The
Inspiration
Project

WITH BRENDAN CORR

GUEST Sheridan Voysey

Sheridan Voysey
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Episode 46

Sheridan Voysey: Episode Description

On this episode of The Inspiration Project, Brendan Corr talks to author, speaker and broadcaster Sheridan Voysey about his career in broadcasting, what lead him to working for the BBC, becoming a Christian at 19, how being a DJ helped him with his use of language, the differences between entertainment and analytical communication and what to do when life doesn’t go according to plan.

Episode Summary

  • When Sheridan realised that words were something that excited him enough to pursue a career in broadcasting and writing.
  • Becoming a Christian at age 19, and realising that winning the 1990 DMC DJ mixing championships wasn’t fulfiling and rather lonely.
  • Why school wasn’t a great experience for Sheridan.
  • How being a DJ helped Sheridan with the use of language.
  • The differences between entertainment and analytical types of communication.
  • Exploring the conception of our humanity and our sense of responsibility that we have in the moment when life doesn’t go according to plan.
  • Understanding what it means to be a human that goes through hardship.
  • Does Sheridan believe that having plans are a good thing or are they inherently problematic and whether they lead to disappointment.
  • Dealing with the disappointment of not being able to have kids.

Sheridan Voysey: Episode Transcript

Sponsor Announcement
This podcast is sponsored by Australian Christian College, a network of schools committed to student wellbeing, character development and academic improvement.

Introduction
Welcome to The Inspiration Project, where well-known Christians share their stories to inspire young people in their faith and life. Here’s your host, Brendan Corr.

Brendan Corr
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The Inspiration Project, the podcast where we get a chance to talk with people of significance who’ve been able to find some success in life and bring their faith into the manifestation of their purpose and their vocation. I’m delighted that, in this episode, we have the chance to talk to Mr. Sheridan Voysey. Mr. Voysey is an author, speaker and broadcaster with a particular interest in how it is or how he can help people make sense of life and figure out exactly what makes life worthwhile. He’s written a number of books, including Reflect with Sheridan, The Making of Us, Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned, and Resurrection Year. He’s often invited to speak in different contexts, a contributor regularly to radio broadcasts, and is a person who is part of the global conference scene, invited to speak in places all around the world. Sheridan, it’s wonderful to have a chance to talk with you. I think you’re in London right now?

Sheridan Voysey
I’m in Oxford, yeah.

Brendan Corr
On different sides of the planet?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah, so about an hour outside of London.

Brendan Corr
And is that where you’ve come to find home?

Sheridan Voysey
It is, very unexpectedly, I was never planning to live over in the United Kingdom. My parents are British and so I was born in Australia. I was born in Brisbane, but I got beaten up in the school grounds. I had a plummy accent because my parents were British. I had this really, really quite plummy British accent, even though of course I wasn’t born in the UK, so it’s ironic to come back here and would you believe it, Brendan when I come here and I speak people say, “Oh, are you from South Africa?”

Brendan Corr
“Oh, you’re an Aussie.” Oh, South Africa? Do you get that confusion?

Sheridan Voysey
I’ve paid a heavy, high price for this voice and then you think I’m from South Africa. Unbelievable.

Brendan Corr
Well, I wanted in the course of our conversation to talk to you about the notion of voice. Whether that’s something that is oral and how we are heard, but also the voice that you are able to create when you write. What does it mean to have a voice in our world? I think as I was running through all of those different parts of life that you are involved in, at least your professional life, author, speaker, and broadcaster, the common theme is language, which is the use of words. Has that always been something that has been important to you? When did you realise that words were something that excited you or you could use with a sense of agency?

