Ruth, can you tell us a bit about yourself, how you came to follow Jesus and who is in your family?
I’m 50 years old, living in western Sydney and I’ve been a Christian for about 15 years. I’m a single mum of two boys aged 10 and 12, and two dogs aged 1 and 4. I work full-time for an environmental consulting firm. It’s a career I began before I became a Christian and went back into when I became a single mum. Now, while I work full-time, I still have a writing ministry and I’m on the committee for the KCC Onward youth conference.
I came to know Jesus through a series of random (but God-planned) events and people. It all culminated in moving out west and wanting to go to church because I didn’t know anyone and wanted to find community. When I heard the gospel preached it was not at all what I thought I knew about Jesus and three months later I gave my life to him.
Before having your boys, what did your times of personal Bible reading and prayer look like? We realise you have written a book on the motivation and merits of Christian habits! But could you share one encouragement or piece of wisdom that most helped you keep going in this discipline?
Before having the boys, my Bible reading was very rich and varied. I was a new Christian so I was hungry to know about Jesus. I started the Moore College Preliminary Theology Certificate and chewed through as many subjects as I could. The truth and beauty of the Bible as a whole was stunning to me. It was just breathtaking how intricately and perfectly everything points to and is fulfilled by Jesus.
My Bible reading in those times was semi-regular and wide-ranging because my circumstances meant I could often read as much as I liked when I liked. The difficult times for me were where I had less structure, for example in the semester breaks between subjects, or with long days at work. But I definitely noticed a difference when I wasn’t reading frequently. I felt off kilter. Somehow the weeks were harder without that anchor point. That’s when I realised that I didn’t only need Bible reading because I was hungry to know the truth; I needed it to make the world go quiet and to create some space each day to listen to God as he does his work in me, moulds me and communicates to me things he knows I need.
So the piece of wisdom that kept me going is just that: I need to create space to listen to God as he does work in me. And that could be reading for 5 minutes, or listening to an audio Bible while doing chores or in the car. And it might change depending on where I was at. Some weeks I would read at the same time every day for half an hour. Other days I could only manage a few chapters on an audio Bible. But whatever it is, the key was to create space.
What has personal Bible reading looked like since becoming a mum? In particular, how do you juggle this commitment as a single mum? How have you been supported by other Christians in this?
As a full-time worker and single mum, creating space for all manner of things seems to be the magic trick I do every day!!
When the boys were babies, I studied part-time study at Sydney Missionary and Bible College. So the boys went through their toddler years well used to seeing me with my nose in a book about the Bible and, of course, in the Bible itself.
As they got older and couldn’t just be rocked in a pram while I was reading, creating space became harder. I used to read the Bible after they went to bed, but that could be hard because I was so tired. During Covid lockdown, a friend set up an online daily Bible reading group—we didn’t talk, it was just a space for all of us to do our Bible reading together. At the same time, there was a “read the Bible in 90 days” challenge that I joined—that was rewarding but hard going. It helped me realise I actually love just reading through the Bible on repeat, but just at a slightly slower pace!
At the moment I’m reading at 7pm—that’s deliberate too. 7pm is “device down” time so the boys are milling around, playing (non-computer) games, messing around with the dogs and generally doing what brothers do (i.e. annoying each other). But they are also seeing me regularly being in the Bible, and hopefully seeing a healthy spiritual habit as normal. Sometimes I can invite them into what I’m reading and talk about what they know about that book or passage.
I still find it difficult when work extends into the evening. Unfortunately, in a deadline driven business, starting early and finishing at 8 or 9pm (or later) is not uncommon. On those days there just isn’t time to do all the things I need to do as a parent and a worker. Sometimes my days just do not go to plan. I don’t have a clever response when those days happen. I wish I did. So far, the only thing I can think of on those days is to not put too much pressure on myself. I want to be consistent in my healthy Christian habits but I don’t want to be so dogged in my approach that it is a burdensome chore.
By the same token, on those busy, intense, exhausting days, I don’t want to just give myself a free pass. I know that even five minutes in the Bible is actually a great antidote to a hard day. It grounds me. It makes the stress of the deadline start to recede. It brings things into perspective. It reminds me what is important.
I remember the key thing is creating space. It only takes a few minutes if that’s all I’ve got.
What kind of devotional times do you have with your boys? Do you remember what has worked best at each age and stage? How has your church family helped you in the task of raising your children to know Jesus?
This is something that also changes a lot. There can be mental growth spurts every term and so what we did last month doesn’t work now! Sometimes our devotions will be just reading straight from the Bible without other resources. Some of the best resources for their age group have been the Zonderkidz Devotions to Take You Deeper series from the age of 10 through to tween. There’s also a really good series of short books by Chris Morphew published by The Good Book Company: How Do We Know Christianity is True? Why Does God Let Bad Things Happen? and What Happens When You Die? These have been really good for my older son who is now 12, going on 13.
My church family is so important in this faith journey of my boys. Everything we do at home is re-enforced and enhanced by my church family. This is through Friday night youth group which my son loves, as well as our regular Sunday gathering where they see, and are influenced by, my close Christian friends. The input of my ministers and the youth leaders and my Christian friends is invaluable in helping the boys to grow in an active faith environment. They see God working in and through our church. They see examples of strong Christian disciples. They see the Bible in action.