I recently read Out of Sorts, by Sarah Bessey, on the recommendation of a friend. She knows I’m in a challenging place in life and faith and she thought it would help me. Of course, she was right. Out of Sorts is about the process of sorting out your faith. Over time we accumulate things and sometimes need to sort out our beliefs.
Sarah Bessey begins by talking about the process of sorting through her grandmother’s belongings upon her passing. It was a healing process for her. But when her other grandmother passed away Bessey was denied the opportunity to take part in the sorting, and that seemed to deepen the sense of loss that she felt.
As I read the book I found that Sarah Bessey is no stranger to loss. She has had several miscarriages and has walked through sorrow with family and friends. She addresses suffering and pain in a chapter dedicated to the sacred practice of lamenting in a healthy, biblical way.
Part of Sarah Bessey’s history is her extended departure from the church. Out of Sorts is the story of her gradually finding her way back. As she describes the process of finding her way back she lights the way for the rest of us.
One thing I love about this book is the way that Bessey affirms all Christian faith traditions. So often different faith traditions like to criticize other faith traditions for what they seem to lack. And that’s not our place. We are called to love and call forth the best in one another. Sarah Bessey affirms that different aspects of Christian faith have helped and strengthened her — everything from the Word of Faith to the beauty and consistency of the liturgical traditions.
Another thing I love about this book is that she addresses things that Believers who may be struggling in their faith may find difficult. For example, Sarah Bessey directly takes on the topic of evil and suffering. She has given birth to stillborn children and lost friends and loved ones far too soon. She had to endure the pat answers and foolish attempts to explain away her suffering. In her book Sarah Bessey dismisses them all and offers her thoughts on evil and suffering without being dogmatic. After being exposed to so much dogma in the past and hearing so many pat answers to my own grief, I really appreciate her thoughts and her approach to sharing her thoughts.
Y’all… The chapter on vocation and calling absolutely rocked my world. I wasn’t expecting to find such a chapter in this book. Sarah Bessey writes about her life as a pastor’s wife and then her life once they had left full-time ministry. This chapter really spoke to me. I found this chapter so healing. So freeing. And I feel like it has caused me to question some of my anger. For that reason alone I may need to re-read it.
This book was a dense read at times. Sarah Bessey is a scholar and it shows. I have deep respect for conscientious scholarship and Sarah Bessey has done a phenomenal job in her study. And she brings it to this book in a way that is not overbearing. Life is messy. There are no black-and-white answers. Sarah Bessey says these things time and time again. But for her, everything comes down to the heart of Jesus. At this point, I’m not sure if I can say the same. After reading this book though, I have more things to consider as I work out what the heart of Jesus really is.
Let me end with a quote from Out of Sorts that I think sums up the book very nicely:
“I hope we all wrestle. I hope we look deep into our hearts and sift through our theology, our methodology, our praxis, all of it. I hope we get angry and say true things. I hope we push back against celebrity and consumerism; I hope we live into our birthright as a prophetic outpost for the Kingdom. I hope we get our toes stepped on and then forgive. I hope we become open-hearted and open-armed. I hope we are known as the ones who love.”