Sheridan Voysey
A lot of people would start off by answering your question by saying, “Oh, when I was a child, and I used to sit and write stories on a Saturday morning.” No, not at all. You’re absolutely right. The key thread through everything that I’ve done is communication, but I’m the last person who should be in this role sitting behind a microphone, the last person. I was an only child for the first 13 years of my life, very introverted, very shy. My time was largely spent alone, playing with the dog in the garage on Saturday mornings, and it wasn’t actually to speak in front of people, and then I became a Christian, and as a result of that, very quickly I started to have this inner desire, didn’t know where it was coming from, that I actually really wanted to communicate. I really wanted to share some of these things that I was learning and that they were making sense of life. I really wanted to do that. I didn’t know how to do that, certainly I still didn’t think that it was going to be on a stage in any form or a platform of any kind, I thought it was going to be more one-to-one. And so that’s where what it was for many years, went off to Bible college, discovered in Bible college that I had some degree of pastoral concern for people, and with that also came a jewel calling to go into radio. Again, it was the last thing that I would’ve thought I would be going into. I became a Christian at the age of 18, 19. I was in nightclubs and I was, by that stage going, into DJ competitions and starting to get some positions. I actually came runner-up in the 1990 DMC mixing championships. Yeah, and I thought that was going to be the beginning of my dreams fulfilled, and yet that was one of the lonely nights that I ever had, because it wasn’t fulfilling this thing that was inside me, which was some degree of emptiness. My parents came to faith, which is a whole story in itself. I saw the change in them, I made a commitment, and a couple of years later, I then had this calling into radio. We can go into that more detail, if you like.

Brendan Corr
So, what I’m hearing is you are a regular, typical kid in Brisbane. Well, as typical as you can identify as being through school. Was school a happy experience for you? You mentioned that you suffered at the hands of others?

Sheridan Voysey
No, not really. Primary school I don’t look back on fondly. No, I was always the tallest kid in the class, apart from year two I think, where another guy was an inch taller than me. So, I was tall, I was lanky, I had this accent. I stuck out, I didn’t quickly make friends and I was bullied. I don’t look at those years as incredibly positive. Things got better when I went to high school, although the high school I went to could be pretty rough at times. So there were some standout memories of big school brawls down in the playground and things. Then I went to a community college for years 11 and 12 and that was a wonderful experience, but it took a few years to actually enjoy school.

Brendan Corr
So, what was it about the community college environment or the culture that suited you more than the typical high school, the seven to 10?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah. I don’t know if you know about this experiment Brendan, but back in the late ’80s, and I don’t know how long it lasted for, but it was called Alexandra Hills Community College. And so it was basically, It was both a TAFE, but also a high school and they did years 11 and 12. They ran it as if you were adults. So you could come in free dress, you addressed your teachers by first name, they addressed you by first name. There was just a real degree of freedom and welcome of a whole variety of different people and you could certainly clarify this, is there not something in which, when you turn that age, you now realise, “Okay, I can’t muck around. I actually now need to get on with life”? So, everybody who was there at school, they wanted to be there and we were doing as well as doing just your standard. I’m just trying to remember what the name of the curriculum was back then. I came out with a TE score, so I came out with 890 TE score. Everybody who wanted to be there, we were also doing photography classes and sound engineering classes, as well as the TE curriculum. I think most of us, if not all of us, just absolutely loved it.

Brendan Corr
While you weren’t conscious in those years of the final use of your schooling where your destiny was going to head, were you immersing yourself in the literature in the use of good language? It sounded like you were doing some broadcast things that would prepare you for your radio in the future. Not so, it was…

Sheridan Voysey
Not at all. There was no communication at any stage. I mean, all I was doing was doing my assignments and listening to music, and then DJing in nightclubs. Of course, there’s no speech there, apart from maybe a little bit. It’s all about mixing. It’s all about the music, it’s all about the song flowing into that song and keeping the vibe happening. So no, there was nothing to do with communication at all.

Brendan Corr
So, let me ask you about that, the notion of the vibe. One of the things that a good DJ does is pick up the vibe in the room. You sense the atmosphere, you sense where things are moving, and where the emotion is. Is that something that you also utilise when you are using language? Do you respond to the vibe, the cognitive vibe?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah, it’s a good question. Certainly, I don’t think I got to the stage where I was very good at reading a room when I was a DJ back then anyway, but certainly now in terms of speaking in front of an audience, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, in that the best communicators are those people who are able to be free of their script and be able to focus on the audience and be able to serve the audience in that moment. To enable me to do that, I actually memorise my keynote talks, so that I’m not bound to my script. Now, I always keep on coming back every couple of minutes and just make sure I’m on the right track and check my key points and things like that, but that frees you up to then walk from out of the pulpit or the podium and be able to focus and make eye contact with everybody who is in that room. Whether it’s 2,000 people or 20 people making individual contact with those people. Now, the “no” part of the answer is the fact that when you start off doing that you can be really freaked out by the way that most audiences look when they’re listening to you, which is they have a fairly blank face, and you can be so spooked up by that. The amount of times early in my preaching in churches and things where I would think, “Oh, my goodness, I’ve so lost them. Oh, they don’t care what I’m saying.”

