my life. That was the first time I ever felt the presence of God surge through me. Unfortunately, I was a slow learner and backslid, never fully trusting God. Allow me to share the events that brought me to have a personal relationship with Jesus.

I was raised in a violent, alcoholic, dysfunctional family. My parents had no parenting skills from being raised in foster care. My mother was sexually abused from the time she was 8 years old until she was 12. My father didn’t meet his father until he was 18, and my mother never knew who her biological father was.
As a child I suffered panic attacks and I prayed a lot. I prayed that my parents wouldn’t come home drunk and fighting or drag us out of bed and involve us in their fights. I was raised Catholic and had an altar set up on my nightstand with candles and pictures of Jesus. I loved Jesus, but He never answered my prayers, and there was no evidence that He lived in our house.
My sister and I were left alone a lot of times without food or money. If it were not for our neighbor, we would have gone without food until my parents came home from several days of binging. My sister got pregnant at 17 and moved out. I couldn’t blame her for wanting to get out of our house, but I was devastated because I was only 14 and had to endure my parents’ fights alone.
By the time I was 19, I was hospitalized twice for three months. At that time, it was referred to as a nervous breakdown. When I was 18, I cut myself with a razor from my fingertips to my elbows and across my neck. When I was 19, I cut my wrists. As an adult I overdosed twice on tranquilizers. The first time I had my stomach pumped; the second time I was in an intensive care unit. Children never forget pain or trauma, and they carry it with them throughout their lives. I still suffer from flashbacks and nightmares and cry out in my sleep at 65 years old.
I met my husband in Hialeah, Fla., while he was attending college. We married and 18 days later he was drafted and left for Vietnam. Five years later we had our son, Michael, and six years later our daughter, Erica. However, emotionally my life continued to be a constant struggle.

Erica led a charmed childhood until she was 16 years old. She was a cheerleader, on the honor roll and very popular. Then my mother had her first suicide attempt and, around the same time, Erica broke up with the boyfriend she was dating and realized how unfair life is. The following year her closest cousin committed suicide by hanging herself, and six months later her friend James, who was the star quarterback of their high school football team, drowned at the beach.
During my daughter’s first semester in college, she and a high school boyfriend got back in touch. She was certain this was the fellow she was going to marry, but in one moment that dream ended when he was killed while driving across the railroad tracks trying to beat the train because he was late for work.
A year later, Erica transferred to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. She was still depressed, but she hoped going away would help her heal. There she met a new boyfriend, Shane, and three weeks later she eloped with him. She didn’t tell us they were married until two months later. Their third month of marriage turned out to be a literal nightmare. They were gymnastics coaches, and one night while doing a gymnastic stunt, Shane broke his neck and in a moment became a quadriplegic.
Erica was only 21 and he was 23. Shane’s family lived in Texas. They were not in the position to help financially, physically or spiritually. At the time we lived on Merritt Island, Fla., a good two and half hours from Erica and Shane. I would stay with them four days a week, and then I would go home and work two days a week and spend one day with my husband.
I once read an article about J. Oswald Sanders, a former director of an overseas mission. Sanders wrote about a time when he wanted a particular position in the Christian world very much. But while walking down the main street in Auckland, New Zealand, one day, turning the matter over in his mind, Jeremiah 45:5 came to his mind with tremendous authority and powerful conviction: “Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not!”
“The words came just as though it was God speaking. There were crowds all around me, and no one else heard the voice, but I heard it all right!” Sanders later said. “I believe that was a real turning point in my service to the Lord.” As a result, he did not seek the position, but it later opened to him on its own in God’s good timing.
I, too, heard the voice of God when I was at a women’s retreat two weeks before my son-in-law’s accident. I attended the retreat with a friend of mine. We were discussing giving our all to God, and she told me I needed to be in a Bible study. I told her I loved God but didn’t want to be part of a Bible study because I didn’t feel comfortable in group settings.
Then she opened the Bible to Revelation 3:15-16, which says, “I know your deeds, that you are neither hot nor cold! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” After reading the Scripture, I heard a voice that encompassed my whole being say, “Do not be afraid.” I felt a warmth and peace spread throughout my being, and I was awed. I just stared at the Bible. I felt like I was suspended in time.
I can liken it to the time I experienced a small earthquake in Evansville, Ind. I felt my house entire house move, like it was being pushed off its foundation. I imagine that is how Sanders felt when he heard the voice of God. There are no words to explain how I felt. My friend did not hear the voice, “but I heard it all right.” It took many years before God spoke those words to me, but once He did and told me not to be afraid, I finally knew what He wanted from me. He wanted my all.