09 July 2011
By Raymond Billy | Resonate News
Sheila Walsh wants women to know that true faith begins at the point in which theology and lifestyle intersect. This is not to remind women that “faith without deeds is dead.” No. Her message is geared toward women who understand that principle well — and practice it to the nth degree.
What Walsh would like women to learn from her message is that their actions should be motivated by gratitude to God, not a misguided attempt to win his love — which they already posses. Many women understand as much, she said. Whether they fully believe it is another story.
“Sometimes it seems like there's a chasm between what we believe and what we stand on,” Walsh, 55, told an audience of more than 700 women Friday at Grace Community Church in Tyler, Texas. The singer, motivational speaker and television personality said the lesson she teaches is one she previously had difficulty accepting.
“I had spent most of my life trying to be the perfect Christian woman and it almost cost me my life,” she said.
Born in Scotland, Walsh's preoccupation with being “good enough” for God was generated by the belief that she had done something to garner her father's scorn.
Her father suffered a cerebral hemorrhage is 1961 when Walsh was 5 years old. The hemorrhage left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak. The incident changed his personality dramatically. He became abusive toward Walsh, she said.
The patriarch of the Walsh family was later placed in a psychiatric hospital. After he escaped from the hospital, he was found dead in a river at the age of 34. Sheila Walsh said her father's death left her to live with a profound sense of guilt and confusion.
At the age of 11, Walsh made a confession of faith in Jesus Christ. Upon becoming a Christian, her mother said that God was her Heavenly Father watching over her. Walsh said she took comfort in her newly discovered parent. But, she also adopted a barter-based theology — her goodness in exchange for God's love — that became a source of emotional disfunction.
“I thought 'I have a chance to get things right,'” she said of her belief that she could make God love her, as opposed to the hatred she believed she had elicited from her dad.
Walsh poured herself into religion — much the way many people become consumed by alcohol, drugs or food to cope with pain, she said.
Her striving led Walsh into the world of Christian music. She released the first of her two-dozen albums, “Future Eyes,” in 1981.
Later that decade, Walsh became a co-host of “The 700 Club,” the popular Christian Broadcasting Network program. Amid her meteoric rise in the world of Christian media, she internally remained similar to who she was as a toddler.
“Nothing inside of me had changed,” Walsh said. “Inside, I was still the same scared little girl.”
As Walsh entered her 30s, her quest for perfection began to take a severe toll. Emotionally, she was deteriorating inside while trying to maintain a facade that portrayed strength, she said. Her high-wire act finally ended in 1991 when she suffered an on-air nervous breakdown on “The 700 Club.”
Walsh ended up in a psychiatric hospital in 1991 at the age of 34 — the same age in which her father did the same. But, Walsh said that her mental health issue became a source of liberation.
“Sometimes, the Lord will take you to prison to set you free,” she said, adding that “God met me there,” in the hospital. There, after receiving spiritual counseling, she realized she didn't need to be perfect to be loved by God.
Walsh now travels around the country sharing her experiences and the message that God's love is not dependent on people ability to earn it. She told Resonate News prior to her speech that she's come to realize many women have the same anxieties she had about whether she was worthy of God's grace. Her hope is to help women overcome such notions.
“There is nothing in life that will transform anyone more than knowing they are loved by God,” Walsh said.
Walsh later told her Grace church audience “God loves broken people,” and stressed the need for “all you who are weary and burdened” to find rest in Christ, rather than a burden to earn his favor.
During her interview with Resonate News, Walsh said her greatest fear once was that she would suffer the indignity of being institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital. She said she'd spent her entire life “running from that hospital on a hill in Scotland.” Now, she couldn't be more thankful that she ended up where she did.
“God's greatest act of mercy is that instead of delivering me from my greatest fear, he allowed me to experience it and see that he loved me no matter what,” she said.
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