Brendan Corr
You’re preaching to the brick wall. Is that right?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah, and then of course afterward you’re hearing all sorts of things that God’s done in their life. It just makes me conscious of myself when I’m listening to somebody to actually just put a little bit of a smile on there, just to make sure there’s some encouragement back to the speaker.

Brendan Corr
Well, I want to come back to our conversation in a little while and explore a little further about that conversional experience. While also looking at what becoming a Christian meant for you and how it allowed your opportunities to open. If you would indulge me a little further digging into this notion of how it is that you are communicating? All good communicators are able to tell a story to some degree. You need to be able to pitch things and unveil, unfold a narrative arc to some degree and yet you’re not a storyteller. You aren’t writing fiction, you’re not spinning yarns. You are discussing important ideas and bringing concepts to life and unpacking them. What role do you think that sort of communication has, where it’s the entertainment type of communication versus the analytical, “This is a good hard look at who we are and how our culture is in society”?

Sheridan Voysey
I completely agree with you. Storytelling is the key tool for a communicator to have in their toolbox. I don’t write fiction stories, that’s true, but almost everything I do is actually storytelling. It is narrative-based because stories are wonderful concrete tools. They bring the abstract down into the everyday. And so you can be talking about all sorts of highfalutin concepts, like incarnation, as we chat now. We’re talking just before Christmas and we’re thinking a lot about the incarnation of the son of God. That’s a lofty, abstract idea, but then when you start thinking about the great God of the universe squeezed himself into an embryo and that embryo gestated for nine months and became a little baby who was born, and then you start painting the picture so that people can imagine it. Well, that’s where the great lofty idea of incarnation then becomes concrete with something that we can feel, taste, touch, imagine, storytelling is so key. And quick tip on that, if you want to become a good storyteller, there are four key ideas: details, drama, dialogue, and delayed resolution. Scribble those down, and if you master those, the right amount of detail to paint the picture of the story, the right amount of dialogue to move the story along and reveal characters, a certain degree of drama, which in this case just means the tension, what is there to be a barrier before you can actually reach your goal and delayed resolution. Don’t give the punchline before it’s ready.

Brendan Corr
So, what I’m hearing, thank you for those four tips and I’m sure people are scribbling those down, particularly those who may need to be thinking about their HSC essays at some stage, how we are going to unpack that. Well, some of my colleagues, other teachers, we should write those down, friends. What I’m interested in hearing, Sheridan, is your notion that whether it is a strict story for entertainment or whether you are outlaying an idea, or an argument, the same principles are what make it successful, what makes it penetrate the human heart.

Sheridan Voysey
Really does, and this is why some of the great philosophers have always turned to narrative to fiction, to storytelling. You think of Jean-Paul Sartre, all of those. Why is their work continuing to have an influence and I would say, in some cases, very questionable influence? Why is it continuing to do so? Nietzsche. It’s because they embodied their atheism and their nihilism and their existentialism into narratives, which are then played out. On the contrary to that, what about the great stories that continue to resonate that have brought great wealth and generativity, and flourishing to humankind? Les Mis. What is it? It’s a story. And so when we have those wonderful acts of grace that come out of that particular stage play, we feel that it’s not just an abstract idea, we feel it. So, the more that we can do that, the better communicators we can become. The work I do on BBC Radio 2, over here, Radio 2 is the largest broadcaster in Europe, with 14 and a half million listeners a week. It’s astounding. In their breakfast show, which has got 9 million listeners, they have a spot called Pause for Thought, which is basically a God spot. These days, it’s multi-faith. I get to be a committed Christian on that, wearing the Christian cap, and actually going in there and being able to give a three-minute little thought for the day, something that will get people to be inspired. I pray to awaken them to the desire to find this God who is actually seeking them. If I can really craft my idea, my key discovery, the thing that I really want them to take away, into a story and then follow it up with a really powerful punchy statement, I’ve hit home. That’s the goal.

Brendan Corr
That’s a wonderful thing. You’ve got that opportunity. Again, I think what it speaks to, Sheridan, is the complexity of our humanity, that we deal cognitively, and intellectually with ideas and truth, propositional truth, but we are also beings that respond emotionally. There are things that tug us or passions that drive us or draw us to ideas, and we need to be conscious of both of those things.

