Every evening over the past several weeks, I’ve spent the last 15-20 minutes of my night reading Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts. To be honest, it’s been my “treat” that I look forward to at the end of the day for finishing my #write31days post. Because you all, this is hard work.
It’s common knowledge that I’m a big fan of Sarah Bessey’s writing. My Practices of Mothering gave me the freedom and permission I needed to lean into gentle parenting. Jesus Feminist gave me the courage to take the next step in my blossoming egalitarian views. Out of Sorts gave me the companionship I needed to walk with confidence in this whole “sorting out” of my faith. (What can I say? I’m a needy person).
In Out of Sorts, Sarah shares about the evolution of her faith journey– how she’s grown and changed and wrestled with various aspects of faith and church and God throughout her time as a Christ-follower. While her story is different from mine, it has the markings of a faith shift that are oh-so-recognizable to me.
Sarah talks about how and why her views have shifted on topics like the church, Scripture, prayer, and community. She shares the questions she has wrestled with and how she’s made peace (though not always necessarily with “answers”). She also assures us that this out of sorts-ness, this faith-shifting, is not only completely normal, but GOOD.
If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us. Grace waits for us in the liminal space.
If you grew up in an evangelical youth group, you probably remember learning how to share your testimony. What was your life like before Christ? How did you become a Christian? How has your life changed after becoming a Christian? I remember LOVING to hear others’ stories. It was so amazing to me to hear how people discovered God’s love for them, and how their experience truly changed their lives.
While I’ve totally deconstructed this practice and would explain that whole “share your testimony” thing differently now, I think my love for those stories has reincarnated itself into my love for faith-shifting stories (reincarnated? really? I know, I couldn’t think of a better word). Hearing about the wrestling, the wondering, the struggle, and ultimately (hopefully) the good news on the other side is nourishing to my soul. I think reading about these kinds of faith stories will never get old to me.
Sarah has a very gentle way of writing, but every now and then throughout the book, that gentleness turns very pointed. This was my cue to slow down, highlight and reread. For example, when talking about God’s Sovereignty (a topic that I’ve been wrestling with recently- sure, God’s Sovereign– but what does that exactly mean?)
Sovereignty is a promise, not a threat. I no longer think of God’s sovereignty as what theologians call a ‘blueprint’ plan for humanity. I can’t say things like, ‘Well, God ordained you to be poor.’ Or ‘God ordained for your baby to die.’ I know that some people find comfort in believing that God’s sovereignty, his plan for all things, is behind their suffering and grief. It gives meaning to our grief, I get that. But I don’t think it’s true. In fact, I think that’s a crappy thing to say and a crappy thing to believe about God.
(seriously, if that quote doesn’t make you want to preorder the book right now, I’m not sure what will)
Out of Sorts is the kind of book that offers the best sort of book version companionship. Throughout the whole thing, I found myself wanting to ask questions of Sarah, as well as offer tidbits of my story (the “oh yes! me too! Let me tell you…”).
I think Out of Sorts is a brave book to write. It’s hard to bare your soul to a sea of people who don’t really know you while hoping that they are gentle and wise enough to receive your story with grace and love. I think it’s also hard for people who haven’t walked through an “out of sorts” faith experience to really understand and to not respond in a somewhat defensive way. Can you blame them? A faith shift is often confusing and somewhat terrifying for the person going through it; how can we expect someone else to understand? We can’t really, but by reading this book, I think people will have a better idea of the sorts of conversations that are going on through their “out of sorts” friends’ hearts and minds.
Perhaps Out of Sorts will encourage others to be brave and to share what’s going on beneath the surface. Perhaps Out of Sorts will give others freedom to ask questions they’ve been ignoring or afraid of. And perhaps Out of Sorts will be a resource that people will use to create intentional space in their churches, neighborhoods and families for discussions about the deeper parts of our faith journeys.
My one unfulfilled wish for this book was that it had been written 2 years sooner :).
The book comes out on November 3rd, so pre-order now for it to arrive on your doorstep sooner rather than later!
**Linking up with Literacy Musing Monday.