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Out of Sorts: Making Sense of an Evolving Faith Kindle Edition
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Sarah Bessey(author of Jesus Feminist) has written another book, called "Out of Sorts: making Peace with an Evolving Faith.
This book is truly a gem. I have underlined and highlighted so much, that well, you might think I am a bit pen happy. BUT REALLY.
I have been on this faith journey for 44 years now and from the 19 year old college sophomore to the 63 year old Grammy, my faith has changed, shifted, grown and become much more compassionate, realizing much much more that I don't always know the answers, and that GOD IS THE ULTIMATE GIVER OF ANSWERS AND JUDGE.
There are so many quotes I want you to see, but also realize that might take up another book in itself.
It would be hard to pick a favorite, but one that really captured me was:
" 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."
Looking back over forty plus years of walking with Christ, I realize it is really a journey. A journey that has its ups and downs. Those straight aways when you see clearly and are sailing ahead smoothly. Those winding mountains with the curves that can scare us and bring forth our fears, the ones that you don't expect and blurs your vision for a time, and then there is the valleys. Those places where you have been blind-sided, where your hope might vanish, the doubts are debilitating, the grief unending. It could be from an unexpected loss; a death of a loved one, a spouse leaving, a pink slip, a broken relationship. It can be from lingering and unrelenting mental illness. In the valley, you just want a break. A brief respite from the deep pain and often there is nothing. God's silence is LOUD.
And finally there is a break, you begin to trust God again, you make some forward motion steps, and you can see a road-any road, that might lead you out of the valley.
How I have viewed God for now going on five decades has shifted and changed. Some things have remained constant: I know He loves me. I know He is there, even in the deafening silence. I know He cares. But have I doubted? Yes. Plenty of times. Do I wonder if He hears my cries for help. I know He does, but His answers often take forever in coming (or so it seems).
I have seen His hand of protection over a loved one's life when He spared them from a suicide attempt, but I wonder, why some others succeed.
I have wondered if God slept when atrocities are being committed all over and throughout history.
I have many questions that are unanswered.
What I have learned is that God doesn't change. I do.
What I have learned is that God doesn't change. I do.
As the years go by, I have known Him better. Been the recipient of multiple and multiple graces.
I realize that I don't have the answers. That only God does
This is basically what the book, Out of Sorts is about. Navigating your faith through your lifetime.
Sarah Bessey gives us her reasons for choosing to follow Jesus day in and day out. In spite of the messiness. In spite of being hurt and lonely. Cheering us on to be what Jesus envisions us to be.
She considers the Church as a whole and reminds us that we are the church. We are Christ's ambassadors here and now. Are we representing Him accurately?
She writes about the Bible, what we think and believe, how to ponder the questions we have freely and without guilt. She writes about the people in our lives, our community.
What she writes about is FAITH.
Sarah Bessey is real and authentic. She is honest with her questions and how she has been hurt.
She is so genuine in her love for Jesus and others; this fact leaks out page after page.
If you have never heard of her, you need to.
She writes with honesty and conviction. And she blesses the socks out of me. I read her words with a pen in hand. I take notes and ponder her words.
What she expresses over and over again is Jesus's words: FOLLOW ME. And invites and encourages us to do the same. Sarah isn't perfect; none of us are. But she longs for Jesus with a heart that seeks Him diligently. And isn't that what we all should be desiring.
She wrote in the first chapter of this 2015 book, “This book isn’t an argument to make or a point to take… It’s about loss and how we can cope with change. It’s about Jesus and why I love Him and follow Him. It’s about church and church people and why both make me crazy but I can’t seem to quit either. It’s about embracing a faith, which evolves, and the stuff I used to think about God but I don’t think anymore, and it’s about the new things I think and believe that turned out to be old. It’s about the evolution of a soul and the ways I’ve failed; it’s about letting go of the feat and walking out into the unknown… It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come, It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next. It’s about not apologizing for our transformation and change in response to the unchanging Christ. Really, it’s a book about not being afraid.” (Pg. 2)
She adds, “I am still wrestling with some aspects of my Mother Church. Perhaps you are too. Resting in the in-betweens is okay for now. You may find, like me, that you are reclaiming more and more, fighting your way through the weeds of over-realization or extreme cases or weirdness or wounding, to find the need of the real that is still there. After the fury, after the rebellion, after the wrestling, after the weighing and the sifting and the casting off and putting on, after the contemplation and the wilderness---after the sorting---comes the end of the striving and then comes rest.” (Pg. 3)
She observes, “We are in a time, much like the Great Schism and the Great Reformation, of sorting through our religion as a universal Church… The Church is being reinvented… We are dying, perhaps, but even death is part of our story; it comes right before resurrection. It’s already happening globally---on the margins and among the disenfranchised, in the outsiders and the grass roots. I’m sure the great bastions of power and leadership within the Church are feeling the strain of the shift.” (Pg. 15-16)
