I remember moving to the Huntsville, Alabama area after leaving the military and searching for the local Christian radio stations. Scanning the airwaves, I was longing to hear the familiar tones and sounds of uplifting and encouraging songs, messages, and news that I had grown accustomed to and had even depended upon throughout the very toughest of times of my life — my move to Alabama being one of them.
However, what met my ears that night as I was scanning was not what I had been pining to hear. In fact, it was a bit off-putting. I didn’t get it. The station I landed on was supposed to be my typical, predictably encouraging Christian radio station, but I was listening to some guy make random jokes and seemingly out-of-place comments… what was this? Who was this guy? And seriously, I didn’t want to listen.
Due to the lack of other Christian radio stations in the area, I stuck around. To my surprise, he began to grow on me — Christian Radio’s Funny Guy, Wally. There were moments of sincerity in the middle of his joking around that began to reel me in. He was raw. You could literally hear the transparency in his voice as it came bouncing through my car speakers each day. His casual way of inserting Jesus and the Gospel into conversations with troubled listeners had me hooked. It was fascinating to me how Wally could effortlessly bring the application of Christ’s great Gospel into any and every conversation he had on his show — be it with famous singers, struggling call-ins, or even fellow radio personalities. His honesty about his struggles and shortcomings, the authentic way he would open up about Christian life and what it meant or didn’t mean to him, had me most of the time agreeing with him and soon enough, cheering him on. The once irritating, over-the-top, boisterous fellow who invaded my sweet Christian radio station was now the source of giggles, reflective thoughts, and challenges to live in Christ.
Wally, The History
Wally grew up in the stereotypical Christian, loving family where they generally got along, had what they needed, and were afforded the ability to attend Christian schools. He was provided for, loved, and never wanted for anything. But at an influential point in his young life, he began to really question his faith in God. Is He real? If He is real, what’s the deal with all the suffering in this world?
With the foundations of his childhood faith beginning to crack and flailing for answers, Wally was susceptible to outside influences and caved to the pressures of drugs and alcohol. Sure, the distance between a Christian home and drug filled adolescence is often painted as worlds apart. But for many who have experienced first- hand, the slip into drugs and alcohol abuse can be an easy fall if you don’t know what you stand for. Lacking conviction of the validity of his belief system, Wally slipped up and began seeking acceptance and answers in others things.
After searching for fulfillment, satisfaction, answers, proof, and reasons, Wally soon realized that the path he was traveling did not satisfy that emptiness or give him the explanations he craved — it didn’t even come close. All it left in him was emptiness. This emptiness in him continued to show that he was looking for something more meaningful, substantial, and purposeful.
Because of his sense of humor and naturally gregarious personality, Wally found his way and excelled into mainstream radio as a DJ. He made a lot of money, and he was good at what he did. He experienced great success! He had power and influence over artists’ careers. Within the entertainment industry, agents, artists, and executives catered to him in search of his coveted endorsement to their careers as he had that sort of “make them or break them” type of influence. All this success and little conviction carried over into who Wally was. Consequently, the sins of his flesh followed closely on the heels of his worldly success. Arrogance, pride, and anger flooded his heart along with the ramifications of being a jaded, cynical, and self-centered person — he was living life his way and in the end, it wrecked him professionally, personally, and spiritually.
He Who Began a Good Work In You…
Enter his future wife, a Godly woman who loved the Lord and down-right loved Wally. She dragged him begrudgingly to church because she believed wholeheartedly that the seeds of faith his parents had planted just needed a little water and sun — the Holy Spirit to get them to grow. As he became more involved and built relationships within the church body, Wally’s heart began to soften to the people around him. Watching congregation members live out their faith in spite of incredibly difficult circumstances simply began to overwhelm cynical, jaded Wally. Those seeds that Wally’s wife had seen in him began to come to the surface….
One specific example was a man who lost everything but still gave glory to God. He wasn’t just a man, he was a millionaire. He had everything — every earthly blessing that you could ever think of — but he also had the blessings that couldn’t be taken away from him. He ended up losing his business and with his business, he lost those multitudes of earthly comforts. Wally recalls how this man handled the devastation with such grace, giving thanks to God, and using it as an opportunity to point others to God. Wally stopped and wondered “What in the world?” Wally desired what this man had.
The impact of the community surrounding him — seeing men who believed in God do things that just didn’t make sense to Wally spurred him to get more involved in church. He soon started teaching in the children’s ministry. However, he clung tightly to his DJ life. Soon, Wally felt like a hypocrite. Upon confessing the internal struggle, his wife told him that he was just running circles — “Decide: serve God or don’t — I’ll love you either way.”
