Rosalie de Rosset: Divine Accidents and God’s Calling
Dr. Rosalie de Rosset can be introduced as a Moody professor, writer and conference speaker, co-host of Moody Radio’s Midday Connection on-air Book Club, social commentator, and even Moody legend. This month, we add one more title—Today in the Word “Q & A” writer. You can find her first “Q & A” column on pages 20–21 of this issue.
I heard about Rosalie de Rosset, professor of literature, English, and homiletics at Moody, as soon as I started to work here. I heard that she grew up in South America as a child of missionaries to the poor in Peru, that she is fluent in Spanish, that her classes are really interesting, and that she requires her students to read Frankenstein in one of her courses. I heard that when she walks into the classroom, she immediately commands attention and respect, and at the same time she puts students at ease. She deploys her razor-sharp intelligence to take her students on a journey through the Bible and world literature, while teaching them to find their way and voice in our often-confusing world.
I decided to take her class—just for fun. I considered myself a fairly well-read person, and unlike those young students, I was a woman with experience, with many things figured out and many questions answered, so I didn’t expect many surprises. . . . Was I wrong! At the very first class, I was surprised—and humbled! I immediately forgot about the age difference with the students—we were there together, led on a journey by our professor, discovering deeper depths and wider horizons. We were grappling with difficult answers, asking questions I didn’t know existed. My perspective changed forever.
Dr. de Rosset and I met recently over a cup of coffee in The Commons, Moody’s cafeteria. Here are edited excerpts of our conversation.
What are your favorite memories from growing up overseas?
Peru will always be an organic part of my life and thinking. I just read an article about the “texturedness” of life years ago. Life was textured and pungent in Peru. We lived in a major city that was very, very poor in many places as third-world countries are, and, of course, my parents were missionaries to the very poor. The streets came alive at night with people cooking food to sell. The mountain people came to the coast dressed in their traditional clothes—colorful and alive. I’ll always remember worshiping with the people who had nothing and so really needed God, people who showed me what real faith was.
Have you had a mentor, somebody who guided and supported you?
I have never really had a mentor who was older than I—we didn’t think about such things when I was growing up, and later I grew because of significant friendships in my life.
What drew you to teaching?
It was a divine accident. I never thought about teaching. I picked a big city and came to Chicago, and Moody gave me a job in radio. Just a year or so later, there was the need for a part-time substitute English teacher, and they hired me for a class of seven. I was only 22. I fell in love with teaching within weeks, before I even knew what I was doing. It was as if I had come home.
What is teaching for you?
Teaching, I suppose, as hard as it is because you have to change and grow so much, is my life blood, the thing I’m never bored with or tired of.
What are the best and the worst moments in the life of a Moody professor?
Everything that is the best about teaching is to see students come alive as they become involved with text, seeing them understand their faith better because of great literature. And also learning from the students. The worst moments came when I failed personally and felt unworthy to be in the classroom or when I realized that I had not managed to communicate the material I was teaching.
What was the best advice you’ve ever received?
Don’t believe your press releases. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Admit your errors. Laugh at yourself.
What advice would you give to young, and not so young, Christians on keeping a vibrant faith and walking closely with Christ?
Respect history. Never incorporate a cultural icon into your life until you have carefully thought through the consequences. Do not let anything distance you from the average, ordinary person.
Can you say a few words about your new book coming out in August from Moody Publishers?
The title, Unseduced and Unshaken, is taken from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Book V). And its theme in a nutshell is the subtitle: The Place of Dignity in Young Women’s Choices.
What’s next for Dr. de Rosset?
My life as it is day to day, becoming more aware of how to honor God with small and large choices.
By Elena Mafter, Associate Editor
Elena Mafter has been working at Moody’s Marketing and Communications department since 1999 and has been part of the Today in the Word team in a variety of roles: editor, proofreader, project coordinator, and contributing columnist. A transplant to the United States, she loves traveling, getting to know other cultures, and learning foreign languages.