Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith
3 November 2015
From the popular blogger and provocative author of Jesus Feminist comes a riveting new study of Christianity that helps you wrestle with—and sort out—your faith.
In Out of Sorts, Sarah Bessey helps us grapple with core Christian issues using a mixture of beautiful storytelling and biblical teaching, a style well described as “narrative theology.”
Once upon a time, you had it all beautifully sorted out.
Then you didn’t.
This book isn’t an argument to make or a point to take. It isn’t a single story with a plot and a climax and a denouement, and it doesn’t have a simple three-step program to follow with nicely spaced headers.
I don’t think this book will be turned into a calendar for the gift shop.
It’s about loss and how we cope with change. It’s about Jesus and why I love him and follow him. It’s about church and church people and why both make me crazy but why I can’t seem to quit either. It’s about embracing a faith which evolves and the stuff I used to think about God but I don’t think anymore, and it’s about the new things I think and believe that turned out to be old. It’s about the evolution of a soul and the ways I’ve failed; it’s about letting go of the fear and walking out into the unknown.
It’s about the beautiful things we might reclaim and the stuff we may decide to kick to the curb. It’s a book about making peace with unanswered questions and being content to live into the answers as they come. It’s about being comfortable with where we land for now, while holding our hands open for where the Spirit leads us next. It’s about not apologizing for our transformation and change in response to the unchanging Christ.
Really, it’s a book about not being afraid. This book is my way of leaving the light on for the ones who are wandering.
Listen, Wanderer, Wonderer, Church Girl, Question-Asker, Status Quo Upender, those of you in the in-between somewhere, those of you in the wilderness, those of you safely home: this book will be a balm. If you have ever trusted me, now is the time. What you will find in these pages is nothing short of a gift. There are plenty of us out here reimagining, rethinking, reevaluating, restarting. You aren’t alone. Sit down, pour yourself a cuppa tea (I’m channeling Sarah here), and receive this permission to leave behind the stale trappings of religion in order to find Jesus again. He is as good as we ever hoped. Thank you, my dearest Sarah Bessey, for helping us find our way back home.
From Glennon Doyle Melton, NYT bestselling author of Carry On Warrior, founder of Momastery and Together Rising
Out of Sorts reads like a love letter to Jesus and to all those desperate to see His true face. Through her indomitable heart, brilliant mind and vivid writing, Bessey sets an extravagant, cozy table in the middle of the spiritual desert. She invites her Jesus and all restless wanderers to the table and through her- we fall in love again. Bessey hosts the most holy of reunions. She is the writer, the Christian, the woman we need at this very moment and her latest offering will comfort, awaken, challenge, and heal. Out of Sorts already lives on the shelf I reserve for my all time favorites.”
From Christine Caine, Founder The A21 Campaign & Propel Women
There are so many things that I love about this book and I know you will too. I love Sarah Bessey and true to form, in Out of Sorts she is transparent, vulnerable, thought provoking and gracious as she wrestles with things we have all wrestled with or one day will. Her message of hope, love and grace is stunning and my heart resonates deeply with the thought that “we need each other, and we need to learn from each stream, because our stories don’t happen alone; our roots are all tangled together.”
From Peter Enns, author of The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It
Touching a raw nerve in contemporary evangelical experience, Sarah Bessey reflects on the inevitable reality of walking the path of faith without having it all worked out—and at times having none of it worked out. Thoughtful, compelling, moving and real, Bessey models a faith many are seeking but afraid to voice, a faith released of the obligation to be certain. This is the kind of book you’ll want to read and tell friends about.
From Shauna Niequist, author Bread & Wine and Savor
This is the truth: Sarah is one of my very favorite writers. The quality of her writing is so inspiring and beautiful and moving to me. And her complicated dance with church and all its tentacles is one that is familiar to so many of us. I love this book.
From Micha Boyett, author of Found
Sarah Bessey writes with the fire of a preacher and the soul of a mother, critical thought without cynicism. Her deepest wounds have come from the church and so has her deepest healing. This book is for all of us who understand, we wonderers who long for Jesus and distrust easy answers. Here Sarah is a brave and faithful guide as we all learn to “live into the questions.”
From Frank Viola, author of “The Day I Met Jesus” with Mary DeMuth
Honest, sober, and encouragingly relatable.
From Brian Zahnd, pastor and author of “Farewell to Mars”
With refreshing honesty and engaging passion Sarah Bessey reminds us that cheap certitude is a poor substitute for genuine faith. Sarah shares her stories and discoveries as she searched for an authentic Christian faith—a search that led her away from the church and back home again. T.S. Eliot said, We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. This is what Sarah Bessey has done and I’m so glad she has shared her beautiful story with us.
Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women
5 November 2013
What if the title Jesus Feminist didn’t raise eyebrows sky-high in the Church?
Written with poetic rhythm, a prophetic voice, and a deeply biblical foundation, this loving yet fearless book urges today’s church to move beyond man-made restrictions and fully welcome women’s diverse voices and experiences.
For centuries, the role of women in the church has been a subdued one, with many limitations. The time has come, argues Sarah Bessey—called an “accidental grassroots voice for postmodern and progressive evangelical women”—to take a new look at Scripture and challenge old assumptions.
