When introducing Gloria Furman, it’s hard to know where to start. She is a blogger, doula, and pastor's wife in the United Arab Emirates. She’s the mother of four children and the author of three books: Glimpses of Grace, The Pastor’s Wife, and Treasuring Christ When Your Hands Are Full.
But when reading her books and corresponding with her in preparation for this interview, I noticed a tranquility in her writing that pressed beyond a simple list of titles. Her words beat unceasingly on one drum: Grace. Grace. Grace.
Furman is passionate about sharing that grace with women—especially mothers—and exhorting us to lift our eyes to the Cross again and again. She took time to share about raising her family in Dubai, reading theology, and serving by the strength that God provides.
1) Can you tell us a bit about your life so far? How did you come to know the Lord?
I know we can all say this, but it always bears repeating: my life thus far has been all of grace. God has been nothing but gracious to me in the past, is gracious to me right now, and will be gracious to me in the future because of Jesus. Newton said it better, I think: “Twas grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace shall lead me Home.”
I was raised in a church-going family, but I did not know the Lord until I was a freshman in college. Another college student invited me to a Bible study where we were reading the gospel of John. About halfway into the semester I wanted to quit coming to the study because I didn’t feel comfortable anymore. I know now it was the work of the Spirit in my heart, convincing my prideful soul that I was a sinner in need of repentance and grace. My study leader talked with me about the good news—that Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem specifically to be a blood sacrifice for the sins of all who believe. I had assumed that Jesus was the victim of a religio-political quandary. When I saw in Scripture that he was the Lamb of God, a willing sacrifice, I was undone. And I believed!
2) Any summary of your roles reads like a lengthy list: wife, mother of four, doula, cross-cultural worker, author, blogger. You wear a lot of hats! What have you learned about keeping your priorities ordered as you serve the Lord in so many different ways?
That’s a fantastic question. I like how Scottish theologian, Horatius Bonar, answers that in his little book, Words to Winners of Souls. He is writing to pastors, but he might as well be writing to moms and everybody else! He said that if your soul is not full first, you have nothing to give to someone else. George Muller said it similarly: “the business to which I ought to attend every day is to have my soul happy in the Lord.” With all the responsibilities I have, I have learned that these guys are absolutely right. We need to serve “by the strength that God supplies” (1 Pet. 4:11) because there’s no other strength to be had.
3) In your book Glimpses of Grace you discuss how the Gospel transforms even the most mundane moments of our lives. Can you share a story about how the Gospel has shaped your interactions lately?
Sure thing—we’re in the States right now visiting with family and doing some fundraising for a couple of weeks. Time is of the essence! It’s not like we have hours and days and unlimited flexibility. With that said, I’m trying to get things done for my kids like dental work, pediatrician visits, vaccine updates, guardianship documentation, school uniform shopping, etc.
This morning a receptionist messed up our appointment time for something which could have caused a total ripple effect in the important appointments we have. Instead of treating her coldly to let her know she had wronged me, I remembered that the one thing we all have in common is that we are all totally dependent on God’s grace. She and I are in the same boat. I need the forgiveness that only Christ provides as I am accountable to him on the Last Day. The same is true of her.
Whatever grievance you have against someone, whether big or minuscule (like my incident today), it doesn’t compare to the reckoning we will all have when Christ comes back to judge the living and the dead. Christ is the only morally superior one. We need his grace.
4) As a doula, you get to be present at one of the most formative events in your clients’ lives. How does the Gospel shape the way you serve these families during and after the birth of their child?
I’ve had incredible experiences in my volunteer work as a birth doula. The Gospel shapes the way I serve them because the Gospel is the reason I serve them. Sacrificial love is the way of the Cross, and my energy and motive to serve those families has to come from Jesus. Otherwise, as with any ministry, it can become self-serving instead of Christ-exalting.
Practically speaking, being a birth doula gives me opportunities to talk with moms and dads about their faith. Where is our hope? Is our hope in this pain relieving technique? Is it in the marvelous design of the powerful muscles of the uterus? Or is our hope in the God who designed all of creation to praise him? We have new life on the way—praise the Lord! And is our hope in him—the God who raises the dead?
5) When you first moved to Dubai, what surprised you most about planting a church and raising your family in the Middle East? In what ways are you thankful for the people you serve?
I’ve actually had some moments of reflections on this during these last few days in America. We’ve lived in the Middle East for seven years now. I’m often surprised by things. God likes to undo our expectations and reshape them according to his character instead of the course of this world. For example, when we expected some church planting methodology to be effective, God showed us that his priority is to work through weakness so that he gets the glory. Regarding raising our family, I’m seeing more and more how my children have been shaped by their environment in the Middle East. We drove down I-35 the other day and my younger daughter asked me why there were so many church buildings. (There is only one church building in our emirate and our church meets in a hotel ballroom.) Another child wanted to know if the children in Texas have Bibles in their language!
I’m thankful for the people we serve for so many reasons! I love their zeal for God’s Word. I’ve seen eyes misty with tears when a woman has come to realize that the Bible is God’s Word. “You mean to say to me that God has spoken and his words are in here?” I love their zeal for sharing the Gospel with their friends and coworkers and neighbors no matter the cost. One woman said, “Persecuted? Of course we are persecuted. Jesus said we would be. But he is worthy.” Amen, sister. Teach us by your example!
6) In your most recent book, The Pastor’s Wife, you address some of the expectations placed on women whose husbands are in full-time ministry. Do you have any words of encouragement for the ministry wives among us? What can the rest of us do to support the wives of pastors, missionaries, and ministry workers in our lives?
Ah, yes! Ministry wives among us, please understand that God is kind. There are so many messages directed to ministry wives that are along the lines of an apology like this: “I am so sorry that you’re a ministry wife. What a bummer. Well, I wonder if we can make the best of it? This too shall pass.” I think that does the Lord a disservice and misrepresents him and the grace he is extending to more and more people through his Gospel.
You can encourage and support the ministry wives in your life by pointing them to the supernatural nature of the ministry they and their husbands are doing. We may see one or two things to report back in a missionary newsletter, but all of heaven is exalting the enthroned Christ who is currently bringing his enemies under his feet and summing up all things in himself. We have so much to be thankful for—and that’s putting it mildly.
7) Who are your favorite authors? Are there particular books that you return to again and again?
J.I. Packer, G.K. Beale, John Piper, Graeme Goldsworthy, D.A. Carson, Jeremiah Burroughs, Tim Keesee (New writer alert! This guy’s work is incredible), and John Flavel are current favorites.
8) What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on a book about Ephesians and a book about missional motherhood. I’m also working on language. Man, I am behind on some things I should know—both in languages spoken around me in Dubai and in biblical languages. I need to set aside some significant time to dive in to these things again.
9) Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Keep reading! As John Piper has said: “Swim in the Bible! It’s an ocean of wonders about the one for whom you were made.”
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