Sheridan Voysey
Oh, very much so and I’ve written two full-length books that are memoirs, which are ultimately very long stories, in this case, 55,000-word stories based on a real experience, I can tell you that sometimes it’s hard to actually write those things in a compelling way. But what you do is you break them up into many stories. That’s basically how you do it. Again, that’s how, particularly when you’re dealing with matters of the heart, dealing with big issues. If you can, again, craft that with as much detail and dialogue and colour, then you will connect with your audience at an emotional, as well as an intellectual level.

Brendan Corr
This is a follow-up question to this line of thinking that we’re pursuing together. You mentioned memoirs, things that are accounts of your experience, the things that you’ve lived. There is, for those of us who aren’t necessarily recognised authors, the assumption that, that in itself, is a cathartic experience, that in the processing through language of your experience, there is more sense made, more identification of the underlying causes, purposes, who you are in those moments. Is that a genuine experience of authors, that there is this resolution of who you are and what you’ve lived?

Sheridan Voysey
Oh, it can be a really wonderful tool for that and so you don’t have to write your story with the end goal of it being published. I’m a big champion of journaling and that’s doing the same thing on a more micro level, but you’re absolutely right. When you sit down to write out a section of your story. And that’s the difference between biography and memoir. Biography is basically starting from the beginning, born at the Mater Mothers hospital in 1972, August 25, and right up until this present day. A memoir takes just a particular experience, a particular time or season of your life, and then starts to write that out. When you sit down to do something like that, it might be your conversion testimony, it might be like us, going through 10 years of infertility, trying to work out some sense of meaning about that, when you sit down to write that out. It is amazing how many dots get joined that otherwise hadn’t been joined. Say, “Oh, gosh, that actually led to that, didn’t it? I haven’t seen that before.” That raised the question of that and that got us thinking along these lines, which got us thinking about this, which ended up. Meaning, we moved to the UK. There’s a whole bunch of little dots that get joined that you hadn’t seen connect before and you’re able to objectify the experience, whereas before it was all subjective in your mind and heart and just buzzing around there, like a whole swarm of bees. When you get it off the mind and onto the page, there is some degree of being able to see it objectively and make some sense of it, so you’re absolutely right. It’s very much a common thing.

Brendan Corr
So, let me now ask you, the next side of that is you’ve expressed that you’ve captured your story. It’s there in print. What do you understand it to be then when it is read and people respond to that? What are their emotions? What’s the hope that you have for what it does for them?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah. Well, here’s the really interesting thing, is that when you tell a story of your own, particularly if you’re vulnerable with it, appropriately vulnerable. Sharing some of those aspects that maybe you didn’t want to share before, but you are doing it in service of the audience. What happens is that you do serve that immediate audience that you’re writing for. So, I wrote this book called Resurrection Year. It’s our story of going through 10 years of infertility and then how we start again after broken dreams. Now, the interesting thing is, when writing that, it actually has connected with people far beyond that experience of infertility, which is what I wasn’t expecting. I think I knew intellectually it was supposed to, but I then discovered it did in practice, that it connected with people from a variety of different broken dreams, whether they’d never been able to get married or they did get married and got divorced, so I never dreamt of that when they were saying their vows at the altar. Maybe they’d never been able to have children, as well but maybe they had had children and lost one. Maybe they had adopted and it hadn’t gone well or whatever. All sorts of different broken dreams didn’t get the career they wanted, got the career they wanted, and then lost it. What happens when you do share a story, is that there is something in which the emotional and spiritual components of that story can connect to a person who has not gone through any of the same details as you. It is quite a remarkable thing. The story is the language of humanity.

Brendan Corr
Yes, you’ve written several books now, and so maybe you’re more attuned to it beforehand rather than surprised by when it happens following. When you’re crafting your account, knowing that it is going to impact somebody’s heart, somebody else’s context. Are you consciously being pastoral in the way you present that or is it still a very personal representation that the miracle of our common humanity makes it relevant?

