Sheila Walsh at Liberty University

photo credit outreach.com

Sheila Walsh, born and raised in a Baptist family, in Scotland, speaks to students about brokenness and faith. Sheila Walsh has worked for the BBC, has co-hosted the 700 Club program for Christian Broadcasting Network, and she was also a contemporary music artist. Sheila now works with The Women of Faith Organization. At about the 10th minute Shelia shares some very personal moments from her life, about the circumstances leading to her spending time in a psychiatric ward:

Shelia Walsh: … I spent all my life running from that place. I was brought up in Scotland by Christian parents, which would not be unusual in America, but in Scotland, less than 2% of our population even go to church. So, to have a mom and dad who love the Lord is quite a gift. But, when I was 5 years old, my father had a massive brain aneurism, and it turned his personality from being loving  and kind, to being a frightening stranger. And when I was 5 years old, my father tried to kill me; he tried to bring his cane down on my skull. But, I pulled it and knocked him off his balance, and he was taken off to what was called a local asylum, a horrible old hospital on the hill. He was 34 years old. And he was placed in a maximum security ward because he had become violent. He escaped. My mom asked if he could be moved to a ward with some younger men and they agreed. But, it meant that it was less secure. And on the first night that he was placed in that ward, he escaped. And they looked for him all through the night, and they had found him in the morning. He had taken his own life in the river. He was dead, caught in the salmon nets.

In Scotland, in those days, you don’t take children to funerals. All I knew, my mom came home in a black dress, in a black hat, took all the photos of my father off the wall, put them in a suitcase, put them under her bed, and we never talked about him again. I think she thought: If Sheila wants to talk, she will. But she had no idea of the conversation going on in my head: What did my father see in me, that made him hate me so much in the end? When you’re 5 years old, you don’t process information very well. And I think, it would be interesting to know some of your stories, because every single one of you have a story and some of you suffered a lot when you were really little. And when you have that kind of pain and you don’t know what to do with it, you find a way to cope, you find a way to go on. You find some kind of mask, a place to hide. Some of us do it through a career, or we try and dress differently, or we try do it in all sorts of ways. I found the perfect place to hide: Christian ministry. I mean, who is gonna come and say, „Put that Bible down and we’re gonna have an intervention? It’s probably not gonna happen. But God is the only one who knows exactly what’s going on inside. And I determined I would become the perfect Christian woman, if it killed me. And it very nearly did. I went to seminary training to be a missionary in India because I couldn’t think of anything I would hate more. I thought it would make God happy- if I chose something that I clearly didn’t want to do, that would show God that I was giving my life to him.

I then came to America. I was signed to a recording label, and then I was invited to become Pat Robertson’s co-host. But inside, nothing had changed. I was the same scared little girl who wondered what God saw, what my father saw  that made them turn to me and determine that God would never see it and that I would never allow anyone else to get close enough to me that they could see it too. I was very well known and very lonely. To everyone else, it seemed like I had all my ducks in a row. But God knew the truth. And one of the things to me, about the fiery  outrageous merciful love of God is that He is committed to pursuing us into a real relationship, not just pretending. But, that we be really known. If I had my choice over how God redirected my life, I would have had Him take my fear away. But instead, He decided to allow the very thing I was afraid of to happen, to show me the truth of what Paul , when he wrote to the church in Romans said, „I am convinced that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.

I went from one morning being on the 700 Club (CBN Christian show) and by that evening, I was in a locked ward of a psychiatric hospital. I was 34 years old. Exactly the same age as my father. I remember, on that first morning, when I had to meet with the psychiatrist, and he asked me a question. He said, „Who are you?” And, I could see my name on his pad, and I I wasn’t in a good mood, so I just said, „Sheila. Sheila Walsh.” And he said, „No, Sheila. I know your name. Who are you?” „I’m the co-host of the 700 Club.” And he said, „No, Sheila. I didn’t ask you what you do. Who are you?” And I said, „I have absolutely no idea.” And he said, „I know that. That’s why you’re here.” I discovered that God will sometime take you to a prison to set you free. And that some of God’s most precious gifts come in boxes that make your hands bleed when you open them, but inside is what you have been longing for all your life: A relationship with God, where you bring nothing to the table.

