Shelia Walsh is known for a lot of things. She started out as a singer and went on to become a frequent television personality with her stints on the "700 Club" and her own "Heart to Heart with Shelia Walsh" on the Family Channel. More recently she's been touring the nation speaking at Women of Faith conferences, and in between it all she's managed to write almost 20 books for adults and children. Her latest foray into writing is COME AS YOU ARE: An Open Invitation from the Heart of God. And in it she tells this story.
Several years ago, Shelia was getting ready to speak before a large group of women. She was wearing a new white suit, looking polished. But as she waited backstage, with five minutes to go before show time, her then three-year-old son ran towards her with arms outstretched for a hug yelling "I love you, Mommy!" He was covered in chocolate, and in that moment she had a decision to make.
"I saw the chocolate-encrusted face and sticky hands approaching, but I saw something else, something far more compelling. I saw the look in his eyes. I saw the love and trust that a child has for a parent. I saw the twinkle and joy that Christian and I share in our relationship. I saw the abandon he has when he throws himself at his dad or mom. I knelt down and opened my arms and scooped him up in a big hug. When I released him and put him down again I had little chocolate deposits on the shoulders of my suit and a big chocolate kiss on my cheek. I smiled down at my brown-eyed son and headed for the stage, my friend Marilyn Meberg wiping my cheek as we walked....
"I know that it would be perfectly acceptable to divert an oncoming food disaster, but I made a commitment to Christian before he was born that speaks to moments like these.
"I want to be part of God's show-and-tell to my son. I want him to know deep in his heart that he can come to me at any time with anything and I will receive him. At three he comes with chocolate on his face, but at fifteen he might come with a darker stain on his soul."
It's true; as we grow older, our problems get darker and more complex (at least it sure seems that way). We're all stained in some way --- fear, disappointment, brokenness, shame, unfulfilled longing, anger. And in her book, Shelia touches on each of these areas with a lilting, melodic literary voice that weaves together personal stories with poetry and Scripture.
COME AS YOU ARE is certainly encouragement lite, but it stays a few steps away from being sappy. Instead, it strikes a delicate tone for women who might be teetering on the edge of willingness to delve into their own.
Shelia has the same message for her readers that she had for her son --- whatever dark stains you might have, come to your Father anyway. God will receive you with open arms, sticky fingers and all.
Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel on April 19, 2005