Sheridan Voysey
Yes, the intention. I think to be a good writer and a good communicator, you do need to have empathy for your audience. You need to be very mindful of where they might be and how this might impact them. I would say that empathy is the core of pastoral concern for people. So, in that case, I think you’re absolutely right. I know that some will say, Adrian Plass, who is a well-recognised British author, wrote a little book years and years ago called The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, Aged 37 ¾, as he says now it’s very out of date with his age, that’s gone on to sell a couple of million copies or something, and he wasn’t actually mindful of his audience at that time. He said it was pure catharsis. He had gone through a breakdown and he was freed with this idea. He didn’t need to be thinking about gatekeepers and worrying about what people would think, because he was raising some questions about the church at the time, and how they were responding to people who were in pain, and so he was freed from that and he just wrote this little book. It was a fiction book, so he could actually hide a lot of real people in the guise of fictionalised characters. So, yes, but I think ultimately knowing Adrian, there still would’ve been a desire there to serve people, and I think that’s what you need to have. I have read, being in broadcasting, you get sent so many books from so many publishers and then so many self-published authors, who of course want you to interview them because they want publicity for their book. Unfortunately, it’s been those catharsis books that have been the ones that we’ve had to put on the slush pile, because stories of people who’ve just been angry at the system or angry at how they were treated or whatever, and you just go, “You know what? This would’ve been great for your own private personal journal. It’s not serving anybody.” So, I really think ultimately you have to serve your audience one way or the other.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, and whether you realise it or not, like the example you go with Adrian, the message when you did your four points earlier about the tension or the drama that you were going to resolve at some point, it’s got to be a meaningful drama with a resolution, doesn’t it? It can’t just be a self-indulgent projection of dissatisfaction or your own emotions. It’s got to have an endpoint that you’re working to or it doesn’t meet the engagement of the story.

Sheridan Voysey
Right, yeah, and some will question whether you need to have a definite resolution or whether you can leave things up in the air a little bit. I love the film work of the Dardenne brothers, who are a Belgian film production team, and they do these wonderful social realist films. They’re very gritty, but they raise an issue and then put a character through a challenge to see if they’re going to be able to meet that issue. Sometimes the resolution in their films, because they’re so subtle, very European, Brendan, so they’re not American where you’ve got a wonderful resolution and another 10 minutes of life full being lovely and rosy again, they’re very gritty, very melancholy in some cases, but there’s always a resolution. It might just be that little smile that breaks on the character’s face for the very first time as she’s walking up the road after dealing with her difficult boss, which is a film called Two Days, One Night, if you want to go and see it, and that’s all it might be. It’s just that little bit of a smile that is hope. She is now being able to overcome this after all the challenges she’s been through, and that’s all it is, some degree of hope that you want to leave…

Brendan Corr
Just the suggestion that there is more to come. The suggestion that there is, It’s not nihilistic, hopeless content.

Sheridan Voysey
Hopeless, exactly.

Brendan Corr
That’s good. Sheridan, one of the books that I’m conscious was significant for you, was the book The Making of Us, Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned. That is powerful. I mentioned in our pre-recording comment, that for me, that little phrase was such a powerful conception of our humanity and our sense of responsibility that we have in the moment. If you’re happy to, can I explore some of the ideas applied in that?

Sheridan Voysey
Please do.

Brendan Corr
So, I guess I firstly wanted to note your choice of the who and the very strong humanising element that carries when you became a Christian. What changed about your notions of what it was to be a human, a person?

Sheridan Voysey
Well, coming to faith at the age of 18, 19, I probably at that stage wasn’t thinking in terms of what it means to be a human, as such. That’s certainly become a wonderful thing for me to explore in later years, but I wasn’t probably thinking in terms of that. I mean, the big impact for me was that I was trying to make life work and I was trying to get success. When I got a little bit of success, and it was a very small amount, when I got a little bit, it wasn’t fulfilling. And so I was trying to make life work and it wasn’t working. Then when I became a Christian, ah, there was just this sense of life, and hope, and freedom, and joy that came into my life, so those were the initial aspects of what faith brought into my life. I now knew there was this loving God who was out to do me good and had plans and purposes for me and then the community of faith. I made some wonderful new friends who were different kinds of friends and they had a different kind of concern and spirit about them and they loved each other. All of those things were profoundly life-changing for me. I think what can just so often happen is that we slip into that without faith, is we slip into that practical nihilism, I think. We wouldn’t even say it, we may not be philosophically inclined, but practical nihilism, where we just think ultimately we’re just all trying to make this up and, “It works for some, doesn’t work for others, it’s not working for me,” and, “Well, I’ll reach for the next self-help book that comes out, ‘cause that might help, but boy, I’ve read a whole bunch of those and life still isn’t changing.” And so you can see why people start to spiral down then, and I’m grateful that there’s an intervention in my life that-

Brendan Corr
For you. That’s where my thoughts were led when I read that subtitle, that the notion of when life doesn’t work out as planned and the powerful concept of a planned life, and whose plans, and the expectations, and assumptions, almost the entitlements to certain experiences in life or events in life. If you don’t mind me asking, do you think having plans is a good thing or are they inherently problematic, that they inherently lead to disappointment?

