Interview with Sonja Corbitt author of “Unleashed”
Q: You identify as a “Scriptural Evangelista” Tell the readers what that means? A: That just means that I use scripture in every media, radio, television, written workbooks, everything, in order to nurture a love for Christ in the bible, and a more serious, not just a knowledge of him in a head kind of way but in a heart kind of way. So that’s basically all it means to me. I’m all bible all the time and that’s how I say that “Scriptural Evangelista”. Q: You have a radio show called “Pursing the Summit” on Real Life radio. Tell us a little about that. A: Well, actually, you know I do have a show but that’s kind of funny. I’m really just pretending. I mean I have this very first shot on a radio show for me and I am just totally green. But it’s fun and what I love about it is that I am able to teach my original studies and since I have an hour every single day I can really delve in to the detail in a more thorough way than I can even in a regular weekly teaching. So where as I’ll use the same workbook on the radio show as I do with teaching a study at a particular location on a weekly basis; but I only have an hour for a physical study whereas on the radio I can take 4 days if I want to. I’m really enjoying that and it’s a lot of fun. In the beginning when I first started I thought I might take calls and then somebody, I forget who, said “No, you don’t want to do that, you’ll lose your train of thought when somebody calls in.” Then I thought, you know what, that’s probably true. I love it; it’s been a lot of fun. Q: You mention in the book, you have done talks at conferences and retreats. What gave you the idea to turn them into a book? A: You know it’s kind of funny. I have a love hate relationship with facebook. But I was on facebook and I got a private message from someone and I hear this lot. Have you ever thought about writing a book? I answered and said sure, what would you like me to write about? She said “We publish Lisa Hendey’s books.” I almost fell out of my chair that this was a real publisher. So then I was trying to put her profile together to find out who this was and it ended up being the editor for Ave Maria Press who worked with me to bring “Unleashed” to fruition. What was interesting was when she first contacted me, I remember talking to the Lord and I said “You know I don’t like books, I like studies”. But I just felt like I needed to just kind of go with the flow because he had something in mind. That’s how that started, I really I had no intention whatsoever of writing an actual trade book, but it just worked out that way and I actually really like that format to be perfectly honest. Q: How did you decide on the title “Unleashed”? A: That’s a great question because that was not the title at all when it first started out. It was called “When God Breathes” because the Spirit of God is said to be his breath or the wind of God. That was my title then the publisher changed it and I’ll just confess that’s a big masculine word “Unleashed” so I wasn’t too thrilled with it. I mean I went with it because I just felt like the Holy Spirit was accomplishing something and I just needed to keep my mouth shut and go with it. So I did. But I wasn’t happy with it to begin with, it just seemed very, it was a strong, strong word whereas the whole premise of the book is how gentle the Holy Spirit is, so it kind of bugged me. But then when the cover came and they paired that beautiful feminine cover with that big manly word. I thought that is so perfect. I ended up being thrilled. Everybody that knows me asks me, my mother even, thought that the woman on the cover was me. Everybody asked me that “Is that you? Is that you” It’s not but I told the publisher when they first sent the picture over I said you’re not going to believe this but I swear I have those boots. And it’s funny on my very first book signing I wore basically that cover outfit because I had the skirt and all that. Anyway it was fun. The cover thing has been really cool. Q: I liked the structure of your book “Unleashed”. There is a Question at the beginning and at the end the Invitation and God prompt. Do you find this is a good way to unpack the bible in your other bible studies? A: That is actually exactly the way I do it at the very end. What I typically do in the workbook is I lay out the pathway that God led me in and I ask the same questions of the participants as God asked me as I was studying so I just lead people in the very same path then at the end when I have all the information, the factual stuff then I’ll start applying it and I’ll ask those kind of questions those God prompt questions in order to apply what they just learned to their own lives. So I use almost exactly that same, I don’t usually use a review until the end of a whole chapter. But I do like the review because it gives me an opportunity to say the very same thing in a different way. It helps to reinforce everything that we are learning so far and I love the God prompt because that’s just a very simple way to get people in touch with God themselves. I don’t think that a lot of Catholics realize that