She states, “I read those words---‘You must begin with your own life-giving lives’ [Lk 6:43-44]---and I suddenly understood why Mary spilled her most precious perfumes and soaked His feet with her tears… The more I read the Gospels, the more I got it: no wonder we love the real Him when we meet Him. The more I met people who followed this Jesus, the more I understood why I felt ripped off: I had been a Christian for who knows how long, and yet I had not seen THIS Jesus. Where had HE been all along?... This was when Jesus became the center of everything to me. I began to understand that if I wanted to see God, I needed to see Jesus.” (Pg. 34)
Later, she adds, “I had to learn to read the whole Bible through the lens of Jesus, and I had to learn to stop making it into something it wasn’t---a glorified answer book or rule book or magic spell. I had to stop trying to reduce the Bible to something I could tame or wield as a tool. I had to let the Bible be everything it was meant to be, to cast away the idols of certainty, materialism, and control.” (Pg. 56)
She acknowledges, “As I was writing my first book, ‘Jesus Feminist,’ a strange transformation took place in me: I began to love Paul. Really, truly love him as a brother, precisely BECAUSE I was writing about life on the other side of the gender debates, advocating for the full equality of women… But as I worked my way through the passages of Scripture that I used to hate, I began to see Paul more clearly, to understand Scripture even better. I began to see his wisdom, his subversion, his heart. When I looked at his full ministry---how he praised and esteemed women in leadership in the Church… how he used feminine metaphors, how he subverted the systems, how he passionately defended equality---the verses that used to clobber me began to embrace me. The truth broke through. I wasn’t fighting against Paul---I was fighting WITH him… By reading Paul without any thought for context or place, narrative or history, I had nearly missed a great gift… The whole of Paul’s teaching and beliefs about women in the Church or in society could not be contained in a few lines from an ancient letter. Not when we consider the truth that women were leading, ministering, praying, prophesying, teaching, managing, and financing throughout the Church---with Paul’s full knowledge and blessing.” (Pg. 68-69)
She asserts, “I am reclaiming Church… I am learning to gather up all these disparate seasons and thoughts and opinions and experiences, to hold them in my hands with gratitude. Now I’m able to find something good in them all: in the over-the-top excessive prosperity preachers and the smug theologians and the pot-stirring elitists and the overly passionate kids in the stadium light shows and the disillusioned, bitter cynics. Because here is the truth: I’m all of these things too. Someday I’ll add the woman I am now, the theology I practice, the words I write so earnestly to that list. I know I will.” (Pg. 80-81)
She admits, “It’s not that all my frustrations with Church are over and done… I still struggle with Church, both in the micro and the macro… There are parts of the Church that make me want to deny membership three times over before the rooster crows. I want to… identify myself as the opposite of their beliefs or ideals or passions… Sometimes I wonder what in the world Jesus was thinking with this church thing… It’s a disaster. Talk about an inefficient way to change the world.” (Pg. 86-87)
Later, she adds, “A lot of people in my generation might be giving up on Church, but there are a lot of us returning, redefining, reclaiming Church too. We aren’t foolish or blind or unconcerned or uneducated or unthinking. We have weighed our choices, more than anyone will know. We are choosing this and we will keep choosing each other. And sometimes our way of understanding or ‘doing’ church looks very different, but we’re still here… I have learned to love the Church, perhaps because the Church has so beautifully loved me. I love the Church in all the places I find her now---cathedrals and living rooms, monasteries and megachurches, school gymnasiums and warehouses.” (Pg. 96-97)
She explains, “I got my start in the small, organic faith churches of western Canada… but I needed the kindness of the conservative Southern Baptist pastors’ wives I discovered in my early twenties, and I needed the Mennonites to teach me about pacifism and thrift…. I defy the easy categories for sorting. I’m an Anglican-influenced charismatic, postevangelical with a strong pull toward Anabaptist theology… I speak in tongues and I pray the hours. I dance and clap at church, but I also sit in silence and mediation… I follow the Church calendar… but I worship in community with believers who do not… and I belong there… I don’t want to choose between the people who first showed me Jesus and the people who made sure I got to hold on to Jesus and the ones who keep me even now.” (Pg. 150-151)
She says, “When I have experienced loss of grief or suffering, the well-meaning have tried to comfort me with the idea that it was all God’s plan… I’ve even had some folks tell me recently that clearly my work in ministry these days was why God ‘took’ the babies we lost… I know people mean well, but I don’t believe that… Whether it’s in my own small stories or in the larger and more horrific stories of others, too often we seek to comfort with the platitudes that have held the Church captive for years… The problem with this quick shot of comfort, the predigested talking points spouted in times of unspeakable pain, is that they end up filling our heads with the wrong idea of God while perhaps absolving us of our complicity…” (Pg. 185)
This is another finely-written, heartfelt book that will be of tremendous interest to those (not just Christians!) interested in contemporary Spirituality, as well as more Progressive/Inclusive forms of Christianity.
All the references and quotes just made it feel a little more like a research paper and less like a personal story. The irony is that unlike many other Christian books I've read recently, most of the quotes I underlined was actually written by the author.
I'll recommend this book to anyone who is struggling to find their place, their peace or their purpose.