Are You Feeling Out of Sorts?

Out-of-Sorts-CoverI loved Sarah Bessey’s first book, Jesus Feminist, so I happily joined the launch team for her highly anticipated second book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith (Howard Books, 2015). Launch team members can connect with one another in a Facebook group and on Twitter, I’ve been tweeting some choice quotes as I’ve been reading, and have been both blessed and challenged by Sarah’s personal story of her evolving faith.

For me the blessing has come in Sarah’s transparency about her life–from what she calls the happy-clappy faith of her youth, to her immersion in the church along with her husband as a youth pastor, to her sober step away from church life, to her rediscovery of Jesus, to a second naivete of faith with room for those old happy-clappy songs along with on-going questions, lament, and mystery. Only of course she tells her story in her own unique voice that shines in her blog and previous book, not as a straight-forward narrative from point A to B, but as a story of discovery that’s about Jesus, the church, theology, the Bible, grief, vocation, and so much more.

Sarah’s metaphor of sorting out your faith as you might sort out your basement and have a garage sale makes sense to me. Each time I’ve moved (all 12 times!), I’ve had to sort out what to take, what to leave behind, what to give away or sell. Some of those decisions came easily, like giving away the clothes at the back of the closet that no longer fit. Other decisions required more deliberation, like whether to take all of my journals to seminary with me (sadly, no) or leave them stowed with various other boxes and pieces of furniture (yes, thanks to Mom and Dad).

I’ve been sorting out my faith for years too–growing out of some things and into others, leaving some things behind and fiercely holding on to others. Don’t we all do that? Sorting and re-sorting, discarding and re-shaping and re-claiming our whole life long? Not in the same way of course, but change is part of being alive, part of growing up, part of becoming more and more the people God calls us to be.  As Sarah says:

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“If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”

The challenge is to consider our own lives and to pay attention. What have you sorted out in your own life and faith? Are you in the midst of sorting, or do you know someone who is? Sarah Bessey’s Out of Sorts makes a great companion along the way.

Disclosure: As part of the Out of Sorts launch team, I received a complimentary copy of the book–alas, Canadians were not eligible for a physical copy, but oh well, I made another exception to my usual practice of reviewing physical books only, and it was definitely worth it. As always, the views in this article are my own.

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8 replies

  1. Thanks for sharing this. It is something I have meant to blog about–the struggle of evolving faith–but haven’t yet found the words.

    • I hope you’ll blog about it sometime. I’m especially interested in why evolving faith seems to be a struggle….maybe because people are moving from a sense of certainty to no longer being as certain as they once were? That at least seems to be part of Sarah Bessey’s experience. Unlike her, I’m not exactly a “recovering know-it-all” since I didn’t start with that same kind of certainty, and faith for me has been a journey all along. Still I can appreciate and learn from her story and know others who share it also.

      • In my case, I am part of a Restoration tradition. I had thought through the foundations of belief and practice, and found the core reality of my fellowship wanting. So my struggle hasn’t come socially (I’ve never been set out, or not much), or out of a dissatisfaction of praxis and preaching, but foundational. The dissatisfaction came after the philosophical restructuring.
        But there is something interesting that happens when one lets go of certainty–even inconsistent certainty. I understand why fundamentalists and some evangelicals react the way they do to the diversification of culture and the seemingly slippery reality of truth.

        • Sarah’s book focuses more on her experience/lived theology, and I’d also be interested in your more philosophical take on evolving faith. Seems like you’re starting to find the words….

  2. This resonates with me. Richard Rohr certainly writes about evolving faith as well.in Falling Upward. Interesting note about electronic copies only for Canada reviewers. I understand, but I wouldn’t like it either. You have an evolving policy!

    • Thanks, Melodie – I think I need to put Falling Upward on my ever evolving, already too long list of books to read! When I started reviewing books here, I was quite happy to review e-books as part of learning/experimenting with different formats and different publishers/review programs. Through that I learned that I much preferred reading physical books if possible especially since I’m in front of a screen a lot already. So mainly now I review physical books, but with a few exceptions like this one.

  3. I’ve heard about Sarah Bessey from others but haven’t read her work yet. Thanks for the review– I’ll check out her new book.