I first discovered Sarah Bessey’s blog during a time when I was not attending church. I had just gotten married and moved away from home for the first time. To be honest, I was spiritually exhausted and needed a break. After years of attending the imperfect childhood church that I loved, things had fallen apart, and my family had moved on to another church that we attended throughout my teens. Although I joined the youth group and went on a mission trip, I never found a place there. As an adult, I did not feel like me with my questions, and my half Catholic, half Jewish and completely unreligious fiancé really fit in there.
Although I could have easily been dismissed as “one of those millennials” who abandons church as an adult, I was still very much a Christian, and always felt like God was with me. I felt alone in my questions and experiences until I discovered an online community of bloggers who also wrestle with questions about their faith. I guess we are never as unique in our struggles as we think we are, and there is something comforting in that! Sarah writes candidly about her family life, her love of Dr. Who, and her ever evolving spiritual journey. She describes this time of questioning and time away from church as a “spiritual wilderness.” During my time in the wilderness , Sarah’s posts were among the only sermons that I heard. Let me tell you, this girl can preach- although it feels more like a conversation with a friend.
Being bolstered up and nurtured by the words of Sarah and others gave me the courage to find a church to attend. I now happily attend a small church five minutes from my home. Its filled with people from all walks of life with differing political and social opinions and somehow we all like each other and manage to get along. I find the presence of those I disagree with extremely comforting. We make up quite a misfit Body of Christ, but our pastor reminds us that we don’t need to all agree to worship and work alongside one another. My husband is also welcome to attend all church events as well as our community group. Although he and I see things differently, its really cool to explore these bigger questions together, alongside a group of fellow travelers. After time in the wilderness, it feel great to rejoin a community that welcomes us both.
Even now that I have gone back to church, I still follow Sarah’s blog regularly and I bought her book, Jesus Feminist as soon as it came out. She has a new book coming out on November 3rd that I have been given a chance to read early and review! The book is called, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, and it is fantastic. She tells her story in a series of personal anecdotes, as well as passages that feel like letters or even diary entries. Sarah writes warmly about the process of “sorting” through her faith and questions. I feel as though this is a process that many of us can relate to. The questions that many of us have about science, sexuality, politics, tragedy or social justice don’t always seem welcome within our faith traditions. However, while many of us have been discouraged from asking questions, Sarah invites us to lean into our questions and to “rest in the in-betweens”. She writes that questioning does not mean that we “don’t value scripture” or that we are “becoming one of those wishy washy folks who only read parts of the Bible that suit them and ignore the rest.” The answers may not come right away, in fact, Sarah explains that it may take years to “live out the answers.” Although at times it can be tempting to give up altogether, rather than live in the mess of “sorting” our thoughts and questions, she points out, “If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetime, I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”
If you are someone who feels “out of sorts” in your faith at times- this book is for you. In each chapter, Sarah examines the types of life experiences that cause us to question, as well as how these questions fit into various parts of our lives: church, scripture reading, social justice, theology, grief, vocational choices- and so many more. For example, she wrestled with how God could allow her to have multiple miscarriages, and how her husband’s best friend could lose his wife at such a young age. We have all known loss and pain. We have all doubted. If you are a person of faith, I am sure you can remember a time when you asked, “Why, God?” This brings to mind a Frederick Buechner quote, “Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.” Out of Sorts is an invitation to embrace the unknown and to keep your faith “awake and moving.”
What I love about this book is that Sarah is not telling us what to do. She is merely telling the story of her own journey in these areas, and encouraging us not to be afraid to examine our faith and why we believe what we believe. She believes that we all have something to offer to one another, and this is a beautiful reminder that we are not alone in our journeys. Sarah writes, “There are many of us out here sorting, I think. This might be a small candle, but I’ll set mine on a lamp stand, and you can set yours there too- and maybe our glow will light the path for others.”