Sheridan Voysey
I think we need dreams and I think we need some plans. I think we then need to hold them both lightly and make sure that they’re placed in God’s hands. I think that to be human is to dream, I think it is. I think that to be a student and to start discovering, I have these capacities, they’re God-given capacities, and for one person it might be artistic, another person, it might be theoretical or engineering, the other person, it might be their love to work with their hands, and they can craft, and they can make things, and they can make engines work, and they start to have, in just whatever form that they come, a certain dream, “Oh, I’d love to build engines all the time. Maybe I just want to really want to be a mechanic or maybe I want to go and work for Boeing at one stage and do the big inside of engines.” And so to have a dream, I think is part of the outworking of God’s potential in us coming to the fore and saying, “Well, where could I take this? Where could I take this?” I think that dreams are good things. Alongside that, by the time you reach your 30s, 40s, certainly by the time you reach your 50s, you will have probably seen one of those dreams that you had somehow gone wrong. Now, for us. Actually, for me, there were two. For us together as a couple, it was not being able to have kids, 10 years of praying. Halfway through that journey, saying, “God, all right, if the answer is no, could you just tell us no? Because that would be a grace in itself, so that we can then grieve and move on.” We didn’t even have a no. It was a difficult time. There are mysteries about this life, which the Book of Job is all about. Job never gets answers to his questions. When God finally appears from the clouds and he speaks his booming voice, never gets answers to his questions. We get answers to Job’s questions, but Job never does. We know more about the story than he does. He doesn’t know anything about Satan’s role in that story. And so you will have disappointments. What do you do then when those dreams break, because we are living in a fallen world? We are not in a new heavens and new earth situation. We are living in a fallen world. Some of those dreams will break. The second dream for me that was broken was ultimately this, quote, unquote, “successful” ministry that I had when we were living in Sydney. I was host of a national radio show and speaking engagements at Australia’s Parliament House, book published, two books, three, four by that stage, came to the UK so that my wife can have her new beginning after not being able to have kids, and all of that, the door shut on that for a good few years. I didn’t know. I couldn’t be a father, so that was an identity gone, but maybe writer, speaker, and broadcaster were also gone, as well. And so I was asking those two great human questions again, “Who are you, Sheridan?” and “What are you on this earth to do?” I thought I’d ask those, answer those once in my 20s, live it out for the rest of my life. No, sometimes you’ve got to actually answer those a couple of times throughout your life.

Brendan Corr
Well, again, that’s a segue to the next part of the little phrase that leaped out to me, “When life works out or doesn’t work out as planned,” and the notion, well, what is life working out? For you, what advice would you have for somebody who’s trying to figure out what is a worked-out life? What’s the endpoint that I should be aspiring to? The strategy hasn’t worked to get me to that thing. What’s the thing and where do we get that source of destiny?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah, fabulous. These are great questions. I’m asked a lot of very similar questions, Brendan, and you are asking me a whole heap of new fresh questions, and I love it. Aversive scripture that has become just so pivotal for me since working through all of this, and infertility, and then when coming to the UK and BBC Radio 2, they weren’t returning my phone calls for the first few years, took a few years to have those doors open, is Ephesians 5:1-2. The apostle says, “Follow God’s example as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, and he continues on, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Now, those first three sentences, I believe, are the answer to your question. Following God’s example, in that context, is actually about taking on God’s character, his kindness, his compassion, his forgiveness, his grace. I would also say that part of that is agency and actually following God’s example. Do new things. Seek new adventures. Second one, “as dearly loved children,” this is the thing I had written about, I’d spoken about, but when I’d lost those identities for a period of time, I wasn’t too sure if I really knew. Is that every identity that we can come up with in this world, which are wonderful identities, might be being an artist or being an engineer or being a mechanic, might be being a mother, father. All of those things, they’re all wonderful identities, but they are fragile in this world, but being a child of God, sickness can’t take that away. A brain haemorrhage and losing all your faculties, that can’t take that away. Death can’t take it away. I had to go very deep and really rest deeply in that I am a loved child of God, and if I really ground my identity in that, you find that you have all the acceptance, and all of the grace, and all of the inner resources that you need to be able to get out of bed and fight another day and then walk in the way of love. If I go out, okay, no radio shows, publishers turning me down, all those things, but if I go out and there’s a neighbour on the street down here, and they’re in need, and I walk in the way of love and serve them, I have actually fulfilled a great, holy, divine purpose. It’s being able to come back to that sense of those small things are actually part of the great calling of God on your life.