In Jesus Feminist, Bessey shares her spiritual journey, which ranged from growing up in a post-gender-debate home to learning about the worldwide struggles of women and the obstacles even a well-meaning church can pose. Through disarmingly intimate storytelling, she tells how she grew to understand the story of God and the vastness of his work through women. Never one to shy away from the hard questions, Bessey engages critically with Scripture and church practices that are often used against full equality and shares how following Jesus made a feminist out of her.
Filled with beauty, hard truth, and brave vulnerability, Jesus Feminist urges the church to stop asking “man or woman” as a qualification for ministry and to start helping everyone find freedom in the fullness, hope, glory, and work of Christ.
“If you never imagined yourself as a card-carrying Jesus Feminist, this book will give you second thoughts. Sarah Bessey makes her case—not as a fire-breathing debater—but as a woman utterly captivated by Jesus who will stop at nothing to follow him. Her winsome writing made me laugh, cry, and stand taller as a woman. Unless I’m mistaken, it should swell the ranks of Jesus Feminists too. Sign me up!”
Brian D. McLaren, author, speaker, activist
“I love writers who are insightful enough to be cynical but choose not to be. I love books that help me see things I’d never noticed before—in life, in myself, in others, in the Bible, in Jesus. I love writing that makes reading enjoyable and easy, because I know how hard it is to write that way. For these reasons and more, I love Jesus Feminist. It’s not ‘just a woman’s book.’ In fact, it’s the kind of book that will help both women and men see how unhelpful that distinction is.”
“World, meet Sarah Bessey. Settle in and get to know her because this woman HAS ARRIVED. Reading Jesus Feminist is like drinking a warm cup of tea while taking a cold shower – Bessey manages to comfort the reader and WAKE HER UP at the same time. I cried and nodded and said PREACH, SISTER again and again. Bessey is a treasure and a prophet and I’ve notified all of my friends (both men and women) that Jesus Feminist is a MUST READ.”
Shauna Niequist, author of Bread & Wine
“Heavens. When I grow up, I want to write like Sarah Bessey. What she does with words is extraordinary, and the topic she’s chosen is so deeply important. Jesus Feminist is a beautiful, challenging, rich, gutsy book, an absolute must-read.”
Rachel Held Evans, author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood (excerpted from the Foreword)
“In this movement of stay-at-home moms and biblical scholars, CEOs and refugees, artists and activists, Sarah Bessey has quickly become one of my favorite storytellers. I have followed her for several years now, and what I love most about her work is the quiet strength with which she goes about it, the way in which she proves you don’t have to speak in anger to speak a hard truth. I think of Sarah as a big sister in the faith, a woman whose wisdom and maturity challenge me, but whose honesty and vulnerability remind me that she’s walking by my side in this journey, one arm over my shoulder. On her blog, and in this wonderful book, Sarah does what all good storytellers do: she gives us permission—permission to laugh, permission to question, permission to slow down a bit, permission to listen, permission to confront our fears, permission to share our own stories with more bravery and love. As she puts it, “There is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us! One word at a time, Sarah liberates us from the agony of bearing our stories alone, so we can follow Jesus (my favorite feminist) with more freedom and joy. I am so grateful.”
Frank Viola, author of God’s Favorite Place on Earth and From Eternity to Here
“Lucid, compelling, and beautifully written. This book will encourage women everywhere to take their high place in Christ.”
Jen Hatmaker, author of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess and Interrupted: Relearning the Adventures of Faith
“I’ve read countless books addressing the place of women in the kingdom, and I have never, ever read anything so lovely, so generous, profound and humble as “Jesus Feminist.” If you’re expecting anger or defensiveness or aggression, move on. If you are looking for intelligence and warmth and spirit, read this immediately. Regardless of where you enter this discussion, Sarah has created an astonishingly safe place to gather, discuss, process, and celebrate as women dearly loved by Jesus and created for His glory.”
Jonathan Martin, author of Prototype: What Happens When You Discover You’re More Like Jesus Than You Think?and Lead Pastor at Renovatus Church
“The Jesus Feminist is a revelation, a genre-defying tour-de-force that soars above the caustic rhetoric that has defined these conversations in the Church. Sarah Bessey throws combinations like a literary Muhammad Ali: sharp-edged prophetic critique, elegant poetry, theological provocation, humble memoir, endless charm. There is so much heart, wonder, and most of all authentic soul in this book, you won’t know what hit you.”
Tony Jones, theologian and author of The New Christians
“For some time now, feminism and Christianity have been bedfellows, but primarily in the halls of academia. What Sarah Bessey does is claim the voice of feminism for her own Christian faith—an evangelical faith, no less! The result is a powerful and empowering narrative that both men and women will find compelling and readable.”
Nish Weiseth, author of Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World
“It’s hard to navigate an extremely delicate and important issue with gentleness and intention. In Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey has clearly proven herself a master at the task. Bessey powerfully, yet gracefully, compels both genders to rethink the role and value of women in the Christian faith, and emboldens women to know and live out that intrinsic value within the Body of Christ. Jesus Feminist is a critically important work; a must-read for everyone in the Church.”
