I sat in the middle of people I had called brothers and sisters for the past three years. I had shared my life with them and forsaken my own family, who weren’t followers of Christ, for this family of God. I had believed they had all the answers. I thought I just needed to align my life with their theology and practices and everything would be okay.
In the sticky summer air, they laughed too loud and excitement filled the air as we rounded the bend into our senior year. But I didn’t fit anymore into their midst. I felt exposed among them, like I wore my broken heart on the outside. People I believed could show me clearly who God was had betrayed me.
Those practices I thought I just needed to emulate to be a “good Christian” were murky now. I saw one thing in the church building, another in school.
I was heart broken over a broken faith in God and in the people of God. I walked away into the humid night and away from all I believed. I thought if I didn’t have all the answers then I didn’t have any at all. All I thought I knew was wrong.
I wish someone had been there to tell me then “I know you feel a bit out of sorts. We all do sometimes. It’s okay. Don’t be afraid. You are so very loved. I pray you would remember it, know it, live it, breathe it, rest in it: beloved.”
Those words came in the form of the book Out of Sorts. I joined the launch team for Sarah Bessey’s second book (releasing November 3, 2015) after falling in love with her words on her blog. The gift that fell into my hands was this raw, real encounter with a faith that is evolving over time and a permission to question and grow into the truth of who God really is.
Out of Sorts, in Sarah’s own words is “about embracing a faith, which evolves, and the stuff I used to think about God but I don’t think anymore…This book is my way of leaving the light on for the ones who are wandering.” It is for those have ever felt “Out of Sorts,” like everything they “once knew ‘for sure’ has to be figured out all over again.”
When I was a teenager, fresh to the faith and so unsure of who God was, I had no one to leave the light on for me. I saw the darkness in the church and I ran in the other direction.
In college tried the life the world offered and my heart ached even worse. I knew the truth and though I tried to run from it, God was whispering to my soul and calling me to Himself. I just couldn’t reconcile the God I thought I knew from Scripture with the God I saw in people’s lives around me.
If I didn’t agree with everything the church said about God, I didn’t feel like I could be a part of that body of believers. I was an outsider in the world and an outsider in the faith.
I had found faith at a contemporary evangelical church but through my college boyfriend, I found myself crossing myself at the altar of an Episcopal church. It felt foreign and welcome to me. I didn’t recognize this liturgy, these practices of kneeling in prayer or drinking from the cup and passing it onto the person next to me, sharing in something holy with a stranger.
Part of me felt like I was betraying the God I knew in this place because there was theology that didn’t line up with what I had been taught before.
I thought there was a church, a denomination or affiliation, that had it all figured out. They knew the right interpretation of the Bible and could tell me what it all meant, point me to who God was and wanted me to be.
“If our theology doesn’t shift and change over our lifetimes,” says Sarah in the story of her own journey of wandering from and returning to the church, “then I have to wonder if we’re paying attention.”
As I read this personal narrative of someone who didn’t have the same story as me, a Canadian from a charismatic background, I saw myself in every page. This wandering time in my life has always been an omission from my story. When I talk about my faith to others, I talk about my early years in the youth group when I found Jesus.
I then skip forward to the time three years after I had left the church when I found myself in the inviting, inclusive campus ministry where I discovered a loving God who accepted me and sent me out into ministry. I don’t talk about the most pivotal point in my life because I have always thought it was the dark time of my faith.
As I read Out of Sorts I realized it was the time when I found my faith. In the time I was an explorer I saw God in places I never dreamed to find Him.
I saw God in that liturgy shared across denominations and across the ages, speaking the words of the Book of Common Prayer that thousands before me had uttered.
I found God in the free spirits that worshipped him in the makeshift church that met over a bar on the outskirts of the campus, crying together with me as I wrestled with my place in the church.
I was loved on by women in a conservative Baptist church that read the words of Romans 8.1 to me, showing me for the first time that my wandering didn’t mean that God didn’t love me anymore. I was freed when I learned that God held no condemnation for me.
“With all the hand-writing about the state of the influence and power of the Church in society,” Sarah ponders, “I wonder if we’ve forgotten that the Church isn’t simply an institution. It’s us. We’re it.”
I discovered in the years I wandered in the world and among denominations that no one has the market on God cornered, that the church isn’t a place for all the answers.
At least that is not what it is supposed to be. It is supposed to be a place for imperfect people living this life together, supporting each other as we figure out how to live like Jesus the best we can. We are to be the church. I discovered this truth again in the pages of this book.
“Religion tells us that it’s all figured out,” Sarah says, “there is nothing left to learn, here are the answers, so learn them. “ And that is what I used to believe – that if I didn’t have it all figured out I didn’t have a place among those who seemed to.
I found myself reading the benediction of Out of Sorts with wracking sobs as I read the converse of that false belief. Instead of needing to have all the answers, I pray along with Sarah that “you would be an explorer, you would recover delight and wonder and curiosity about your faith, about God, and about the story with which you continue to wrestle.”
Pre-order Out of Sorts now (This isn’t an affilate link, just me sharing a book with you that I believe will speak life to your soul!)
Continue the Discussion
Join me next week as I continue to discuss Out of Sorts
Respond with your own stories of evolving faith. “I used to think ______ but now I think _______.” Leave your response in the comments below!