Soul’s Scribe – Interview with Kate Nicholas
Kate Nicholas has over twenty years' experience as a national journalist, editor and commentator and now heads up global communications for Christian humanitarian agency World Vision. She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband and two daughters and is a lay preacher.
Why did you decide to write Soul’s Scribe?
As an author, broadcaster and preacher, I feel called to help people to see that our reality is far more mysterious and exciting than we can ever imagine; encouraging them to recognise that behind the often humdrum events of our lives, lies a different and more profound ‘soul story’ about that part of us that connects us to God.
My eyes were opened to that reality by a cancer diagnosis; and as I hovered on the border between life and death, I was able to recognise how God had been with me right the way back to my earliest childhood. At that critical junction in my life God told me that ‘I will not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord’ (Psalm 118:17), so I captured this experience - my soul story - in my memoir Sea Changed which has gone on to inspire many.
But as a professional communicator, I also wanted to help others understand their ’soul’s story’ and to inspire and equip them to share their account of their walk with God with others. A couple of years ago, I was speaking to a church group about my own soul story. And a woman in the audience got up and said, ‘It was wonderful to hear your story, but wouldn’t it be great if we could do as you have done; to look back over our own lives, to see where God has been at work and be able to tell our own stories – but I suspect we only get round to doing this when we realise we haven’t long left.’
She left quite an impression on me. I realised that before cancer brought me to a standstill, I like many had lived most of my life on autopilot. It is really hard to step back and to take the take the time to reflect on the lessons of our own lives while we are busy living. And many of us are unsure how to tell the story of our walk with God to others. So I wrote Soul’s Scribe, to help people see more clearly how God communicates with us throughout our lives and how he equips us to communicate this experience to others.
Who have you written this book for?
This is a book for anyone who has ever said to themselves ‘There has to be something more than this?’ and wants to better grasp the real meaning behind the events of their lives. You may not think your life story is particularly interesting or important, but each of us also has a ‘soul story’, the tale of our inner walk with God which he calls us to share. And Soul’s Scribe will help to understand your ‘soul story’, how it connects with God’s eternal narrative and how to share that story in a way that will encourage and inspire others.
Why did you choose this title?
When I was ill, I came across a saying by Aristotle – ‘Memory is the scribe of the soul.’ Aristotle may not have recognized the immortal soul in the same way that we do as Christians, but what he did acknowledge was the soul as a life force that goes beyond the material. And Soul’s Scribe explores the idea that it is only in looking back that we can truly understand our soul’s connection to the divine, and recognise where our story and God’s narrative have converged.
You talk about our ‘soul story’ – what do you mean by that? And how is that different from our ‘life story’?
If you were to tell your ‘life story’, it is likely that you would talk about where you were born and grew up, where you studied, what career you pursued, who you married, how many children you had and perhaps some of the memorable places you visited or people you met. All this makes up your life story and it is right and proper that you should mark and celebrate these things. But your ‘soul story’ is about something more. It is the story of that part of you that is born with a yearning for God, and an account of a lifetime spent reaching out to the only one who can satisfy that soul-deep hunger and thirst. It is a story that begins not with the external events in your life, no matter how noteworthy they may be, but begins within.
What do you think makes this book unique?
Soul’s Scribe draws on a unique combination of insights from scripture, developmental psychology and the communications profession to explore how God communicates with us, and how he calls and equips us to communicate that experience to others.
Soul’s Scribe takes you on a journey through the various stages of life , helping you to see your soul’s story as an adventure full of meaning and purpose, connecting your tale with the great sweeping arc of God’s eternal narrative. And Soul’s Scribe also provides you with the kind of tools used by professional communicators to help you to share your soul story in a way that will inspire and encourage others.
You structure the book through the different stages of life, why was it so important to do this, and what impact do you think it has by doing it this way?
Since the dawn of time, the human race has nurtured the idea that each of has a potential soul journey or story - and this journey features in a majority of world religions. In Christianity we are told that the purpose of our lives is to be transformed into the image of Christ, and that process is an anakoinosis – a gradual renewing of our minds and growth in faith.
This journey can, but does not necessarily, be linked to our chronological life phases and Soul’s Scribe draws on both scripture and developmental psychology to help you recognise and understand the various stages of this journey in your own life.
You make it very clear that our story needs to link into God’s narrative – why is this so important to you?
For the past few centuries atheists have argued that, despite the sheer improbability of the existence of life on our planet, that we humans are no more than some kind of cosmic accident; that our lives have no meaning beyond their biological structure and no relevance beyond our mortal span.
But God’s narrative tells a very different story. It tells of a magnificent and awesome power that ignited a spark of energy so great that it created, out of nothing, the very stuff of which we are made. The fact that you exist at all is a miracle of an intentional act, by an unfathomable power.
Soul’s Scribe is about recognising our role as a protagonist in this extraordinary narrative that began before the world and will continue long after it passes away. It is about recognising our inestimable worth in God’s eyes.
Why do you think it is so important for us to be able to tell our soul story to others?
God gave us the ability to communicate, the gift of language and of words and all of us are called to share our journey of faith – our soul story. Our words about our experiences and our own journey carry such power, and we have a responsibility to make good use of such a powerful tool.
All of us who are recipients of God’s blessings are called to bless others in return. In fact, Jesus told us that ‘everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned’ (Matt. 12:36–37).
We are all called to witness to the power of Christ in our lives. Because while people might argue with your theology they can’t argue with your experience – which is what makes your soul story so powerful.
You have a course on Writing Your Soul Story – can you tell us a little more about this?
Souls Scribe is a book for anyone who wants to understand how God has spoken into their lives, and would like to help others to see that they too are beloved. You don’t need to be a budding author but I do run an online course called Write Your Soul Story for those who want to take those next steps and to write their Christian autobiography or memoir.
There are so many amazing stories out there of how God has worked in people’s lives. But when it comes to writing a book most people just don’t know where to start. So in four weeks, my online course takes you through the entire process from identifying your readers to structuring your story, from editing to getting your book published. And I also offer the chance to have your book reviewed by a leading Christian publisher and to submit your manuscript for potential publication.
For more information go to www.katenicholas.co.uk/mysoulsstory
Have you learnt anything new/ been reminded afresh about your own personal journey with God as you have written this book?
What really stood out for me as I looked deeper into the different stages of our faith journey is how in recent years, I have reconnected with the ‘child’ within. For most of my adult years, my relationship with God seemed to be muddied by questions to which I was never going to get answers. But in recent years, and particularly after my brush with cancer, these questions seem less important and I am more able to connect with the mystery of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; and in this second phase of life, I have become less focused on the material needs of life and more on the deeper needs of the soul.
This phenomenon has been referred to as the ‘second naivete’ and is a mark of maturing faith. It can come at any time in your life, but marks the point when your hunger and need for meaning can no longer be satisfied by the things of this world. This does not mean that we don’t have a faith life before this point, or that we don’t have a relationship with God, but that we need to have lived a certain amount of life and to have made some mistakes before we are equipped to really begin to grapple with the most profound questions of meaning.
What do you hope readers will get out of reading this book?
I hope to engender a sense of wonder and gratitude at God’s loving care for each of us, and a desire to encourage others by sharing the story of our soul’s journey.
In one sentence, how would you describe Soul’s Scribe?
This is a book about communication – how God communicates with us as individuals throughout our lives, and how he equips us to communicate that experience.
Is there anything we can pray for you?
That if, it is his will, that I will continue to ‘live and declare the works of God’. (Psalm 118:17)