Wally Dives In!
So, Wally decided to go all in for Christ and he quit his job. After such a bold move in faith, he thought that he would be handsomely rewarded with outpouring of blessings as God expressed His gratitude for Wally’s courageous act of faith. He was sorely disappointed.
What seemed like a good idea, a God-honoring idea, suddenly turned into a battleground for the devil as he fought against the change in his life. God opened the doors for Wally to begin working in Christian radio. Thinking that Christian radio would be an amazing, rewarding, and smooth transition, Wally felt the weight of the world slowly and steadily cave in around him in disappointment. On top of taking an excruciating pay cut to transition to Christian radio, they couldn’t sell their home in Atlanta forcing Wally to move into a tiny apartment in Nashville and leave his family behind in their house.
The reception Wally received from Christian radio listeners was perhaps the hardest thing for Wally to comprehend… the backlash against the new voice on the airwaves was aggressive and strong, often times leaving him wondering if it was where God really wanted him. In recounting how he dealt with the pain of separation from his family for a year, the financial insecurity of trying to sell their home, the struggle of taking such a dramatic pay cut, and the emotions of dealing with negativity towards him, Wally said that he wished he could say that he “stood the test like Job did,” but he couldn’t. Doubts, question, loneliness, resentment, and frustration with God crept in. As always, though, God remained faithful. He knew the ultimate destination and He knew the route that Wally had to take to get there. Looking back, it makes sense to Wally.
God had to take away his comforts and structure in order to really teach him how to rely on Christ. In the end, when he and his family were reunited and they were crammed into a tiny apartment unable to send their daughter to private school, Wally was able to simply appreciate the fact that they were together. He witnessed his daughter being able to share Christ with her classmates and teachers in public school through her bold declaration of Jesus being her hero. His relationship with Christ was strengthened and he could honestly say that He loved God with all his heart. And not just because he wanted to make his wife happy. But one thing was still missing — thankfulness. Wally was a self-described cynical, jaded, and hard to please creature. He just wasn’t satisfied and he believes it stemmed from a lack of thankfulness in his heart.
Memory of the Mundane
As normalcy returned to his life, complacency set in again as it so often does in our comfortable, American, Christian existence until one trip to Africa changed everything. God’s plan still hadn’t sat well with Wally as struggles continued. Two years later, he had still been unable to sell his house in Atlanta and they were still crammed into a tiny apartment. Would this ever end? The world and its messes weighed heavily on Wally and he wanted God to show up and just fix his heart as well as the world. God doesn’t work that way and rarely operates on our own schedules. On a mission trip to Africa, Wally experienced first-hand what it meant to see people who had absolutely nothing be incredibly thankful for anything and everything — most of all thankful for the gift of salvation and the hope of Christ.
This revelation rocked his American, rock-n-roll, funny guy, redeemed DJ world! He swore he would never forget Africa, and though there have been times where he has since bemoaned his first-world problems, his heart had a major change. He became thankful — for his apartment, for their food and clean water, for first-world medicine and hygiene — and it changed his entire perspective. Mind you, it changed his perspective, not his circumstances! Through the valleys and through experiencing missional life, Wally’s heart became satisfied because God took the time to make it truly satisfied in Him. Now his prayers don’t include to-do lists for God or complaints on the poor job that God is doing around the world; rather, they are more filled with understanding and peace — he can truly say “Your will be done” and mean it.
To walk through the growth and revelation of this story with Wally has been refreshing, raw, and real as he lives out his life and faith on the radio. Informal and non-threatening, the “Morning Show with Wally” is an inviting place for people to come, relax, have fun, and get the Gospel sprinkled into their life in ways they may never have expected or anticipated. There are moments of hilarity and awkwardness that just make you laugh out loud. There are moments of complete heartbreak and surrender as he struggles right along with his listeners who call in and share their burdens with him. And without fail, there are the unavoidable moments of “Did you really just say that, Wally?” All of this fun and dynamic interaction combined with powerful moments of triumph in Jesus are what make callers say — “thank you for just being real,” “thank you for being someone I can relate to,” and most importantly, “thank you for helping me understand Jesus.”
In a world where Christianity can sometimes put off those who need Christ most, Wally bridges the gap. By welcoming listeners into his accepting circle of trust — he invites them in, points them to the Gospel, and never ceases to make his faithful listeners laugh along the way.