Sheila Walsh, a native of Scotland, was at the top of her game: singer, Christian speaker, and co-host of “The Seven Hundred Club” with Pat Robertson. Then, in 1992, clinical depression, a genetic legacy from her father, brought her to a halt. She entered the hospital for an extended stay.
Pat Robertson asked viewers to pray for her, adding that stress from her work had caused a breakdown. His tone of voice equated clinical depression with adultery, a moral failing.
“I actually went from being the co-host of ‘The Seven Hundred Club’ to the locked ward of the psychiatric hospital,” Ms. Walsh said.
Her father had committed suicide at the same age, 32, when she was a girl of 5. She still remembers his eyes the last time she saw him. They were full of rage. As any 5-year-old would, she thought it was her fault. If she’d only been better, tried harder. That idea of conditional love, love based on performance, somehow transferred to her heavenly Father. She had to work harder and harder, do more, be better. Her mental collapse brought her to a dramatic halt.
After she’d been in the hospital three weeks, she was allowed a pass. Most patients wanted to go to a movie. She asked to go to church. A nurse took her to a small Episcopal church in Washington, D.C.
“We sat in a back pew,” she said. “I felt really dead inside. Then the priest said, ‘Some of you feel you can’t find your way to God. You don’t have to. God wants to come to you.’”
And he did. The presence of God washed over her and she remembered two lines from her grandmother’s favorite hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross”: “Nothing in my hands I bring, Simply to thy cross I cling.” She no longer had to be a human doing, just a human being, imperfectly herself, the Sheila Walsh that God created her to be.
The breakdown that looked like an ending turned into a new beginning. She’s now happily married with a son in high school, writes books about the Christian life, travels and teaches extensively with the national seminar, Women of Faith, and also uses her musical talent.
While not healed of clinical depression, her childhood wounds no longer dominate her life.
Her favorite writers include Brennan Manning and Philip Yancey. “This morning I heard about a preacher named John Henry Jowett, a Congregational pastor from Halifax, England,” she said. “There would be a line halfway round the block at his church, people waiting to get in and hear him. I just ordered several of his books. I love researching and spend months doing it before I write. I have the time to do that.”
She takes difficult theological ideas and makes them easier to understand for the average person.
Ms. Walsh is the keynote speaker at the Women of Faith one-day seminar in Billings this Saturday. “We asked church leaders, ‘What are you hearing from your women?’” The answer was twofold. Bitterness and disappointment headed this list.
“If God is all-loving and all-powerful, why did this happen?” One woman thought that God could be one or the other, but not both at the same time.
The second big issue is forgiveness. If someone has really betrayed you, how do you let go of something that bad? In the morning, Ms. Walsh will talk on bitterness and in the afternoon, on forgiveness. The two issues go together.
Billings is the first spring meeting for Women of Faith, Up Close and Personal, the new one-day seminar, also the only session in a five state area.
Ms. Walsh, along with Ken David, singer Scott McIntyre, and four others, will be speaking Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Holiday Inn Grand Montana Convention Center. Doors open at 9 a.m. Tickets are $59 and $79, available online or by calling 1-888-493-2484.