|Out of Sorts|
Title: Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
Author: Sarah Bessey
Publication Date: 11/3/15
How I Found It: I read Bessey's previous book, Jesus Feminist, last year.
Date Completed: 04/17/16
Summary: Sarah Bessey continues her faith journey with her trademark transparency. Here she is, working out her salvation Philippines 2 style for us all to see and share in and learn from.
What I Thought: Say what you will about the rising female theologians within the North American church. I find them inspiring. For someone who grew up with the notion that women belong on the sidelines of the Church and are often merely sidepieces to the truly ordained players in God's plan, women like Sarah Bessey and Rachel Held Evans and Jen Hatmaker are a holy revelation for me. They make me feel welcome to the playing field. As my childhood pastor used to say, "the ground is level at the cross." I don't think he was talking about gender equality and he may well be perturbed by that interpretation of his words, but the sentiment rings true. If not equal for all, then what is equal? We are equal in our ability to share our stories, to express the lessons we are learning, to teach the truths we have learned, to proclaim the gospel, to seek redemption for our downfalls, to glorify God in our actions, both big and small.
Though I realize I'm talking about Bessey's work today, the day before I wrote this, she tweeted about another woman and declared her 'eshet chayil' - woman of valor! This is one of the strongest sticking points I have from Rachel Held Evans' book The Year of Biblical Womanhood. I want to do better praising the women I see doing God's work around me. I want to cry "Eshet Chayil!" to women like Suzanne at Tattooed Missionary and Bessey and Evans and Hatmaker and my mom and my best friends, who love on their babies so passionately and unconditionally, and Linda, who leads the choir I'm in which performs hymns at nursing homes, and Cindy, who serves behind the scenes at my church making everything about the services run smoothly, and Jess, who cares about marriage ministry, and Kelly, who sings opera with me and loves on kids who don't learn the same as others, and so many others. Seriously, Suzanne, you belong in that list! You inspire and encourage me with every post - whether they are about Jesus or books or randomness.
Ok, let's talk about Bessey's actual book. I'd apologize for getting off on that tangent, but I'm not sorry at all. Plus, I think Bessey would fully support me taking time out of a review of her book to praise women sacrificially serving Jesus.
I thought this book was so good. I mean, you can tell that from the number of "Quotes I Loved" I have listed below, but seriously...it was great. I really enjoyed Jesus Feminist, but I found that Bessey has really developed as a writer and thinker and theologian since her previous work. She has grown in quiet confidence. She speaks with authority, but humility. Her words carry the weight of experience and the truth of time.
A few things I particularly liked:
Bessey addresses the theory that the Church shifts every 500 years or so and we are due for another shift (past shifts: establishment of Church, fall of Roman Empire, Great Schism, Reformation). This idea is really intriguing and exciting to me. Who can truly know the future or the plans of God, but thinking we may be on the verge of a new era in the Church gives me spiritual butterflies.
Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I Am?" Bessey poses that same question. Beyond the cookie cutter Christian answers, who is Jesus to us personally? What a great catalyst for introspective analysis.
The section on sovereignty spoke more directly to my heart than anything else in the book. I've included a few quotes below, but I must mention it here as well. Bessey has such a fresh (to me) perspective on what God's sovereignty means in light of a broken world. Reading that portion was so uplifting to me.
Bessey also spends a whole chapter on Evangelical Hero Complex, a topic she mentions in her first book and which really hit home for me when I read that one. I liked that she expanded on it more here.
I want to talk about so much, yet I also want to let Bessey speak for herself. Read the quotes from the book below. Read the book itself! You will be challenged and changed and blessed.
Quote I Loved:
- "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 take or wield as a tool."
- "We can be entirely 'biblical' and yet be far from being a disciple of Jesus Christ."
- "Anyone who gets to the end of their life with the exact same beliefs and opinions as they had at the beginning is doing it wrong."
- "God's heart for us is shalom - nothing missing, nothing broken, total and whole peace. But the world is broken. We are broken. This is because we have the freedom to choose, the agency of a million billion decisions and choices, it's because powers and principalities are at war among us, it's because we live in a fallen world not yet fully redeemed, and then, there's a bit of ambiguity thrown in too."
- "Sovereignty is redemption, it's not causation."
- "God's sovereignty is not an excuse or a reason for the bad things that happen in our lives: God is light and there is no darkness to Him. No one will ever convince me that God made my babies die or that God killed our friend with cancer or that a hurricane is an act of God as punishment for sin. Instead, I think sovereignty is a promise that it will all be healed in the end. Sovereignty means that all will be held. That God is at work to bring redemption and reconciliation, that somehow at the end of all things, we don't escape from the goodness that pursues us, the life are promised, the love that redeems."
- "Simply blaming God or blaming ourselves fails to recognize the truth that we are in a war zone. The world is complex, ambiguous at times, and so yes, evil things often happen because we live in a fallen world of free agents. We don't always escape the evil in this world, and we don't always find victory in this life, but the core belief I was given at the start is true. God is not to blame."
- "I believe in the undivided life. There aren't spiritual things and sacred things, not really. All things can be spiritual, and our most 'spiritual' acts can be secular if they aren't infused with the Holy Spirit. We can reduce Christ to a compartment in our lives instead of Lord over it all - our day-to-day conversations, our politics, our theology, our community. Stepping back from earning our salvation through ministry or productivity or platforms or titles that mean we learned how to invite God into our whole lives.
Will I Re-Read: Yes.
Other Books By Sarah Bessey: Jesus Feminist
A Reduced Review: Sarah Bessey continues her faith journey with her trademark transparency, plus more polish and confidence since her earlier work.