God is really waiting for them in the Bible that way. One of the greatest privileges of my being Catholic has been leading people to that place with God because how cool is that, that God is sitting right there waiting on us. Q: Can you talk more about predominant fault? I find this very interesting and an important point in the book. Tell the readers what that means in the book? A: Well for me, the predominant fault, I share it in the book mine is rebellion and it comes out in rage. The bible calls it “The sin the so easily besets us”. The one that we trip up on the most often because it’s usually the most rooted. We don’t typically know that’s its operating. That’s really part of why I wanted to use that exact phrasing in the book. Because when I first read from the church fathers and doctors on prayer about that fault I thought “Oh my word, how true”. I’d never considered the fact that we all have one, just that phrase kind of gets stuck in her head. You sort of meditate and mull over it. I wanted to be careful to include that exact phrase. But it’s that sin that trips us up on a repeated basis and we may or may not get very fed up of going over this process over and over and over. For me I did, I kept wondering, “Am I ever going to be done with this?’ But eventually I came to realize that the whole point of being here is to finally eradicate that completely. It’s so deeply rooted sometimes that we don’t even know how to get to it. For me, because of the nature of my own faults, it really came to color how I viewed God and who he was and my perceptions of him was really distorted because my thought was rooted in my relationship with my own dad. So, this not only kept me from God but it kept me from relating properly to my children, who are both boys. The way we view God colors every single relationship that we have, and that is a barrier to all of us and our spiritual growth. That’s why it’s so important. Q: I like the part of the book when you talked about survival mechanisms and self protective systems. I’m going to read you a couple of quotes from the book and maybe you can expand on the topics. The first quote is from Chapter 3 titled “Has No one Condemned You? The Reference here is John 8:10. “My distortions and patterns were rooted in parental beliefs and attitudes, coping mechanisms and other ‘Baggage” I brought forward from childhood and projected onto God and even other people. The system was built for a reason that no longer exists. It was a survival mechanism for a powerless child in an overwhelming family situation. It served a legitimate purpose at that time, but later became a powerful, secret trap.” What more can you tell us about this? A: There were really two areas that I struggled with without really understanding why. One of them was I had a terrible habit of just bold faced lying to any male that was in authority over me that confronted me over something that I had or had not done, because that’s what I did with my dad. He would ask me, ‘Do you know so-and-so?’ and I would just say ‘Nope” because I just didn’t want to get in trouble and I didn’t want to get screamed at, so I would automatically lie. It would just fly out of me and I couldn’t have controlled it because I didn’t even realize it until it was already done. As you get older, such as in my early twenties, that was completely inappropriate. I remember going to a therapist, and I sat down in his office, and it was funny because there was an issue of Time magazine there that had an interview with a pathological liar, and I took that magazine into the office with me, laid it down on the table, and said, “This is me. I don’t know why I’m doing this, and I need help.” He almost laughed, which made me a little mad. The very first thing he asked me was about my relationship with my dad, and I just broke down sobbing. That was one of the traps that I was in: I would lie. I lied to employers who would ask me whether or not I had done something, and of course eventually I would have to back-track and tell the truth and look stupid, so I finally had to stop and ask myself why I was doing this. I went to a therapist and he helped me. I never even went back. As soon as he uncovered that it came from my fear of getting in trouble with my dad, suddenly it had no more power over me. I knew right then that this person is not going to be able to do anything to me. I don’t have to be afraid of them, and I needed to stop. So it was a struggle to overcome it. The other one was closely related and it goes back to the criticism thing. As soon as I was criticized by that same kind of person, I just went into this total kind of tailspin. I would plot revenge and seethe on the inside. When I couldn’t act out aggression I would just seethe and seethe on the inside. I don’t know how I didn’t have an ulcer. It was just a mess, and eventually you just get so sick of feeling that way. I share it in the book that I felt like the prodigal son in the pigpen where I just realize and ask myself what’s wrong with me. When I was a child, that’s what I did. I would lie in order to not be criticized by my dad because it was extremely painful