Hi Mum. How's your faith?
I found out some incredible stuff about my mum – just by asking her
Happy Mother’s Day, Gaynor Gibson. I mean, Mum.
My mum, Gaynor, has been a Christian as long as she can remember. So have I, except that for a lot of my life I played fast and loose with the stuff of Jesus and God. I’m 42 now and it wasn’t until my early 30s that I shockingly realised just how much I was not practising what I preached.
Fast-forward to Mother’s Day 2018 and I was thinking about my own mum’s journey of Christian faith. I realised that I hadn’t ever stopped to ask her about that. While I do know quite a bit about her personal faith, some big changes have been happening in Mum of late – and I don’t think I know as much about all of that as I might.
So, I called Mum and we had a chat. And here’s what happened when we talked about faith – something we don’t tend to gab about.
I hope it’s an encouragement to any kids out there – and parents – to lovingly ask each other about how they are going with God and Jesus. Oh, and Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. I love you.
BEN: Hi, Mum. I was thinking about Mother’s Day and you – and how we share Christian faith. I know your faith has grown a lot during the past few years but I haven’t actually asked you a lot about that. So, what’s been happening?
MUM: It’s been quite remarkable. To help explain it, I’ll give you a short recap of what your dad [Jeff] and I have been doing during the past decade since we left the home that we lived in for more than 20 years.
BEN: OK, sure. But I already know what you’ve been doing. Still, if you think it will help me understand where your faith is at …
MUM: It will help. So, we travelled around New South Wales in a caravan for the first two-and-a-half years. That was a marvellous time but we decided to end our caravan working holiday in NSW’s Central West. We came to Molong – which is 30 minutes north of Orange – about seven years ago.
When I first came here, I tried other churches but I joined the Uniting Church again. It’s a very small and aged congregation. I had come from a Uniting church that was much bigger and I had played my part in that church, mostly, in administrative roles like on the church’s council.
“I found that I was a bit wanting.” – Gaynor Gibson
I can see now that my time was taken up with that and my relationship with God, as I reflect now, is that I was basically paying lip service, I think.
Molong didn’t need help administratively … so it was me and God sitting in the Uniting Church in Molong, week after week, not having to do anything else but think about what’s being said. Slowly but surely, I felt this transformation that God was, you know, like I was an onion with layers being peeled off to see what really was underneath. I found that I was a bit wanting.
BEN: What do you mean by ‘a bit wanting’? And how long do you think you were paying ‘lip service’ as a Christian?
MUM: I would say that was for a very long time. I didn’t read the Bible regularly and I prayed only spasmodically. I certainly felt I was a Christian – and an active Christian – but I was active, possibly, in not the roles God was wanting me to be in all the time … I was furthering the church [through administrative duties] instead of a really personal relationship [with God].
“I don’t think I really understood what a relationship with Christ requires and demands.” – Gaynor Gibson
The change in me has been quite radical. In that, my relationship with Christ has deepened to a degree that I had never experienced before. I don’t think I really understood what a relationship with Christ requires and demands, and the fact of what comfort can be found by having that deeper relationship.
BEN: That’s huge, Mum. Massive stuff. So what have you come to understand that that relationship ‘requires’ and ‘demands’?
MUM: For you to grow as a disciple of Christ, you do need to read the Bible very regularly and pray; and for you to receive that peace I feel only Christ can give, you need to do [all of those things] AND thank him in the good times and the bad.
You just need to have him as your central focus in how your life is going and how it should be. What he requires of you should come, hopefully, through closer examination of his word and a closer relationship with him.
Once I realised that, he nudged me a bit about having done seven years of public speaking training with Toastmasters International – and I wasn’t using it to further his cause. That got me to believe that I was being called to lay ministry – not ordained ministry. I’m three-quarters of the way through studying to be a certified Lay Preacher in the Uniting Church of Australia. I have been taking services and I greatly – greatly – enjoy doing that.
