Tuesday, April 30, 2013

yet another interview with moi

Because I blog, I occasionally get asked to do an interview. Here's one I did for a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend who is doing an assignment on media and Christianity and something-or-other (can't remember now!). 

Some of this will be familiar to many of you, but others might enjoy finding out a bit more about my background and what I do from day to day. (It's at times like these that the narcissism of blogging comes to the fore.)

I've picked 11 questions.

1. Briefly describe how you became a Christian.

I was brought up in a Christian home and can’t remember a time I wasn’t a Christian – although I can remember “becoming” a Christian lots of times, until a lady on a beach mission explained to me that you only have to do it once!!

I went through a time of doubt in my late teens, and wrestled with questions like, “Is the Bible true? Is Jesus really who he said he was?”. One day, having established that the New Testament is trustworthy, I sat down and read the gospel of Mark cover-to-cover and realised that, yes, Jesus is everything he said he was – God, Lord, Saviour – and that I never want to be apart from him.

2. What does your average week look like?

I spend the majority of my time caring for our kids and running our home. We have a son with a chronic illness, so that takes up much of my time and energy at the moment. I cook, clean, wash clothes, drive the kids around, and so on...

One morning a week is spent doing student ministry at the university campus nearby; one afternoon and one morning, I try to spend time with mums from school; Thursday evenings we host a church Bible study in our home; Sunday afternoons I’m often in town doing women’s ministry at our church; then we have Sunday evening church and the school week starts again.

Writing - for my own blog and for The Briefing - fits into some of the gaps in my timetable, mostly on weekdays, in the mornings after the school run and in the early afternoon.

3. For how long has your life looked like this?

My oldest daughter is 14, so I’ve been a mum for a long time. Before that I did a PhD in church history and was the female staff worker in our university Christian group. During my years as a mum, I did more or less ministry outside the home depending on the ages and stages of my kids – at first I could do a little, but with 3 and then 4 kids I couldn’t do much at all!

I started writing when my youngest son was 1 or 2, when I started to have some extra time and energy on my hands. As the kids have grown, the time I’ve had for ministry outside the home has gradually increased.

4. What motivated you to start writing your blog? Was there a single significant influence?

I think I was just keen to get back into ministry outside the home after many years raising small children. Blogging was something I could do from home, while caring for my youngest son. I’ve always loved reading, reflecting, teaching, and even, to some extent, writing. Once I started, my passion for the last one surprised me!

5. What do you personally gain from blogging / writing / reading?

It brings me great joy. It gets me into the “zone”, that wonderful place where the words flow onto the screen. It gives me relaxation and a release from all the practical, everyday duties of running a home. I’m an introvert, so when I read and write, it’s time away from other people. I love this time when I can focus on one task rather than trying endlessly to multitask and cope with the demands of four very different children.

I love the sense of achievement that comes with blogging. I tend to be a task-oriented perfectionist, and there’s not many chances to finish a task when you run a home - the clothes need washing again, the kids need to be fed again in a few hours - so I love the way you can write something and then polish it until it says exactly what you want it to say.

I also love the process of reading - reflecting - writing, filling my mind with the Bible and with other people’s reflections until I get my head around an issue and have something to say about it, then expressing that as clearly as I can.

So blogging is a perfect fit for me and gives me great satisfaction and rest.

6. In what ways does your Christian faith help you in your life, or to deal with particular issues you are concerned about?

In what ways doesn’t it? Jesus is the answer to every longing, every quest for truth, every despair. Every issue I grapple with, I bring to the Bible, and wrestle with God’s word until I have some understanding of what he wants to say. Every personal struggle, every grief and anxiety, finds its answer in God, so I bring it to him and struggle with him in prayer and read his word and ask for his help until there’s some connect between his truth and the way I feel.

7. Was your family important in developing or stimulating your interest in what you do?

My parents are committed, active Christians who read the Bible with my brother and me regularly and taught us about God. My father was a maths lecturer who taught me to think clearly and logically. My mother was an English teacher who fed us books and more books, taught me to love language, and helped train me to write.

So yes, they had a huge impact in turning me into a blogger – although none of us knew it at the time. When I was a teenager, computers were the size of a photocopier, and we certainly hadn’t heard of the Internet or blogging! And I had no plans to “be a writer”. My love for writing surprised me quite late in life!

8. What were your early religious/spiritual experiences? How significant was this in forming your beliefs these days?

My parents never skirted around difficult issues, the kind that adults struggle to understand. So I never felt like there were “too-hard” issues that you couldn’t discuss and come to understand by reading God’s word. I haven’t strayed too far from what they taught me – they were reformed in their understanding of Christianity, and so am I. They taught me to be rigorous in my thinking, which helps me not to be sloppy when I write.

There was also an intense time as a teenager when I, as you might say, “fell in love with God”. That had a big impact later when I chose the topic for my PhD – “The Puritan experience of enjoyment of God”. Part of my motivation as I write is to help reformed evangelicals like me, who can be a little cerebral, to allow ourselves to “feel” as well as believe the truth; to let God’s amazing truth have its full impact on us, heart and mind.

9. How important do you think your work is in relation to the issue you are working on?

I am a small fish in a very big Internet pond. Not quite so big in Christian circles though! Quite a few people read what I write. But this doesn't make me important. Jesus is important, I’m not. And we tend to blow up our importance in our own minds, don’t we?

I went through a mini mid-life crisis when I wanted my name to be remembered beyond the grave. Now I’m just happy if, in God’s mercy, I’m able to encourage someone to persevere in the faith, build them up in God’s truth, help them grow into Christian maturity, and, most wonderfully, help someone come to Christ.

10. How important is the media (in general) or the type of media you use (e.g. blogger)?

Important in what way? Blogging is certainly wide-reaching – or, at least, it has the potential to be, I’m sure much of what bloggers write disappears into the void, never to be read by anyone outside their own small circle. But it has the power to reach into people’s everyday reading, into homes across the globe, into countries closed to the gospel. So yes, it has the potential to be very powerful.

11. Can the media change people? If so, how? Or how does it not change people?

People are changed – really changed, from the inside out – when God’s truth makes its way into their hearts and wins them away from their false gods and idols to trust in Jesus and live for him. The media can help do this in the way any words can do this: through God’s word (2 Timothy 3:16-17), as we speak the truth in love into each others’ lives (Eph 4:15).

When I write, I think of the reader on the other end of what I write. I try to love them, to not write what is harsh or unloving, to write what will be helpful to them as they read. I try to write as well as I can because God’s truth makes its way more easily into people’s hearts if it’s clothed in well-crafted language. If any of this changes people, it will be because God, in his grace, has used his Word, through my words, to change their hearts.

So no, on its own the media can’t change people. But yes, it can change people, because God can work through it, as one person speaks his truth to another person. It can happen when non-Christians write true words about the world, or people, or beauty, or horror, or sin. It can happen when Christians write true words about the gospel, or life, or sorrow, or creation. It only changes people by God’s grace.


Surprised Rach said...

This *is* a good read for a relative newcomer to this blog. Thanks for sharing it :)... I suspected for a while that you must have had parents who are teachers :-)

Jean said...

Glad to hear it, Rachel! I get a bit tired of posting the same things about myself, and can't help imagining others are tired too... Glad someone enjoyed it!

Funny what you said about my parents being teachers. What led you to suspect that? (Maybe I shouldn't ask! ;) )