At the conclusion of the Women’s Conference, my husband and I brought Linda, the guest speaker, to the airport. As my husband retrieved her small suitcase from the trunk, Linda assured us we didn’t need to keep her company until her flight left, so we started our three hour journey home.
“Linda reminds me of Sandy,” I said.
“In what way?” my husband asked.
“They both had a defining moment in their life that still moves them to tears decades later.”
Linda’s moment came through a simple song as she sat on her bed in the mental health wing of the Hospital.
From a young age she labored to find acceptance and love. When she was nine years old, she brought the most visitors to a children’s crusade and won a sash of candy. At the conclusion of the service, she committed her life to Christ, and then left the crusade determined to remain worthy of the approval she felt that night.
Instead she found a life full of disappointments. “Marriage disappointed me. Being a pastor’s wife disappointed me. And the idea that a child would bring me the happiness and fulfillment I needed was a farce. It only seemed to add to the striving, perfectionist picture of my life,” said Linda.
Linda and her husband began their ministry as youth pastors. She loved working with teenagers, but shortly after their first church assignment her husband decided he was not suited for the job. He accepted the position of associate pastor at a church in Rhode Island only to be unjustly fired. They returned to Ohio where Linda found employment at a greasy spoon restaurant but was fired by a jealous manager when Linda proved to be an exceptional employee. Compounding the financial stress of one income, her husband was miserable working as a used car salesman.
“At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure I wanted to call myself a Christian anymore. Although I had been taught the way of Christianity all my life, I questioned whether it was ‘the way.’ I had lost the belief that Jesus could be all the things to me that he promised he would be. I came close to the conclusion that I could pick up my broken pieces, move on and find happiness and fulfillment without Christ,” said Linda.
When the pressures of life became unbearable, Linda’s husband decided to give her some time alone. Unaware of the severity of Linda’s emotional turmoil, he took their young son to visit with his mother for the weekend. “Life had become too much work. I had no willpower left to ‘pull myself up by my bootstraps.’ I didn’t think I could make it through one more day. Empty was the only word to describe how I felt – empty – used up – dead,” said Linda.
Linda drove to the Mall to shop for a new dress. Her mind clouded with depression, she stared at the same dress for two hours before taking it to the register. No one questioned her perplexing behavior. By the time Linda left the Mall, the sky had turned dark and it was raining.
“My mind was as dark as the sky,” said Linda. “Nothing was clear. As I drove home, a bridge caught my eye. Its wide, solid pillars became inviting to me as irrational thoughts swirled within my mind. I said to myself, ‘if only I could hit it, my troubles would be over. I would be at rest.”
Her heart raced and palms sweat as she tightened her grip on the steering wheel and turned her car toward the bridge. As her car barreled toward the pillar she heard the Holy Spirit say, “Your son needs the love of a mother.” Her son’s innocent, two-year-old face drifted through her mind and the horror of what she had been contemplating registered. She turned out of the path leading to the bridge and went home, realizing that she needed help.
When Linda’s husband returned home to his severely depressed wife, he immediately sought professional help. A Christian psychiatrist, who people waited months to see, scheduled an appointment with Linda the next day. “At the conclusion of the session, the psychiatrist told me I was angry. I laughed and told him I’m not angry, I’m depressed. But he gave me hope when he said I didn’t deserve to die, so I consented to be hospitalized.”
A flood of tears drenched the admission papers as she signed them. Embarrassed, she hung her head hoping no one would look at her as she walked to the ward that would be her home for the next three and half weeks. “I remember the humiliation of having the nurse go through my purse, item by item, and then the shock as she pulled the laces from my shoes,” said Linda.
Linda spent her first night next to a padded room. The patients screamed, yelled and thrashed all night. Frightened by the turmoil, she lay awake listening to the agony of her neighbor. That night she realized the trauma, pain and hopelessness so many people bear, and she asked herself why she found herself among them.
Day after day, she buried her head in the curves of her arms and tried to drown her pain in a pool of tears. She begged for medication so she could sleep and escape the harsh reality of her life. After a difficult day of panic attacks, the nurse administered a shot to calm her, which only lasted two hours. She awoke from her drug induced relief angry. Linda sat on her hospital bed weeping uncontrollably when her counselor walked in the door.
She lifted her red swollen eyes and sobbed, “Am I going to make it?”
He prayed for Linda and soothed her anxiety with the assurance that God would restore her.
The turning point in Linda’s healing came on a quiet afternoon in her hospital room. Her roommate slipped a CD into her player and the words of a familiar song floated from the speakers: “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so, little ones to him belong, they are weak, but he is strong.”
Linda recalled how often she had sung Jesus Loves Me as a child. “The words ‘the Bible tells me so’ struck me,” said Linda. “If I truly believed God’s word, I had to accept that God loved me.”
Hospitalization stabilized Linda but her healing had only begun. Before her doctor released her from the hospital, he challenged her to pursue healing and promised she would never find herself back in a mental ward if she did. She returned home determined to work out her own salvation.
“I didn’t want to live this way and spent the next year and a half studying Psalms. King David honestly expressed his feelings and that gave me permission to be honest about my feelings and know God would still loves me,” said Linda. “That revelation enabled me to release repressed emotions and freed me from a life-time of fear and anxiety.”
A year after she was released from the mental health ward, Linda found herself weeping uncontrollably again. This time her tears soaked the front pew of her church as she cried before the Lord with a broken heart. “I felt I died that night and was truly born again. My sins were confessed, repentance was sincere, forgiveness received, and I was resurrected to live a new life dependent on Christ. I’ve never been the same, because now I am convinced, ‘Yes, Jesus, Loves me!’”