Gregory Funderburk is a pastoral care minister, a lawyer, and a writer. He’s the author of The Mourning Wave, a novel about the Galveston storm of 1900 that was included on Kirkus Review’s “Best of 2020: Our Favorite lndie Books” list and named one of its Best lndie Debut Novels of 2020. A compilation of Greg’s essays titled Let It Be Said We’ve Borne It Well was published in 2021 by Smyth & Helwys in the midst of the pandemic. He lives in Houston with his wife, Kelly. They have two sons, Hank and Charlie.
What were you hoping to accomplish when you sat down to write Hurdles: An Authentic Pursuit of God in a Post-Pandemic World? Written and published only a year after Let It Be Said We’ve Borne It Well, would you consider Hurdles be a continuation of your earlier book?
Both books emerged from an endeavour that began with the pandemic. In April of 2020, I started to write an essay per week for the congregation which I serve as a minister to buoy our spirits. The collection of essays generated for that purpose that became Let It Be Said, reflects the hard work we all did through the pandemic to remain hopeful and encouraged during a particularly difficult time. Hurdles is a continuation in the sense that these essays too came into being writing for the church, but its theme is that, even as the pandemic wanes, in a very real sense, we’re always going to be facing challenges— it’s simply the nature of our lives. Both books are dosed heavily not only with Gospel ideas, but Stoic philosophy, to help us frame our lives in a positive way despite the trials we always find ourselves in the midst of.
Whether it is based off a timeframe of the pandemic or something else entirely, how would you describe the differences of mindset when sitting down to start Let It Be Said versus Hurdles?
Because Let It Be Said began when the pandemic had just started, I was hoping and trusting that some thoughtful words each week might make a difference in how readers approached the challenges they were facing. But to tell the truth, I wasn’t completely sure it would have that effect. However, by the time I’d written a dozen or so, based on the feedback, I concluded there was some real power in simply reminding people of the value of adopting a hopeful rather than a pessimistic or even ambivalent approach to what we were all going through. By the time, I started writing what would coalesce into Hurdles, there was a higher level of confidence that this sort of hope and encouragement really can be difference-making. Hurdles reflects a renewed conviction of that.
How can we recognize or have confidence in the “authenticity” of pursuing a relationship with God?
Maybe a good question to ask ourselves every so often is this: am I generally coming to God as the person I want to be, or am I coming to God as the person I actually am. It’s good, vital even, to have aspirations of becoming better, truer—a more elevated soul—but trying to curate our image as we pursue God seems kind of pointless. The other thing I think we might do to cultivate an authentic pursuit of God is try to get away from some of the religious jargon we use in the context of our faith, but no where else in our lives. I think maybe that subtly but corrosively sets up a kind of split in our personality more than we might appreciate. [Read more…]