“Yes, there has been a radical change in me.” – Gaynor Gibson
BEN: This is all pretty amazing to me, Mum. You and I have already talked about some of these changes in you – but I don’t think I’ve asked you some of these specific questions before. I wish I had because, as it turns out, I’m a lot like you. I have discovered during recent years that, for a long time, I said I was a Christian but I did things – or didn’t do things – that suggested otherwise.
You already know some of this and how my Christian faith has also come along during the past decade. But I’m feeling a bit sheepish and embarrassed about not realising that you and I have shared such similar experiences of getting to know God and Jesus better. How I also was confronted by the fact that I said I was living for Jesus, but I was not really doing that.
MUM: And to get that across to other people, that the world would be a greater place if we all lived by the principles of Jesus Christ.
BEN: I don’t think I was fully on board with that before. I always thought Christianity was the right way to go for me, but I didn’t equate that with it being right for everyone.
MUM: As we know, God gave us free will and, as far as everyone else, they’ve got the free will to do whatever they want to do in life. But it’s having the opportunities to, perhaps, say some words to people who may be on the fringe – when I’m doing lay preaching – and they may think about things more seriously. I’d like to think that could happen.
But, yes, there has been a radical change in me.
“Does a daughter or a son really know their parents at this [older] age?” – Gaynor Gibson
BEN: I’m hearing that – and it’s so great to hear. But why do you think you and I haven’t talked about our Christian faith like this before?
MUM: In regard to you, Ben, we have known that you have had a complete reversal of previous ideals [because] you went to Bible college. I wouldn’t have needed to discuss the reasons you were doing that because they were obvious.
BEN: Do you think it was obvious why I quit my job and decided to study at a Bible college?
MUM: Well, it was obvious to me; otherwise, you would have been going to a TAFE college or University of Sydney to do a course. You were centring your life around biblical study. Well, you don’t do that unless you are thinking that this is the life I am going to lead.
What you actually got into after you finished your study was always interesting to know but I didn’t think I had to question your faith.
BEN: But I’m not saying you should have questioned my faith. I’m asking ‘why didn’t we talk about it?’
MUM: Well, maybe parents and children don’t talk about a lot of things, Ben.
BEN: That’s probably true.
MUM: Maybe they don’t see their parents as interesting enough. Does a daughter or a son really know their parents at this [older] age? Jeff and I are in our sixth decade; do our three children [brother Ryan and sister Jessica] really know us as adults? Really know us as people?
I’d like to think that our three children like to know what is happening in our lives and how we are different as parents now, as compared with when you were growing up.
“I think it all comes down to how you are perceived as a Christian.” – Gaynor Gibson
BEN: What do you think I can do to better understand you, especially when it comes to how your faith is travelling?
MUM: It doesn’t always have to relate to religious affiliation to try to understand who your parents are, at whatever stage of life they’re in. You know, we might surprise you with things that we know or do, and you three may surprise us. It’s really getting to know the person; not just seeing them as Mum and Dad, or us just seeing you as our three precious children that we have brought up. But who are you now as adults? We know snippets, but we wouldn’t know all and vice versa.
BEN: We’d better wrap up, Mum. And I’m trying to think of a place to finish. How about this – got any suggestions or recommendations about how to best relate Christian faith to each other?
MUM: I think it all comes down to how you are perceived as a Christian. If you are trying – and that’s the word, ‘trying’, because no one ever achieves it [perfectly] – to be a disciple of Christ, by your actions and what you do, people might notice there is something different about you.
I would like to think that anybody’s children, who aren’t Christian, may see that and ultimately might say there could be something to it. But I’m not a person who is going to say to them, ‘Now, where are you? Are you going to be a Christian one day?’ I don’t think that approach works at all. They have got their own free will that God has given to us all, so I’m not going to be judging them for what decisions they make.
I think it’s how you act out your life, yourself, and what you put into it as a disciple of Christ in trying to do what he suggests is the way to live.