I’m excited to be doing something slightly different for this week’s God and Suffering post – an interview with Sheridan Voysey. He is an engaging speaker, a successful radio host and author, and he has wise things to say to anyone who’s living with a broken dream. I’m thrilled to have him in this space:
On Broken Dreams and New Beginnings: a Q&A with Resurrection Year author Sheridan Voysey
- Before we get into your story, how would you describe a ‘Resurrection Year’?
I’d describe a Resurrection Year as a year of new life following the death of a dream. I’d love to take credit for the phrase, but it was author-poet Adrian Plass who suggested it to me. I was talking to Adrian off-air one day after interviewing him on my former radio show, Open House. We’d gotten to know each other a little over the years, and so I told him about the difficult journey my wife Merryn and I had been on, and how we were thinking of starting the new year afresh. He listened intently, and then said, ‘In the Christian scheme of things, new beginnings come after the death of something, just as Jesus’ resurrection followed his crucifixion. After what you’ve just told me, I think a Resurrection Year is just what you need.’
- For your Resurrection Year you and Merryn left Australia to resettle in the UK. Tell us about your broken dream.
Our broken dream was not being able to start a family. We had pursued that dream for ten years—through special diets, healing prayer, numerous rounds of IVF and a two-year wait on the local adoption list. By the end of that ten years Merryn was in a mess. She needed a new beginning. Apart from longing to become a mum, Merryn’s only other dream was to live and work overseas. When she was offered a job at Oxford University, we saw it as God’s way for that secondary dream to become a reality.
- How did you finally decide to stop trying to have a child?
In short, we stopped because we simply couldn’t continue on anymore. Proverbs 13:12 says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. Well, Merryn’s heart was sick. The constant waiting picks away at the fabric of your being—waiting each month when you’re first trying for a child; waiting for blood test results when you’re doing IVF; waiting for the phone call when you’re waiting to adopt. Your emotions get a battering during this wait, as your hopes are constantly raised then dashed. As we approached our tenth year of waiting, we decided to try one last round of IVF before bringing the journey to an end. As readers of Resurrection Year will discover, that final round was eventful for all the wrong reasons.
- It’s well known how difficult infertility can be on a marriage. How did you prevent it affecting yours?
I’ll never forget Merryn and me talking with an IVF counsellor back in 2003.
‘In-vitro fertilisation can strain a relationship,’ the counsellor said. ‘You’ll have many decisions to make, like how many rounds of IVF you’ll attempt, and what you’ll do if you don’t succeed. Some couples find this the most difficult part. It can lead to many disagreements.’
Merryn said, ‘Sheridan and I have talked about that, and we’ve decided we won’t let IVF come between us. Our marriage is more important than having a child.’
The counsellor slumped with relief and said, ‘I’m so glad to hear you say that. Only last week a woman told me in front of her husband that if she didn’t have a baby their marriage was over.’
The pressure of infertility on a couple can be immense, whatever route the couple takes to rectify it. But that commitment to put our marriage first made all the difference in surviving those pressures.
- A moving scene in the book is where you make the commitment to Merryn to leave Australia and follow her dream of living abroad. You had a significant platform in Australia – a national radio show, popular books, speaking engagements. Did you ever second guess the decision?
Having watched Merryn miss out on one dream, I couldn’t watch her miss out on another. So, I’ve never really second-guessed our decision to come to the UK. But I won’t lie—leaving my life and ministry in Australia was hard. I didn’t leave it with the joy of a saint who delights in sacrifice. In the book, I describe our experience of infertility as a ‘wilderness’ journey. To some degree, leaving Australia and coming to the UK plunged me into a second wilderness experience—not knowing who I was or what my purpose was to be. But God has been up to something all along, and this unexpected book is part of it. A whole new season of ministry has opened up for us—a very surprising one.
- What kind of ministry?
For much of my public ministry I have operated as a kind of cultural apologist—attempting to show how the longings we have for meaning, guidance, liberation and love are fulfilled through Christian faith. People have appreciated that and some have come to faith. But when I speak on this topic of Resurrection Year, there’s not just vague interest on people’s faces—there are tears in their eyes. People pull me aside and share secrets they’ve never told before. Couples come to our home and weep over their own broken dreams. And through it all God seems to help people find some healing and hope. It’s all a surprise to Merryn and me.
- Did you or Merryn have any reservations about sharing such a personal story publicly?
Oh yes. Writing this book was not my idea at all (again, Adrian Plass played a part here). Professionally speaking, I didn’t want to become known as the ‘infertility’ guy either! And from a personal perspective, this was an immensely private event for Merryn and me and by sharing it we would be vulnerable to the judgements of others. As readers will discover, some very raw emotions are shared in Resurrection Year, and some deep questions about God’s goodness and providence. But it’s that rawness that people are thanking us most for as it has given voice to their own feelings and questions, yet shown a pathway through them to a place of hope, faith and new life.
- How has God been redeeming your story, then?
‘Redeeming’ is the right word. God hasn’t removed our problem, or fixed it. He’s redeeming it in service to others. That’s been the surprising lesson for us.
I hear from readers of Resurrection Year every week who say our story has helped them heal from their own broken dream. One woman wrote, ‘My son has Asperger’s and my marriage is in tatters. All my dreams are gone. But I’ve just read Resurrection Year and now feel I can start again—and start finding God again’. That’s a typical response. And it’s amazing for Merryn and me to see. Resurrection Year isn’t a book about infertility—it’s a book about recovering from broken dreams, whether that be the girl who longs to be married but is single, the guy whose career dreams haven’t worked out, or the friend who’s lost a loved one. The details are always different but the emotional and spiritual journey is often remarkably the same for each of us.
- What have learnt about broken dreams through all of this?
Firstly, I’ve learnt that while not every story ends with a miracle, quite a few end with a surprise. God has a way of redeeming our suffering in ways we wouldn’t imagine. Second, I’ve learnt that while God is sometimes silent, He is never absent. He chose to remain silent over our prayers for a child, but He was always present with us—even when we couldn’t feel it. And thirdly, I’ve learnt that a greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by one. We’ve all met people who are stuck in a dream that was never to be. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His latest book Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings was recently short-listed for the 2014 ECPA Christian Book of the Year Award. Visit sheridanvoysey.com for more articles on dreams, faith and starting again, and be sure to check out his podcast More Than This. You can find Sheridan on Facebook and Twitter too.
[tweetit]”I’ve learnt that while God is sometimes silent, He is never absent.” – @sheridanvoysey’s God and Suffering story: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“A greater tragedy than a broken dream is a life forever defined by one.” – @sheridanvoysey’s God & Suffering story: [/tweetit]
[tweetit]“Hope deferred makes the heart sick (Pr 13:12). Well, my wife’s heart was sick.” – @sheridanvoysey on infertility: [/tweetit]
Over to you:
- What’s your broken dream?
- What are the ways you can see God redeeming it?