To the students at Liberty: So let me ask you a question. When you walked in here this morning, instead of the worship team or whatever, on the big screen, [what if] what we had specially prepared for you this morning was a movie of your life, everything you’ve ever said, everything you’ve ever done, the things that you’ve actually thought so you don’t consider them a sin, because you just thought about them and never did it. But it’s all up there on the screen for anyone who wants to watch. How would you feel? Because the radical truth of the Gospel is that God has seen your movie and He loves you. There’s absolutely nothing about you, the darkest shadowy places , there’s nothing that God does not already know, and has not already paid for, and wants to welcome you to come into the light and be  and be known to just tell the truth.

My son is 17, and so starting to look at colleges. But, when he was 10, we just finished lunch one day and I was washing up dishes and Christian looked at me and said, „Mom, would you make me a flask of hot chocolate?” I said, „Yeah sure, babe. Are you going outside?” It was kind of cold. He said, „No, mom. Today I’m running away from home.” I said, „Well, that’s huge news.  Thank you so much for telling me.”  I said, „Do you mind me asking, did I do something, or did dad do something?” He said, „No, no, mom. It’s nothing like that. But think about it. There’s you, there’s dad, there’s the dogs. Nothing happens here. If I don’t leave now, I will never have stories to tell.” „Excellent point,” I said, as I prepared his hot chocolate. And I said, „Do you mind me asking where you’re going?” And he said, „North. I’m heading North.” And I said, „What are you gonna do for money?” He said, „Don’t worry mom, I intend to return home on weekends.” Huge relief to me, as his mother.

So, I gave him his hot chocolate and he’s packing up his backpack, puts in his soccer ball, the dog’s blanket, his flask, everything. And he heads out the back door, and I’m like, „Well, stay in touch. Traveling mercies.” And off he went. So I ran upstairs and I’m watching in the balcony, cause I know I can kind of watch for awhile. And he walks away, around the lake and he stops by a tree, where he and I like to fish. He sits down, gets out the blanket and has some hot chocolate. And I think, „What do I do when he moves on?” And so I thought, „I’ll get the dogs and I’ll take them for a walk. I’ll try and stay far enough back and if he sees me, I’l just say, ” Oh, so sorry. I had no idea this was north, [you know, I’m] directionally challenged. But after a while, I realized what he was doing, is he was actually coming home. So I ran back downstairs and I’m just tidying up in the kitchen. He walks through the back door, he kind of smiles ay me muttering under his breath, „Good times. Good times.” So that night, after he had had his bath, he was in bed and we said our prayers. I said, „Christian, now tell me about today. Did you enjoy your adventure?” He said, „Yeah, I did mom. But, I think I would have liked it better if my bag wasn’t so heavy.” It made me think.

Wouldn’t it be sad to live this blood bought life, make it all the way home, and for God to say, „Did you enjoy the journey?” And us, to have to say, „Well, I did, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if my bag wasn’t so heavy.” What would it look like, if when you walk in through the doors this morning, all your stuff became visible? Not your backpacks and your books, your stuff- the internal baggage that you carry through every day: the disappointment, the shame, the fear. What would that look like? And if you had to drag it to your seat, some of you would be surprised by how much you are carrying, perhaps, disappointed by how long you’ve been carrying it. But my question would be this: If you saw it, would you want to take it home, would you wanna take it back to your dormitory room? Or, would you want to take up Christ on that ridiculous glorious exchange: „Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke union you and lean on me, because My yoke is easy and my burden is light.  I could stand here for a million years and never begin to touch the depth of the love of God for YOU. To be able to go out into this world, ….whatever you do, if you learn to become a daughter of the King of Kings, a son of the King of Kings, who tells the truth, you have to, first of all, make peace with what is true, and that is that we are not the good news. Jesus is. It’s actually a bit of a relief.

VIDEO by Liberty University

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