and I knew I was going to get in trouble. I tried very hard to stay away from any instance that I was going to get me criticized. I always tried for good grades and anything else that would make him proud of me so that he would only say good things. I got so miserable doing it, and until I realized it was a coping mechanism, I stayed trapped in it. I shared in the book that you have to ask yourself, when is the very first time I remember feeling exactly like this, and for me there was a memory associated with it. I would have to identity exactly where those feelings come from. Then you have to sit there wallowing in how crappy you feel about it, and once that’s done, once you have acknowledged that pain and that memory, and let that really hurt, and talk it over rationally with yourself and with God, then it has no power over you. That was one of the most incredible realizations of my entire life. I don’t have to feel like this forever. Q: The second quote is from Chapter 4 titled “Why do you see the speck in Your Neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the Log in your own eye.” The Reference here is Matthew 7:3. “We remember events the way we need or want to remember them, because they reveal what was, and continues to be, most important to us. Subconsciously, we pick and choose the specifics; we attach feelings and memories to the wounds we received and remember. Our memories speak volumes about who we are, not because we recount completely and accurately what has happened to us but because the Holy Spirit wants to unleash us through them. What more can you tell us about this? A: A very difficult realization for me was when I realized that my memory may not be completely accurate. In fact, it almost never is. I began to notice it in other people too, like with my mom. Whenever we would talk about different circumstances in our lives together with my dad, she would say things that I wouldn’t remember, or my sister would. What I came to realize, and it’s not like I just realized it one day, is that you do attach those emotions to those memories because of what they draw up in you at the time. That’s why we have to be careful in our accusations against and our judgments of the people who do things to us, especially when we’re young, because oftentimes we’re not recalling it perfectly, and that’s ok. That’s the way it is. What is interesting and useful for us in those memories is how the Holy Spirit wants to use it. What is it that we do remember? Whether or not it is completely accurate, it’s a perception and memory that you have and it’s important to you. So, without judging other people, we have to determine how the Holy Spirit can use it in our lives to help me through that. What was it that was so painful for me? For me, when I would analyze it that way, almost unemotionally, if you can separate rationality and emotion in that way, suddenly you realize things about it that you couldn’t before because it was all emotion. That was the difference for me. When I could be rational about my feelings, and separate the feelings from the reality, that’s when things really started to make sense for me. It’s a hard acknowledgment to make that I may not be remembering this perfectly and this person who did this to me may not have been as bad as I thought. That was really hard for me because I wanted to blame my dad for everything. Truly he is a human being who is just like everybody else. I make mistakes with my kids, probably not the same mistakes, but I make mistakes too. We really need to give other people the room to be faulty. Q: You spoke briefly in the book about converting to Catholicism. Being a convert myself I find this very interesting. Can you tell us about what led to your conversion? A: Interestingly enough, it was the very same process. I just love how economical God is with his resources. It’s so shocking to me that he uses absolutely everything that was going on in my life at the time, and still does. The conversion came about when we experienced a couple of church splits. I was in my early twenties; I had barely been married for a couple of years. I was very young and I didn’t really know the pastor so I kind of got sucked into the gossip. I just remember thinking ‘at least I had a daily prayer time with God and the scriptures’ and He was just constantly telling me to keep my mouth shut. He told me he didn’t want to hear anything I had to say, I don’t know what I was talking about, and to let him handle it. That church split and it ended up being nothing but a matter of personality and some of the stronger personalities in the church rose up against the pastor and basically they just crucified him for absolutely no reason, but I didn’t really know him very well so it didn’t affect me too much. Now, fast-forward about five years, we have a new pastor with a strong personality, but this one I absolutely loved. I began teaching classes, and the more I taught the bigger they got, so a few men started using those passages in the bible about how women should be silent in the church. Well my pastor gave me my own Sunday school class, and when he did that in the face of all the criticism I was hearing it was one of the very first gifts that somebody in his position gave me, and it still makes me cry. Then, we experienced a second church split against this pastor who I loved. It was the same situation, there was a personality conflict and the same exact people did the same exact thing to a second pastor. It upset me so badly that I thought ‘Lord why have you not done something about this when you have corrected me over and over about this kind of rebellion?’ So I was upset because I felt like he should do more about it, but it turns out he was grooming me for the questions about authority that the church answers through the hierarchy. I started realizing I know what the bible says about his pastors, and I know he cares about them, and he has made better provision for them than this. It was a perfect storm because at the same time I was doing my own research on the early church fathers. I believe it was Scott Hahn who said “The center of the church is the Bishop and the Eucharist is the real presence of Christ”, and I just remember thinking that that was a lie. So I get online and I start looking for the ante-Nicene fathers and I find them, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and what do they say? They say exactly what Scott Hahn says and it was a big ‘Oh My Gosh” moment for me. It all kind of conspired together to draw me to the authority of the church, which I understand to be proper. Especially looking at Martin Luther and reading his own writings and seeing that what he had done was basically what these church people had done in my own churches. So that was it; that was when the snowball kind of gained momentum. I hid it for a long time but eventually that verse in James that says “For he who knows that to do and doesn’t do it, for him it is sin.” So I just said well I guess I’ve got to come in. Q: The book gives some personal details about your life and your family. It’s not really about your conversion story but about leading the reader into deeper spiritual relationship with Christ. How does the book help to do this in your opinion? A: Well all I can say is, I say it does. My attempt was simply to lead people in the exact same ways that it lead me, and still leads me today, make it as simple as possible, and as accessible as possible. That’s why I use a lot of personal detail. I think that too often, especially women, will put on this air of holiness because we think that’s what’s going to be effective, especially if you have any kind of ministry to other people. We think that this air of holiness is what’s going to draw people to you, but that is not it. I had to realize that was makes a person powerful in the hands of the Holy Spirit is that absolute authenticity. That’s just it: Integrity and authenticity. You can’t be one way with God and another way with other people, because something in them knows it. The more authentic we are the more transparent we are, not they we have to let every single detail hang out, I’m not saying that, but the more authentic we are and the more integrity we have with God, the more powerfully he can work through us, without us even knowing about it. That’s what’s so cool about it. He hides it from us because we’d get proud. That is what I’ve found to be the secret. I’ve had people come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I can’t believe you said this,” and I’ll just answer that I didn’t say that, but you have to learn to just roll with it because the Holy Spirit works and I just try to get out of the way. What I really tried to do with the book was lay out my own process and then get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work. Q: Is there anything else about the book you would like the readers or potential readers to know about the book Unleashed? A: I would like the readers to know that there is a DVD series that is ready now, I just don’t have it posted to my website yet, and it’s not on amazon, and it’s going to air on Catholic TV. So I’m very excited about that, and the book and the DVD series go together. It’s a 13 part DVD series and the book is only eight chapters, but the TV series is 13-30 minute episodes. You just get more opportunities to get into the scripture and hear from God. They go right along with the book. I even used the same questions as I asked in the book. Q: Will the series and DVD have the same title “Unleashed”? A: Yes and I’ll be posting it so it’s available to people. I’m not sure when it’s going to air but sometime in June on Catholic TV. They can get the DVDs on my website: https://www.pursuingthesummit.com and I’ll be putting them on Amazon as well. Thank you so much for talking with me today. Good luck with your book and your ministry.
(Editor's note: This interview was conducted on 5/18/15. Since that time Catholic TV has released the schedule for Unleashed and it will air the first time on Sun June 7th at 12:00AM, then Mon 8:30AM, Tues 4:30PM, and Sat 9:30PM. There is also an interview with Sonja Corbitt on This is the Day on Catholic TV that will air the first time on June 16th 7:30PM, then Weds 4:30AM and 5:30PM, and Thurs at midnight. )