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.”
The heat of the long summer days has not subsided, yet back to school tasks are beginning. My oldest is entering first grade, all of her school years still ahead of her. She is still young enough to look forward to school with expectancy.
On the other end of the spectrum, someone special in my life is entering her senior year. A different kind of expectancy surrounds her and her family, as a life-changing year looms in front of her.
These are my words for her:
We haven’t often talked about serious matters. Our relationship has often been expressed at a surface-level, but my love for you feels more like a protective older sister than anything. I was so young when you were born, about to enter my senior year of high school. I can’t believe you are now there yourself (and how old that makes me)!
As I think about the year ahead of you, of course, it makes me reflect on that time in my life when I felt like I was on the brink of real life. I didn’t realize how little I really knew. I probably wouldn’t have listened to someone telling me how to live my life, thinking I was so sure of what lay ahead. But you have always been the type that listens more than other people, an old soul. Keep listening. Others who have been before you have much to share.
I see the incredible potential in you to do great things for the world, a compassion for people that is rare in a person your age. I then look around at the culture you are in the center of, this generation that gets everything at lightning speed and expects instant gratification as their right. It is at such odds with the kind of life God designed us to live, waiting on Him and putting others ahead of ourselves. It must be so difficult to live a life of faith, feeling like you are swimming upstream in the middle of this generation.
When I think of you entering your last year of high school, there is so much I want to tell you. I could tell you how important this year ahead of you is for your future, how the decisions you make this year will determine the course your life takes.
I have done some things in my life that most people would find daring. That trip to Yemen when our car was turned around and sent back south because of Al Qaeda activity up north – that seems pretty bold. Passing by those jeeps with guns strapped on the backs of them would have scared my mother to death. It felt completely normal to me.
Living in the middle east, planning another trip to Israel after the conflicts there last year – these things seem dangerous to some. They don’t make me think twice. God has just wired me that way, to love international people and travel, to be more comfortable outside of my own culture.
The things that feel more daring – downright frightening to me – are the moments in life where I have to be vulnerable to others. Opening myself up for criticism and saying what I really feel make me quake. The thought of others not liking me or, dare I say it, rejecting me? It makes me panic!
Barren. Parched. Empty. I think of the desert as I sit looking out over our backyard. Half of it is green, a carpet of grass ready for little feet to run and play on. The other half feels rugged and rocky underneath eager feet. Harsh rains and hail pelted us this winter and water would stand in the shady, low places killing whatever had grown there. The grass got little nourishment from the sun and stayed bogged down with water, unable to replenish itself this spring.
Barren. Parched. Empty. I think of a valley of dry bones as I sit, trying to quiet my soul. I started writing again this year in an attempt to quiet my spirit, to take the swirling thoughts, the anxieties and the chaos, and mold them into thoughts directed at God. I have tried to find a time to write in the last week, a half finished story waiting to be completed and posted to my blog. But my soul has felt as battered as the dry places of our yard, and I have been unable to find the words, unable to even put myself into that vulnerable place of sitting down with a pen to put my heart down on paper.
All week long I felt like I was drowning under standing water, unable to see clearly through the murky mind and heart weighing me down. The little storms that came into my life this week shouldn't have so thoroughly derailed me. A spring cold made me groggy, then my five year old fell and got a slight concussion, throwing my whole week a bit off-kilter. Work got overwhelming. Discouragement weighed on me as well as I tried to push the date to the back of my mind. I had submitted stories to two magazines I felt really confident that I was a good fit for, and this week the deadline to hear if they were publishing me loomed ahead. Each day I didn't hear back made me feel a bit lower, a little more unsure of my calling to raise my voice for God in this noisy online world.
Little storms, surely nothing that should have swamped my soul and left me in a barren wasteland. But I found myself in the old familiar territory of anxiety and discouragement when I didn't cry out to God in the midst of all these swirling storms in my soul. I wallowed in them, let them build up until they blocked out the nourishment my soul so desperately needed from the One who promises to carry our burdens if we will let Him. The light couldn't break through and my words dried up, my attitude was bleak, and I couldn't bring myself to write the story of hope I had been working on. It felt like a lie.