I first read about Sheila Walsh’s new book, Loved Back to Life: How I Found the Courage to Live Free, on Brenda’s blog, Coffee, Tea, Books, and Me (her blog is on my short list, by the way). I knew after reading her review that I wanted to read this book, so on our next trip to the library, I requested they purchase a copy of it. My city library is quite responsive (for which I am eternally thankful!), and within about a week I had a call letting me know my book was in. I didn’t know much about Walsh’s story, never having watched The 700 Club much and not being too up on the world of Christian media. Having never read any of Walsh’s other books, either, I wasn’t prepared for the depth of wisdom she shows in this volume. In this book she relates the story of her admittance into a psychiatric hospital, her diagnosis of clinical depression, and her return to mental, emotional, and spiritual health. She shares her story transparently–what led to her depression, steps she had to take to be released from its grip, and her continuing struggle. What I love about this book is how she peppers her own poetry throughout it (and it’s quite good!), and how she shares her thoughts from scripture and from books she has read. Ultimately, this is a love story about how Jesus saw her through a very dark time in her life and redeemed it for something better than before.
Mental health, especially as it relates to Christianity, is of great interest to me. I consider this book a must-read for any Christian who’s interested in caring for those with mental illness, for those who suffer from mental illness, or for those who wish to erase some of the stigma. It’s funny to me, too, the serendipity (Providence!) of my reading this book at the same time that I was finishing reading Amos Fortune, Free Man to my girls. One of the main themes of Amos Fortune is freedom, and I found so many of Amos’ thoughts and words about freedom so apropos. (I shared a few quotes here.) Anyway, both books have provided much food for thought for me.
Here are a few short excerpts that I found particularly compelling:
Part of coming to terms with fear has been accepting that there is good and bad in me and good and bad in others. Jesus’ statement, “Love your enemies” (Matthew 5:44), presupposes that enemies exist. We do have enemies, people who would rather see us fail than succeed. We know, too, from the story of Job that at times God will allow our lives to be disrupted. The lesson for me is that God is passionately committed to the kind of woman I will become, not to what I do. (83-84)
What a liberating concept: that our hate–our anger–needs to be prayed [she quoted Psalm 137:8-9 in the paragraph before]. Burying it will not make it go away. Suppressing it contaminates our souls. If we fail to take it to God, it will leak out and destroy the world–not to mention us.
As I began to look at my own life, to listen to the things that made me angry and give them a voice, I realized that my anger always sprang out of fear. When I felt I was being threatened in some way, I became angry inside in order to defend myself–the dogs of rage would rise up in my defense. But I was never comfortable voicing my anger. As I mentioned before, it would either slip out in sarcastic comments or I would withdraw from the situation before the anger escaped. It was as if my trust was in the sheepdog, not the Shepherd. The sheepdog looked ready to devour anything that invaded his land, so I stuck close to him. Anger offered me a way of gaining control when I felt out of control.
I am learning now to trust the Shepherd to be my depender. For me it is a daily, sometimes hourly, relinquishing of control of my life and my destiny to God[. . .] (87-88)
The word grace is now as familiar to me as wind or rain, although it took me some time to be able to receive the lavish gift. Grace was never meant to be rationed, something we nibble on to get us through tough times. It is meant to soak us to (and through) the skin an fill us so full that we can hardly catch our breath. My problem was that I had such a tight grasp on my own life, there was very little room into which grace could be poured. (106)
Well. I could go on and on and on, but I won’t. I think I need to buy this one. If you’re interested, you can get another little taste of Walsh’s writing style as well as a bit of her message here on her blog. Obviously, I give this one a Highly, highly Recommended. (Nelson Books, 2015)