I grew up in a home where love was given conditionally. I never felt good enough. I thought I was unlovable. At this time I was being sexually abused by a family member. I wondered what I had done to make all these things happen to me. I felt hopeless. I was also dealing with undiagnosed bipolar disorder types 1 and 2. With my feelings of not measuring up and my mental illness, the depression and manic episodes not only confused me but also my parents. During the manic episodes, my parents accused me of being on drugs, which only increased my feelings of isolation. It got to the point that I couldn’t handle my illness anymore, and I tried to take my life twice during my senior year of high school. I spent time in a psychiatric hospital, tutored for the first half of my senior year, and when I returned to school, the rumors about me were awful. I was too embarrassed to say why I had been out. The rumor was that I was pregnant and had an abortion, or that I had the baby and gave it up for adoption. So now I also felt isolated at school.
Then I met my husband. He treated me like I was special, yet I still doubted whether he actually loved me. I thought I loved him but was never taught how to love, so I think at that time I just wanted to get away from home. We were married in 1981. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to sexual abuse from my family member affected our intimacy. Being patient and loving left me confused, and I constantly asked myself, <em>Why is he still here?</em> I never expressed an opinion of my own for fear that if I said anything my husband disagreed with, he would leave me. I was always asking him if he loved me.
Due to my undiagnosed mental illness, I again tried to kill myself, so I was admitted to another hospital. I felt like this was it—he wouldn’t be there when I was discharged. I was finally diagnosed and put on medication; it helped with the ups and downs, but my feelings of not being good enough just wouldn't go away. After my husband attended his Walk to Emmaus, he encouraged me to do the same. So I went on the next Walk. The talks were informative, but at Candlelight when all those people who didn’t know me showed up, that put God’s unconditional love into perspective for me, helping me understand that maybe I could be forgiven and was loved. I didn't have to buy God’s love; it was a free gift. I thought if all these people who don’t know me love me, then my husband, who married me and stood by me during my PTSD and suicide attempts, must really love me. Then all the pain, isolation, despair, anger, and self-hatred just melted away. For the first time in my life, I knew what love was and could give it, but, more important, accept it. I never again had to ask my husband if he loves me.
I have also learned how to forgive my abuser and my parents as I realize that they had parents who loved conditionally also. The Lord has changed my life, but The Walk to Emmaus opened the door.
I still struggle with my bipolar disorder, PTSD, and anxiety disorder, but through it all I have come to rely on God, making him a priority in my life. My husband is now a pastor, thanks to his Walk. As a pastor’s wife, I am helping our church find new ministries.
I have gone overboard buying Christian books, biographies, inspirational self-help books, and study guides and books about people and history in the Bible. A history buff, I enjoy researching biblical times and studying world events that took place during Bible times. I just finished a study on the Roman Empire and the struggle of the Jewish people in different countries. God’s chosen people have been scorned by nearly every culture in the world. I have a large tub full of books beside my bed; it will take years to read them all. But yet I find books about other topics and feel compelled to buy them.
After my Walk, I wanted to and still want to change the world, starting with my church. I have gotten involved with most of the ministries at our church. I am the director for Vacation Bible School. We support Samaritan’s Purse shoe box ministries, challenging ourselves to always do more than the year before. With 10 families in our church participating, we are up to 37 shoe boxes! We have also adopted the elementary school in our community. There are a number of families below the poverty line for whom we provide school supplies, clothing, and food for the elementary school’s backpack program. We also adopt one or two large families from the school at Christmastime and provide presents for them. Another ministry I am passionate about is Touched Twice Ministries. Every March all the local churches, doctors and dentists, chiropractors, massage therapists, beauticians, and hundreds of other volunteers freely serve the underprivileged in our three- or four-county area. In certain instances, between three and four thousand persons use our services that day. This is a very rewarding ministry.
During my Fourth Day I have joined an Emmaus community. It is not the one where I did my Walk, but it is a wonderful community. I have given all the talks except the spiritual ones. I have served as Lay Director but found my talents are best suited for working with agape gifts for Emmaus participants. I have worked on Walks, too numerous to count, and have helped start two Emmaus communities. I am now the Agape Chair for our Emmaus Board. I do all of this because I learned in 72 hours that I was worth loving in God’s eyes.
I look forward to the future. I try to tell anyone who will listen about my experience with Emmaus, while also explaining that everyone’s experience is different. I see a great revival happening in our world, as I was blessed enough to attend the revival at Asbury, KY. I see the love of Jesus being spread through Emmaus, Chrysalis, colleges, and churches everywhere. I don't know what the future holds, but I know I can look forward to it because I know who holds the future.
Teresa Walker attended North Alabama Walk to Emmaus #99 at Camp Sumatanga, AL in 1989.
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