Kristyn Getty is a Northern Ireland-born hymn-writer, who celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday. She now lives in Nashville with her husband, Keith, and their four young daughters.
Q. How and when did you come to faith?
A. As a little child, I remember praying to the Lord with my mum — a moment in time when I asked the Lord to forgive me, to be my Saviour and greatest friend. But having parents who loved and shared and lived the Christian faith means that I never remember not knowing about the Lord. And for this gift I am very grateful.
Growing up, I discovered the Christian faith was not in its own little pocket, or just brought out on a Sunday. We understood it to shape everything — like a light switches on to fill a whole room. It was not perfect and now, as an adult raising my own family, it’s not perfect either. But it is the hope and peace that both grounds us and lifts us each day.
Q. Have you ever had a crisis of faith, or something that gnawed at your faith?
A. Life is not neatly understood, as we experience it, and times of struggle raise the hardest questions. But I was always encouraged to ask questions; my mum had breast cancer when I was a teenager. One of the most difficult times as an adult was when I really struggled through maybe not being able to have children. Then, right now, so many of us are navigating through this pandemic, so unsure of what each day will bring.
I have to remember that, if God’s Word is true, it is always true in every season. One of the advantages I have found in turning 40 is how many years I have now collected; to look back with gratitude for God’s faithfulness, even when I still don’t fully understand everything.
Q. Do you ever get criticised for your faith? And are you able to live with that criticism?
A. Sometimes. There are not really many fair or clear spaces to have honest conversation and debate — that is always very frustrating. I always want to be learning and growing and I enjoy conversations with those who think differently. I also strive to be better at living out my faith, to represent His name well.
Q. Are you ever ashamed of your own Church, or denomination?
A. The Church is God’s idea and its timeless beauty, voice, calling and future is a glorious thing. When Churches don’t look like they are supposed to, it is disappointing. I know there are those who have been genuinely hurt by the Church and I grieve that this would turn them away from the Lord. I also know my own heart and how many things I’ve said or done wrongly since I just woke up this morning.
Q. Are you afraid to die? Or can you look beyond death?
A. I’m not afraid of death, but I do struggle often with fears around dying (particularly as a mum with young children to take care of) and then I worry about living without those I love. I’m not sure I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t. The Bible tells us over and over again to not be afraid. So, God already knew how we would be burdened with fears. The Christian faith connects with real life and gives hope and strength through it — an incredible and specific hope no other faith or belief system can, or does, offer.
Q. Do you believe in a resurrection? And, if so, what will it be like?
A. Even in the great loss around this present pandemic, the loveliness of spring presses in relentlessly all around us. The story of new life has been written into all creation. However, each year the cycle still brings death again. The resurrection of Jesus means that one day this will end, death and all that it has damaged will be conquered for good, spring will be here to stay.
Q. What do you think about people of other denominations and other faiths?
A. The world is filled with people who think very differently about things. No one should be scared to think and ask and honestly search. Some answers are unsettling and religions are not all the same. Everyone is drawing a line of what they believe, whether they realise it or not. We really should know where we are standing. I think this season we are now in lends itself to much-needed greater reflection on where we are.
Q. Are the Churches here fulfilling their mission?
A. The Church’s mission is to make disciples. There are so many Churches I know and love that are busy in that work all over the world. The Christian Church has given so many heroes to our world, some unsung of course. I think of Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery, Amy Carmichael and her work with children in crisis in India and Helen Roseveare, a missionary doctor who built hospitals in the Congo.
It was an understanding of both human dignity and the truth and compassion of the Lord that drove each of them. I want my children to see more people like this in the Church and to grow up with a passion to serve and change the world for Christ, wherever they are planted.
Q. Has religion helped, or hindered, the people of Northern Ireland?
A. A real relationship with the Lord is always the greatest help.
Q. What is your favourite book, music and film, and why?
A. My favourite books as a child were the Anne of Green Gables series — I finally got to visit Prince Edward Island last year. But I really love too many books to mention one. I had several wonderful teachers at Ballyclare High School, but I would want to mention my English teacher, Mr Lenaghan — he significantly helped grow my love and understanding of language. His classes hugely inspired my imagination and are part of why and how I write today. We listen to so many styles of music and, having four girls, the playlists just keep growing. We like them to listen to lots of music, including the hymn a month we teach them. What we listen to and sing for ourselves really impacts on how we think and what we remember. I think the last thing I watched was Belgravia — I love good TV and film from back home.
Q. Where do you feel closest to God?
A. Reading His Word. Also, being on the north Antrim coast.
Q. What inscription would you like on your gravestone?
A. Home with the Lord.
Q. Finally, have you any major regrets?
A. There is always a sense that I wish I had done, or was doing, more of all that has eternal worth. But I always want to be pressing on. CS Lewis once wrote: “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”