Joan Ball spent more than fifteen years in the public relations business before making the transition from the boardroom to the classroom in 2007. She currently teaches marketing at St. John's University in New York City.
In Flirting With Faith: My Spiritual Journey from Atheism to a Faith-Filled Life (Simon & Schuster), Joan shares with bold candor how she allowed her career and the money, prestige, and possessions that came with it to overshadow the things that were most important in life. As her friend Makoto Fujimura says, "She dances with both faith and doubt, while being unflinchingly honest each step of the way. Her authentic wrestling will confound skeptics, challenge believers and comfort those who mourn." Anne Jackson adds, "With each word, Joan Ball invites us to take a step into her heart where we see the beauty of transformation and the freedom of grace."
ConversantLife posed Five Questions to Joan, and she was kind enough to provide these engaging answers. Be sure to watch her short video at the end of this interview. You can also preview the book, including five full chapters, at the Simon & Schuster website.
1. Joan, you were one of the original bloggers on ConversantLife.com. What have you been doing for the last couple of years?
This has been a complicated couple of years, peppered with wonderful opportunities and heartbreaking challenges. On the one hand, my career as a writer and professor has taken off. My first book, Flirting with Faith: My Spiritual Journey from Atheism to a Faith-Filled life was accepted for publication, I became a full-time professor in the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John's University and my blog was acquired by Beliefnet.com. At the same time, I lost loved ones and faced other personal challenges that helped me to gain a deeper understanding of the paradoxes involved in service, surrender, perseverance and favor that mark the lives of those of us who endeavor to follow Jesus with all of our hearts, minds, bodies and souls.
2. So, you've got this new book, "Flirting With Faith," from a major New York publisher. How cool is that?
The book was just released on May 11, so I am still getting used to the fact that it is actually on bookstore shelves and in the hands of readers. It is both exciting and intimidating to receive emails and comments on Facebook and Twitter from people who are reading the story. I always knew I was putting myself out there, warts and all. Now I am coming to understand what that really means.
3. What's in this book that could be a stimulant for people who are like you once were?
I spent most of my life convinced that I could do anything I put my mind to. The notion that God or any other supernatural being was out there ready to love, help, support and guide my steps appeared to me to be childish and desperate. Even now, seven years after my own unlikely conversion to Christian faith, I remain convinced that no argument--however well-reasoned or lovingly delivered--could have convinced me otherwise. That's why this book doesn't attempt to cajole or proselytize. It is one story of one woman's journey. If my story stimulates anything in the heart, mind or soul of anyone who reads the book it would be a Holy Spirit, not a Joan Ball thing.
4. What about people who are Christians, but kind of bored or even disillusioned by their faith. What can "Flirting With Faith" do for them?
The Christianity I have experienced since coming to faith in 2003 has been a surprising and challenging adventure riddled with uncertainty and wonder. As an outsider looking in during my teens, 20s and 30s I never would have thought that to be the case. On the contrary, I perceived Christianity to be routine, predictable and...well...boring. Unfortunately there are many professed Christians who live that perception. I hope that my story will offer an alternate version of how exciting and countercultural Christian living can be.
5. How did you change in the process of writing "Flirting With Faith"?
I was living this story as I wrote it, so I was growing and changing as the book unfolded. Not only did I learn to be a writer by writing this story, I also learned what it means to persevere--to stick with something even when it becomes excruciatingly hard. I learned the power of allowing myself to be vulnerable in service to something bigger than my own image. As a result, I have begun to enjoy the freedom that comes from living beyond secrets. What you see is what you get.