Tuesday, March 31, 2020

"Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith" - Sarah Bessey

Truth be told, I began following Sarah Bessey on Twitter before I'd read a single one of her books. I'd heard about her from friends and thought I'd try to get a sense of who she is by following her and watching how she comments and interacts.

The Sarah that I discovered on Twitter became one of the people I've most enjoyed following. She was refreshingly, well, "normal." She radiated knowledge, honesty, authenticity and, perhaps most importantly for me, a sense of compassion and kindness.

I decided to first read "Jesus Feminist" and am now finishing up "Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith." I will, of course, read her latest book "Miracles and Other Reasonable Things."

While "Out of Sorts" is incredibly well sourced, I can't help but think that the book will most appeal to those people who are, in fact, looking to make peace with their evolving faith. This can be struggling to leave church, struggling to return to church, struggling to discover one's theology, struggling to simply come to terms with one's own church history, or any number of other things. I found "Out of Sorts" an emotional read, I openly wept on multiple occasions, and yet it's one of those rare books where I found myself noting certain sections and quotes and ideas.

Those seeking a more "intellectual" read may be disappointed (and some of the reviews indicate this fact), but when you browse the references at the end of the book you realize that she's really done a stellar job of weaving together intellectual and personal experience. I read "Jesus Feminist": not long before a hospitalization that ended up leading to amputation, while I've read "Out of Sorts" while I'm at home recovering from said amputation and exploring how all of this experience has shaped my relationship with Christ, my faith communities (I attend 2 churches), and myself. Much of what Sarah writes resonates with me deeply - at one point, I contemplated a 4-star rating as there's a mid-section that felt a bit disorganized to me but I ultimately decided to stick with 5 stars because the structure of the book ultimately feels very cohesive to me and I really love how it's organized, written, and balances emotion and intellect.

I think one of the highest compliments you can give a writer, especially a Christian writer, is that "Your book changed me" or "Your book helped me." Both are true for me with Sarah's writings and even following her on Twitter. She's simply a healing presence. She's one of those people where if she would say "I'll pray for you" you believe it to be true.

You experience different writers differently. For me, Sarah is a wonderful weaving together of a spiritually grounded presence whose presence just feels like a warm hug. Even on Twitter, she just radiates it. As someone who's not a hugger, that's pretty astounding to me that I would even perceive it. Yet, she's so much more than simply that warmth and safety because she wraps all of that in strong theological roots, a deep faith, rich biblical understanding, and knowledge she shares in a way that is accessible and devoid of the biblical conceit that can so often accompany theological writing.

She's become one of my favorite writers and I look forward to reading her latest book.

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