The hilarious author of Bad Girls of the Bible is back with a new novel based on the first chapter of the book of Ruth.
When *I first heard Liz Curtis Higgs speak fourteen years ago, she was virtually unknown. Some things have changed, while others have remained the same. In 1995, I remember laughing until I cried as she shared personal stories and spiritual truths with a down-to-earth hilarity, and Liz is just as delightfully funny now as she was then. All those years ago, her most well-known book Bad Girls of the Bible was still in the making. Now the author of 26 books for adults and children alike, Liz celebrated the release of book number 27 in March. Recently, she spoke with HOPE about this latest project and the message she wants to share, no matter the venue.
Can you share how you became a Christian?
LIZ: I spent a decade out there doing all the things we pray our kids never do: it was sex, it was drugs, it was rock and roll, it was pot, it was cocaine, it was booze, and it was men, men, men. Foolishly, I looked in all those places for joy and settled for fun. God is so faithful in that He never lost sight of me. In fact, now I realize that He was literally with me through it all. However deep my pit got, He was down there with me. He was waiting for me to be ready to hit bottom. When you hit that low point, it’s actually good news because when you hit bottom, you’re already halfway to the top again—there’s nowhere else to go. In my case, I just looked up into the eyes of my Savior. Two dear people that I worked with were brand new believers, and I’ve often thought that they must have looked at me and thought, “Wow—here’s a project!” But they didn’t treat me like one. These people loved me in the name of Jesus—because they loved God and God loved them. I was certainly willing to listen to a God who would love such a broken woman.
How then did you get into writing for and speaking to Christian women?
LIZ: After I came to know Christ, I stayed in secular radio for another 5 years until God led me into speaking and then into writing. But if you’d told me in February 1982 that I was going to be a Christian writer and speaker, I would have laughed out loud! It seemed ludicrous with my background. But God uses everything, and He certainly used my “bad girl” decade to give me a heart for women who are still there but also the passion to get the news out, one way or the other—fiction, non-fiction, speaking, whatever God wants me to do.
As you’ve become more well-known, has there been a funny moment when you knew you had become a public figure?
LIZ: I remember being in Paris, of all places, at the airport with my then 15-year-old daughter in 2004. The trip was my 50th birthday gift to both of us. One of the challenges over the years for my kids has been having to “share” me. Whenever we go out in a public way, there’s always somebody who knows you. But I said, “We’re going to Europe; nobody will know me there!” So we had just gotten off the plane, we’re walking through the concourse at Charles de Gaulle airport, and a woman calls out, “Look! It’s Liz Curtis Higgs!” She was an American who was over there too, so I don’t think that makes me any more famous. But it was funny, and of course, my daughter just rolled her eyes.
Your writing covers so many different genres. Is there one in particular that you favour?
LIZ: Fifteen years ago, I was doing mostly humor. I was teaching the Bible but doing it with a strong emphasis on humor. By the time Bad Girls of the Bible came out eleven years ago, I didn’t stop being funny—I can’t help it! But I was moving more into teaching God’s Word. In doing the Bad Girls books, I was studying all these women of the Bible, and I came across some women who would not have qualified for Bad Girls of the Bible but whose stories were still fascinating to me.
So I began on this journey with fiction—biblical characters but moving the story to another time and place. I make no judgment on what other writers do, but for me, I felt uncomfortable putting words into the voices of actual Biblical characters. So picking the story up and moving it to another time and place gave me the freedom to ask the hard questions: What was going on here? What were these people thinking? What was their motivation for doing this? Those kinds of questions are not always answered in scripture, but I as a storyteller want to know! By exploring their stories in another place, I think we take that heightened awareness of their humanness back to the Biblical story so that when you read it, they become the real people they really were. They were flesh and blood, and we need to see them that way.
Tell me a little about your latest project, Here Burns My Candle.
LIZ: The candle has been burning for a very long time! This book took longer than any book I’ve ever written. It’s my 27th, and it has been a challenge and a joy. Here Burns My Candle is the story of Ruth and Naomi, just the first chapter of the book of Ruth. The second book in this two-book deal will cover the rest of Ruth. We really get to know Naomi because if you look at Ruth 1, it’s as much about Naomi as it is about Ruth. There’s so much that happens: Ruth 1 covers a 10-year span. Things happen and people come and go in one verse! That’s the exploring part for me: Who were these young men who were married to Ruth and Orpah? What might they have been like? Why did what happened to them happen? And of course, Ruth is a Moabite—a pagan, people the Israelites never wanted to associate with. So I think I’m going to be presenting to people perhaps a different Ruth than they might be imagining and maybe a different Naomi too. And that’s exciting!
You do so many different things. Regardless of the form or audience, what’s the primary message you hope to communicate?
LIZ: It’s always the same message: God’s love for us. I love to communicate in as many ways as possible that we are loved because of His goodness and not because of our goodness. The Scriptures say, “In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and gave His Son as a propitiation for our sins” [1 John 4:10]. That’s the story: we are loved because we’re His, not because we’re good. None of us could ever be good enough. Jesus Himself said that no one is good but God alone. So I want to set people free from being “good”—from trying to be worthy of God. It’s never going to happen. What you have to do is embrace who God actually is—one greater than you who loves you.
*This article by Melissa Simpson first appeared in HOPE magazine and is posted here with their permission.