Brendan Corr
Yes, yes. Wonderful.

Sheridan Voysey
Now, if you follow that through, love is to be the great river out of which all the streams of our life flow, engineering, art, broadcasting and writing, mothering, fathering, being a teacher, being a lecturer, being a principal, all of those things, then you will find that that becomes the central calling. Love becomes the central calling. Sometimes one of those streams might dry up, but what you can do then is get your kayak out, walk back up the stream, go back to the great river, and then love, and then see which other streams open up again.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, that’s beautiful, Sheridan. Unpacking those three elements of that passage captures so much of. You’re right, that is the answer. What is a worked-out life? To allow God to reveal himself through you, in you, to you, and transform your own conception of what your place in the world is, what your contribution,and how that contribution is revealed.

Sheridan Voysey
Here’s the interesting thing, is the next bit of that verse, “Just as Christ loved us.” Well, what was Christ’s greatest quote, “contribution to the world”? It was a cross, and after that, a resurrection. And so what we can find, and that’s I guess a fourth point, really, that we can add, is that there is redemption. Again, I knew it theoretically, but to then go public on our infertility story, which is a very personal story, I mean, I was never. It wasn’t in my goals, in my five-year plans to go and tell everybody that I’ve got a low sperm count. That was not what I wanted to do. In doing that, it somehow has empowered a whole bunch of other people, and a whole bunch of men by the way, who otherwise would be very, very quiet about these things, to step out of some sense of shame, even though they’ve got no choice in this matter, step out of some sense of shame and actually be able to walk into God’s new future for them, because he’s able to take these things and recycle them into something really powerful and beautiful, a kind of beauty that you wouldn’t have if life had gone as, quote, “planned.” So that’s the other element to all of this, is that sometimes those broken dreams can be God’s wonderful, wonderful starting points for a new beginning. Now, I want to put some caveats on that, too, because I don’t want to come and be all “Life is all going to work out well. Even the broken dream’s going to work out well for some people.” Right to the very end of this life, it is a very difficult trial, but we know that this life is not the end, and if that redemption doesn’t come now, it’s coming. There is going to be a wonderful sweeping up of all those difficult parts of our story, too.

Brendan Corr
Yeah, which, again, coming back to that little subtitle of that book, Who We Can Become, the sense of possibility, that it’s not an inevitability, it’s not just work the process or work the problem and ipso facto mechanically it’s going to work out or you’ll find meaning or it’ll all be okay in the end. There is that hope that’s implied. In some ways, Sheridan, I don’t know whether you agree with this, that hope is one of the most important things for the human soul to have a sense of. Hopelessness is a very dark, desperate place. The element of hope is life-giving.

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah, it really is. We need it. We feed off it. When that hope dims out, like a snuffed-out flame, well, then that’s when we really are emotionally and spiritually, we’re really in peril. This is what the gospel brings. It brings that, even in the difficult things. Even if you’re not too sure how it’s going to happen, and you’re struggling to see that glimpse of light, it is there.

Brendan Corr
Yes, the story of the gospel. Just before we pull things to an end, I wonder, we’ve been talking with the assumption as Christians, as believers, that have come to a personal experience of that assurance of God’s love. You talked about dear children loved by God and the notion all things work together to those who love God, called according to his purpose. If you are not a believer in Jesus, if you haven’t tasted and experienced that love of God, is there still hope or is the story of the gospel the fundamental point that all human hearts need to find some resolution in?

