By Debbonnaire Kovacs, Feb. 1, 2017 It’s just about exactly five years since I started writing regularly for Adventist Today, and I thought I’d do something different and write a little about those five years and what they’ve meant to me.
It was in the fall of 2011 that Monte Sahlin first asked me to write a feature. In January 2012 my position as Features Editor (and, at that time, Blogs Editor) was confirmed and I began posting features the first week of February. I also asked if I could do a devotional piece each week. A couple of years later I traded Blogs Editor for Poetry & Arts Editor. At the time, it was a very rarely used part of the Adventist Today website, and since the use of arts in worship (not to mention in life in general) is very important to me, and something that I think the Adventist denomination sometimes neglects, I wanted to see if I could build it up.
The reason I decided to share this piece with my readers this week is that these five years have been important to me in various ways that I think may resonate with many others that visit or write for these pages. Quite aside from the innumerable educational, encouraging, mind-stretching, and character-building articles and posts I’ve read, there have been enormous blessings for me just in doing my own small part of the work here at Adventist Today.
For one thing, I have gotten to “meet” (at least by phone or email, sometimes in person) lots and lots of fascinating Adventists! I have talked to church members ranging from a Hollywood producer to backwoods Bible workers, from children creating electronic prostheses to elderly women running marathons or taking missionary trips across the world.
I have interviewed an astonishing array of pastors—one who rode a bike across America to raise funds for diapers for mothers who couldn’t afford them, ones who started churches in unsung corners, ones who are young, old, male, female, encouraged and discouraged…but all walking with their hands clinging to God’s.
I have talked with schoolteachers and schoolchildren, artists and musicians and poets and vegan restaurant owners. I’ve talked to Adventists who are caring for widows and orphans, working hard to shield refugees, and broadening our concepts of key Bible principles, often by their words written and spoken, but mostly by their actions.
As a pathologically shy child who grew up to be a somewhat more healthy introvert, it can be difficult for me to make those phone calls—still, believe it or not. I have to make myself do it, and I would never have made contact with the vast majority of these people if it weren’t “my job.” I am always surprised when they are as happy to talk to me as I am to talk to them. I “knew” (in my head) already, but it’s more true to me every day that we all have our insecurities and fears, we all long for encouragement and reassurance, and most of all, we all need affirmation of God’s love and guidance, assurance that the sometimes faltering steps we make in the paths where God leads us are truly blessing others and bringing glory to the Maker.
I love that I get to pass on that encouragement and reassurance, and that our readers vastly multiply that affirmation.
Perhaps even more than that, I have been enormously helped by being in contact with other progressive Adventists. We start to think we might be the only ones, or we might be wrong. At least, we introverts do. It can be harder or easier depending on where we are geographically located, and in the American South…well…enough said.
I thank God on my knees that I was raised in a family that encouraged questions, believing that faith cannot be one’s own if it is not turned over (and over) and dug into and truly understood for oneself. However, as I grew older, attending Mount Vernon Academy (Ohio) and then Atlantic Union College (Massachusetts), I began to realize that many other Adventists had not been raised the same way. Questions were frightening and threatening, and because they had not dug into (as a gardener, I call it “cultivated”) their own faith for their own souls, it was fragile and easily uprooted.
Looking back, the effect this had on me seems a little paradoxical. In one-on-one situations, I could and did encourage and hold up my friends as strongly as I could. I well remember one Sabbath afternoon in the MVA cafeteria when I was about 16. I was talking with a girl my age who had a set of beliefs that made perfect sense to her. Major premise: the presence of God brings joy. Minor premise: I am depressed. Conclusion: God is not with me.
For two hours I did my utmost to assure her that feelings are like pimples—they come and go, and we all have them—but if God promises to be with us, we can hang our lives on that. Another friend was with us and tried to second my syllogism, which went more like—Major premise: God promised never to leave us. Minor premise: God never lies. Conclusion: no matter how I feel, God is still with me.
I have often prayed for that girl, who left the academy soon after. I wonder if she ever came to understand the unconditional nature of God’s total love. I wish I’d known to help her find professional help. I did myself, years later, and I hope she did, too.
When I wasn’t in one-on-one situations, though, I was very threatened by writings and sermons and teachings that separated reason and faith with a deep chasm; that accused deep thinkers of being somehow less faithful, or actually faithless. My own early books, published by Pacific Press, garnered some nasty accusations, not only of being entirely off the road to heaven myself, but of leading others astray, too. It made me want to hide away and keep my thoughts and beliefs to myself.
Adventist Today has been a godsend—literally—in helping me to feel that we truly need a full spectrum of expressions of faith in the One True God. I was taught to believe that the Creator is much, much bigger than all of us put together, higher and greater and more incomprehensible than we can imagine, and certainly nothing that we can describe or classify. We couldn’t know or say anything at all about God if God didn’t speak first. And God said, “I AM love.”
So long live the engines, pulling the train forward chugging and heaving, reaching for new territories and sometimes getting us all in scrapes. (“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, it has not entered into the heart of any human, what God has prepared for those who love God” 1 Cor. 2:9.)
Long live the cabooses, hanging back and holding buckle and thong to the old ways and the precious truths of the past. (“Ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls” Jer. 6:16.)
And long live the long row of cars between, no matter where we fall on the line. As one of my beloved pastors likes to say, “If we keep holding hands, and we don’t turn back, we will get there.”
Just don’t get off the train.
Thank you, Adventist Today, for being a godly influence in my life. If Jesus doesn’t come first, I hope for five more years. (But I’d rather he’d come!!)
Debbonnaire Kovacs is a speaker and the author of 28 books and over 700 stories and articles for adults and children. To learn more about her work or ask her to speak at your organization, visit www.debbonnaire.com.