I think I have a bit of a small problem. I’ve become a tad addicted to helping authors and people I love launch books.
Remember that time I helped Jen Hatmaker launch her latest, ‘For the Love’? Yeah, thought so. Toward the end of that experience, I saw that another favorite of mine, Sarah Bessey, was looking for people to help her next book, and I pretty much jumped at the chance.
See, if I got a bit starry-eyed about Jen, Sarah is someone I feel like I could invite over for coffee and she would totally say yes. Basically, I think if we were ever in a context where we did life together, she would become a kindred spirit (in the words of Anne Shirley).
Also like Jen, I had never even heard of Sarah till I heard her speak at the inaugural IF:Gathering. And when she spoke? I was wrecked. I ugly-cried my way through her beautiful message and words of the “unforced rhythms of grace” and afterward I looked up her blog and quickly added her to my list of “must-read” blogs. She has a way with words and with everything she says, you know she loves Jesus, she loves people, and is for us in the best way possible.
So when I found out I had been (along with 299 other wonderful people) selected to be a part of Sarah’s launch team, I was ecstatic. Even if I had already pre-ordered the book. 😉
And, oh, what a book.
‘Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith’ is an authentic, vulnerable, and thought-provoking book. Sarah, a self-proclaimed “recovering know-it-all” (oh, how I love that phrase…and yup, I am also right there with her), shares the story of her experience in being out of sorts with her faith and the journey she went on as she asked hard questions about what she believed and why. There was so much underlining happening in my reading and head-nodding and “Amen-ing”. So many excellent chapters, sections, sentences, that I could essentially write an entire post just using quotes from the book. But then, if I did that, you wouldn’t need to read it for yourself. And you absolutely should. Sarah writes in such an engaging way that you feel she understands you in a way you didn’t know anyone could. So many, “me too!” moments expressed. Our stories are so different, but the emotions felt and questions asked are much the same.
She speaks of turning to the Jesus of the Gospels, not the “carefully curated” Jesus she had created in her head. And that really resonated with me when I read it, because I think it’s very easy to create our own version of who Jesus was instead of looking to who He really is and was while here on earth. I want to follow the Jesus who personified God in the flesh, who showed mercy time and time again, who loved to the full, who set people free.
As I was reading it, I found myself going slowly, which is not my style. I typically devour every book I read. I can’t put them down and I am nearly singularly focused on what I am reading. This book, however, was one that required me to put it down and really spend some time processing my own faith journey. Sorting out my own faith a bit, as it were. Here is what I discovered through reading Sarah’s words as well as pondering my own beliefs.
I used to believe that as a Christian, I had to have all the answers. Now I believe that not only is it okay for me to not have all the answers, but I can embrace the knowledge that I will not understand or know all there is to know about God here on earth. This has freed me up in so many ways to love well, and to release myself from expectations that God was not placing on me.
I used to believe that a woman’s role in the church was that of more as a bystander or helper/volunteer/Sunday School teacher. I now believe that the Lord can and does gift women with many different talents and our voices are so important to the world and the body of Christ as a whole.
I used to believe that as a follower of Jesus, I had to be cautious about expressing any emotion or circumstance that didn’t portray happiness or joy. I now believe that there can be great beauty in being vulnerable and open with struggles, and I am learning how to have real, deep, and abiding joy in spite of my circumstances.
I used to believe that I was not good enough as I was for God to love or redeem me. I am confident now that there is nothing that will separate me from the love of God (Romans 8:28) and that I now stand as co-heir with Christ. If Jesus’s death on the cross was not enough to completely save, then He wouldn’t have come to earth to die. Galatians 5:1 says that “it is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery.” I, and anyone who believes in Christ, is not only saved, but free. Free from rules, free from regulations, free from expectations and standards that Jesus came to, and did, fulfill with His death and resurrection.
And probably more importantly to me, I used to believe that what I did defined who I was and that if I didn’t “do” enough for the church, that I was failing and not holding up my end of an unnamed bargain for my salvation. But as Sarah so eloquently puts it,
“We were not saved, set free, rescued, and redeemed to be used [in the context of the idea of being “used” for God]. We aren’t here to work and earn our way; we aren’t pew fodder or a cog. We aren’t here to prove how worthy we are for the saving. There isn’t anything left to earn. God won’t use us up. He doesn’t devour all our talents, our gifts, our mind, our love, or our energy but redeems them and brings us joy in the practice of them. Despite our tendency to view ministry as a profession and the work of the Gospel as more precious than our marriages and attendance at school concerts, the truth is that our value to God is not determined by our workhorse mentality……….God does not want to use you: God wants to be with you because He loves you.” (‘Out of Sorts’)
God loves you. He welcomes our questions, our sorting through our mental boxes, and walks with us in the midst of our messiness, our brokenness, and in our wholeness, too. He is for us. Forever.
ps. In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It officially releases tomorrow, November 3rd, but you can go right now and pre-order here: http://www.amazon.com/Out-Sorts-Making-Peace-Evolving/dp/1476717583/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1446520487&sr=8-1&keywords=sarah+bessey
pss. If you read this book, will you tell me so we can talk about it? I would love to hear your thoughts and talk with you!