Sheridan Voysey
Yeah. I mean, we’ve had some wonderful thinkers and philosophers over the years, haven’t we? I’m about to launch a big project on adult friendship. I’ve spent the last three years delving into some of the wonderful thinkers throughout history, particularly Aristotle and Cicero, who are still, after all these thousands of years, still some of the finest thinkers on friendship that you can find. All other thoughts have really been, in some way, riffing off what they’ve come up with. These were fine philosophers, but ultimately if you are still left alone with great ideas, where’s the power to live them out? I’ve been reading through that great Jewish book of wisdom and melancholy. Gosh, this is the ultimate European film with subtitles, where everything is dark, and the Book of Ecclesiastes. It’s amazing that this is in Jewish and Christian scriptures because it is. He’s wrestling with the meaning of life and he’s trying to build great projects, and he’s trying to find it in sex and relationships, and he’s trying to find it in wisdom, and in the end, he says, “Look, I tried it, but it’s just not working.” It’s like a Woody Allen film, where in the end. There’s this Woody Allen film called Whatever Works, and in the end, the central character looks at the camera and says, “Look, in the end, it’s all meaningless. Just do whatever works for you.” That’s what we’re left with because all we have is our own human resources. We are in a sad place, but the gospel says, not only does Jesus, God in human form, come to sort this out, he gives a way of life that helps us to make sense of both the good and the bad.” So, he gives the good and the bad as much as we can, recognising there are still going to be some mysteries there, but not only that, he actually comes and empowers us from within. The Holy Spirit comes to live inside us, to give us the power, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control that we need to live in this life. If we don’t have that, then we’re going to have to try and generate those things ourselves, because you’re going to need them. That is where I keep on coming back now, is that personal development just isn’t enough. We need the empowering of God himself to be able to become the people we’re meant to be. So, I think it all comes down, hope ultimately comes down to God, otherwise, we’re left only to our own good ideas and devices.

Brendan Corr
Yes, and however hopeful we might be in our own resilience, even our community, that’s rather vapid when it comes to the big things in life.

Sheridan Voysey
Look, a war can turn that up on its head within a day. Living here in the United Kingdom after all those years living in Australia and seeing how we are just so close to the world’s problems right here in the UK, and we’ve got five or six major crises going on by ourselves in this country, life is good in Australia in comparison. You’re so far away from so many of the big challenges of the world. We are facing people at the moment that are going cold and hungry as a result of that war in Ukraine, as a result of Russian aggression, and we’re here in the United Kingdom. We are all connected, and the fact is that it doesn’t take much for somebody else, maybe even far away, to evidence something, do something, and you can be affected. So, even those wonderful times in life, we’ve got to be grateful for them, and enjoy them. The Book of Ecclesiastes says, “Enjoy those moments.” Enjoy every moment of that eating, and that play, and that joy, and that fellowship, and that fun that you can have in that moment, but ultimately it says, “But fear God and follow his ways and do what he’s calling you to do.” That’s where ultimate meaning is found.

Brendan Corr
That’s a really beautiful balance between all of the richness that we can enjoy, of the good things of life to celebrate, but understand in the context of our essential human existence, there’s much, much more. Sheridan, I’ve so enjoyed our few minutes that we’ve been able to chat together. I love the ideas that you capture and that you present and explain and help others access. I’m very thankful that God continues to reveal himself to you, and through that, you share your insights, and your understandings, with the rest of the Christian Church and those that can benefit from the way God has gifted you to tell his story. Thank you for your time today.

Sheridan Voysey
Oh, thank you, Brendan. Wonderful questions, really. You pushed me, and I really appreciate the thought that’s gone into them. Thank you.

Sheridan Voysey

About Sheridan Voysey

Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker, and broadcaster on faith and spirituality. His books include Resurrection Year: Turning Broken Dreams into New Beginnings, Resilient and the award-winning Unseen Footprints. Sheridan is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 2 and other international networks, and has featured on BBC Breakfast, BBC News, Day of Discovery, Moody Radio, and publications like The Sunday Telegraph. He is married to Merryn and lives and travels from Oxford, United Kingdom.

Photo of Brendan Corr

About Brendan Corr

Originally a Secondary Science Teacher, Brendan is a graduate of UTS, Deakin and Regent College, Canada. While Deputy Principal at Pacific Hills for 12 years, Brendan also led the NSW Christian Schools Australia registration system. Brendan’s faith is grounded in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and a deep knowledge of God’s Word. Married for over 30 years, Brendan and Kim have 4 adult children. On the weekends, Brendan enjoys cycling (but he enjoys coffee with his mates afterwards slightly more).