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An interview with author, vocalist and talk-show host, Sheila Walsh.

Why did you need to share this story?
It was such a deeply personal experience that my husband and my son and I walked through as a family. I was a little reluctant because it still seemed fresh. The story occurred over the last three years and it’s still something that causes my husband and I a lot of pain at times. Even when I got the first copy of the book in, it was kind of, wow — reading the last couple chapters brought tears to my eyes again.

And yet when I thought of God’s grace to Barry and I, and the way that He restored our family, we were reminded of what really matters.  I relate to the married couples that are struggling with the very things that we struggled with.

And you were reminded of grace.
Yes. I think one of the hardest tenants of grace is that there’s absolutely nothing we bring to the table. I’ve struggled with that most of my life. It’s a very hard thing to wrap our hearts around, that God’s grace has nothing — absolutely nothing — to do with our behavior. We want to believe that we have done something to earn God’s grace but there is absolutely nothing that we can do. It’s an absolute gift.

Tell me more about that struggle.
Barry made some poor financial choices that significantly overcommitted us.  I had no idea until I discovered empty savings and retirement accounts. I was horrified.

I didn’t know quite how to get over this. It seemed like I was going to have to work for the next 5-10 years to try and fix what he had done wrong. I felt so betrayed by that.  Barry knows that I grew up as the poorest kid in my class. I was the only one that got preschool meals and a free school uniform. So it’s always been very important to me to stay within a budget.

Six months of working through this and trying to decide how I was going to survive, I said to my son one night, You know, Christian, if there’s one thing that Dad or I could do to make your life better, what would that be? I honestly expected that his criticism would be of his father, but it wasn’t; it was of me. He said, You know, Mum, you need to forgive Dad. And he said, You know Dad made some bad choices but he’s sorry and you have to forgive him.

So there was a lesson of forgiveness.
It was a real turning point for me. I realized that as long as I held on to that unforgiveness, there was a real wall between Barry and I, and it was holding back his ability to move on as well. I went for a long walk that night in the neighborhood and at the end of the walk; I fell to my knees. In the middle of the street I let go. That’s where the title of the book came: let go of trying to protect myself, let go of trying to fix things, and allow God to be my deliverer.

I’ve asked him to do something that I’ve done myself: Look in the mirror at least twice a day and say, God forgives you and so do I. This is behind us. It’s under God’s grace. It’s at the cross. Let’s walk away and build a new today and a new tomorrow.

Do you think it’s possible to help people forgive themselves? Have you helped Barry work through that?
That’s a very good question. It’s funny. I think as long as I was angry and not very gracious, I don’t think Barry had to deal as much with how he felt himself because he was trying to deal with how I was feeling. And suddenly when by God’s grace I was able to forgive, Barry was genuinely repentant. His heart was broken. It seemed I made it hard for him to walk through that himself.

One of the most humiliating things about grace is that you have to come naked and empty-handed. We want to think, Well, I fixed a little bit of it myself. But really grace says, You know what? There’s nothing you can fix. Just come as you are.

When Christian was a little boy, I remember him covered in chocolate cake as I was about to walk on stage one night. I had on a white suit and I suddenly hear this little voice saying, Mom! And I did what any mom would do. I turned around and gave him a big hug and went on stage with chocolate on my suit and in my hair.

But I wanted Christian to know, You don’t tidy yourself up to come to me. You come as you are because I wanted him to understand that’s how we come to God. You let God fix you. You just come as you are.

Tell me more about that struggle.
Barry made some poor financial choices that significantly overcommitted us. I had no idea until I discovered empty savings and retirement accounts. I was horrified.

Do you think that trusting God and letting go is particularly harder for women?
No, I think it’s harder for men. I think it’s harder for men because there is something about the relationship between a woman and a savior, a shepherd and a strong father who invites us to lean on Him, who invites us to fall apart, to cry out our tears.

Trusting God is not such a huge leap for a woman. There is something in a woman that we want to lean on a father figure or a strong husband figure.

Obviously I’m speaking from a woman’s perspective; my understanding is very limited. But I think it can be hard for a man to feel helpless and I think that’s how Barry felt in many ways. He felt helpless. And to have to throw yourself on God and admit that you feel helpless that there is nothing you can do and that God would be the one who can deliver both of you — I think that’s a very humbling thing.

The phrase “I will deliver you” was a strong message you received from God…
Yes. One Sunday morning in the midst of all the mess and long before I’d come to the place of being able to let go, I got up one morning to go to church and I looked at my face in the mirror and I looked awful. I was so tired. I wasn’t sleeping. And even as I looked at my face, I heard in my spirit-not an audible voice — “I will deliver you. I almost took a step back and I was like, Lord, what do you mean. This is such a mess. “I will deliver you.” Well, how are you going to deliver us? I mean what’s gonna happen about this and about that?

The more I added my own perspective to what God was saying, the more ridiculous it seemed. I came to understand at some level that he would deliver because of who He is. So I kind of tucked that down in my pocket. I was still pretty broken, went to church, and our pastor that morning spoke from Paul’s letter to the Church in Philippi where he said, “I’m in prison and it looks as if this is a terrible thing but ultimately this is going to work out for good because God will deliver me.”

From that point on I began to hear these messages that God would deliver, but for God to be able to deliver, I had to take my hands off. That was scary for me. Sometimes I would say to God, But, look, I’m holding this thing together here. Don’t you see that? If I let go it’ll all fall apart. And there was almost an invitation, “You know what? Let that happen. Then let it all fall apart and see what I can do.”

I still take refuge at times when I’m afraid and trying to be in control. My father’s death was a very traumatic thing when I was a child. I learned that when a situation gets very dark or very bleak, to move back from other people and become very self-protective. I get my head down and I think, I can do this. I can do this. I have to take the next step and the next step. And God said to me, “No. I want you to have your head up and I want you to have your arms open and I want you to let go and I want you to see that I will deliver you.”

Copyright © Jim Mueller,  Growthtrac Ministries

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