Adam S. McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church
“Sarah says she doesn’t feel a call to preach, but she speaks with the fire and artistry of a great preacher. Her sermon is one of hope: though the Church has often ignored the voices of women or lumped them into one limiting category, a revolution is coming. Sarah’s voice is prophet and she will free other women to speak and act with power, love, and courage. And may it be a summons for men in the Church to speak less and listen a lot more.”
Andrew Marin, author of Love Is an Orientation and ReEngaging Civility
“With grace, humility, and confidence (even in the unknown), Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist masterfully humanizes one of the most controversial topics of the day. Bessey realizes that life, love, and faith cannot happen without community and the understanding that ‘controversy’ is less about sides and more about being whole together.”
Matthew Paul Turner, author of Churched
“Sarah Bessey is so gifted a writer, so smart and welcoming and humble, the Church might not even notice how often it gets kicked between its “doctrinally sound traditions,” where it hurts. But what makes Jesus Feminist so fantastic, so challenging is Bessey’s ability to be both the friend who tells us the truth about “womanhood” inside our churches and the sage who shows us how Jesus embraced equality and how we can do it better. With Jesus Feminist, Bessey’s a modern-day Moses, seeking to not only free a Church held captive by dogma but also to redeem generations of women who have been stifled and silenced far too long.”
Jesus Feminist summons the Church to join in a conversation about women in God’s Kingdom. Sarah Bessey disarms us and then hands us a cup of tea. She creates a safe space for deep discussion, gentle reflection and holy imagination. She calls, converses and commissions us into the wild ways of Jesus. This is a holy invitation for all my sisters – in Africa and beyond – to come to the Table at last. A must read!
Sarah Bessey makes me want to get to know Jesus all over again, but this time specifically through my womanly flesh, embodied as Christ self was embodied, engaging God with the glorious gift of BEING a woman rather than in spite of it. It’s refreshing to read through Bessey’s spiritual and theological narrative peppered with thoughtful and insightful reflections on interpreting Paul’s biblical stance on women, and a beautiful litany of women in scripture and world history whom God has equipped and used to further God’s purposes in the world. We are so often taught to forget the names and roles of these women. Bessey reminds us in astute, charming and passionate eloquence that the word “Feminism” is just an abbreviated way of saying: “God made women in the full image of God’s self, so let us be full participants with our full selves on earth as it surely will be in heaven. Anything less would be a loss for everyone.” Amen.
Helen Burns, pastor, author, speaker, Mercy Ministries of Canada Chairman.
Jesus Feminist is a book that needed to be written! With honest vulnerability and a strong biblical foundation, Sarah Bessey shares her very personal journey and insight regarding the roles and qualifications for women in ministry. This book is a call and an invitation toward freedom and accountability. With honor and high regard for men and women alike, it beautifully portrays the wonder of what can happen when we take our places together and walk out the gifts and callings that God has placed within us as His Church.
Miranda Threlfall-Holmes: Church of England priest, chair of WATCH North-East
‘Have you ever wondered how someone call themselves a Christian and a Feminist? Then please, read this book. Read it especially if you wonder how feminism can be reconciled with the Bible, or if you suspect that those of us who call ourselves Christian Feminists are just picking and choosing the bits of Scripture that we like best. You might be an Evangelical who is worried about feminism, or a feminist who is worried about evangelicalism: either way, read this book. Sarah Bessey clearly, passionately and faithfully explains why her Christian faith means she has to be a feminist, and offers a profoundly moving call to action for us all to grow into full Biblical personhood.’
Christina Rees, campaigner, broadcaster, writer
‘In Jesus Feminist Sarah Bessey writes with wit, wisdom and compassion about one of the major fault lines that runs through our churches and our world – the relationship between women and men. Bessey invites the reader to revisit stories from the Bible about how Jesus related to women, and she concludes that “Patriarchy is not God’s dream for humanity.” Instead, she discovers an invitation to both women and men to receive and participate in God’s kingdom, a kingdom that has already come, and in which there is a ‘holy interdependence’ between men and women. Bessey sees God’s action in the world as a redemptive movement for all people towards equality and freedom, leading her to joyful conviction that “There is more room! There is more room! There is room for all of us!”’
My Practices of Mothering
An e-book about the things I actually do to enjoy mothering tinies
We had three babies in four-and-a-half years. And a few years ago, I began to write through the stuff that I do (or try to do) to enjoy the day-to-day life with a houseful of tinies. Three years later, it remains one of the most popular series of posts I’ve ever done at my blog.
I call them Practices because that’s what us Christians have often called spiritual disciplines, but really they’re just things I do over and over again. Everyone has their own “practices.” Most of mine come from my own parents but then I picked up a few others from books or friends or mentors. And my practices may not work for you and your family. After all, this is just what worked for me, right then, in that season.
As my tinies grow up, my practices shift and change and evolve, as they should. Your own practices will do that, too.
contributed or featured:
Also contributed to: The Mother Letters: Sharing the Laughter, Joy, Struggles, and Hope