When I moved back into the fast-paced American church after being a part of the slower moving Middle Eastern church, I learned something crucial. I learned how to cover my pain with a smile. I learned how to say “fine” when people asked how I was doing, even if it wasn’t true.
On the inside, I was a mess of anxiety and shame, confusion about my place in the world and with God. I felt like a failure for returning to America earlier than I had planned. I doubted my purpose, my place in the world.
But people had little time to hear that story and I was afraid of what it said about me.
I was plunged headlong into the truth Sarah Bessey mentions in Out of Sorts - “Our culture makes little space for the mess. We are expected to have it all together. Don’t let them see you sweat, keep your dirty laundry and unsanitized stories to yourself, thank you very much. Be successful, look good, feel good.”
In the middle of believing I had to appear I had it all together, I was starting to believe lies about God, too. My view of Him shrank to someone I had to please instead of someone who loved me without limits. I went through the motions of what I saw around me, what I thought I was supposed to be doing.
I had a “quiet time” and participated in Bible study like I had always been taught to do, even though I didn’t feel like I could hear God in my time in Scripture. I dove into serving in the church when I was probably not healthy enough to be serving anyone. I thought if I did these certain things I would be who God wanted me to be.
I used to think I had to perform for God, to measure up to some standard of holiness to be a part of His church. Then, I found myself in the middle of a community that lived fully in the mess of life together.
I had been in small groups the entire time I had been in the church. This one was different. Most of us were young couples with growing families. At one point we had a baby shower every other month because there were so many children adding to our ranks. Our lives were anything but neat and tidy.
But we pressed into life together, moving families into new homes, bringing meals to new moms, having late-night coffee and sharing our hearts with each other after the kids had drifted off to sleep. We prayed. We were honest. We were all messes and we all loved each other and discovered together that we didn’t have to say “fine” when we didn’t feel fine.
We cried together and laughed together. We watched each other overcome anxieties and move into the life that God intended for us. We carried each other to Jesus when we couldn’t make it there on our own.
When I saw church again as a place for real people, sharing their pain, carrying each others burdens, welcoming those who don’t have it all together – my view of God started to realign.
I realized how much the people of God shape people’s views of God. It is a heavy responsibility but is made so much easier when we are just real with people.
The Jesus Sarah Bessey talks about in Out of Sorts is the Jesus I found in that small group.
“God is much bigger, wilder, more generous, and more wonderful than you imagined,” she says and I found this to be true.
I used to think I had to clean up my act to come to God but now I think that only God can make me clean.
And I think we, as the Church, need to be the place where anyone at any place in life can feel like they can come as they are.
The broken and the whole.
The confused along with the certain.
“I hope we change,” says Sarah of the people of God. “I hope we grow. I hope we push against the darkness and let the light in and breathe into the Kingdom come. I hope we become a refuge for the child and the aged, for the ones who have been strong too long. And I hope we all live like we are loved.”
This is what God did. This is what the People of God should do.
May we keep growing into living like we are loved and loving like we are His.
Buy 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!)
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!
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.”
If you have children or have spent any amount of time around kids, you know that learning to lie happens very early in our lives. I am not even sure it is something we have to learn but a natural instinct to protect ourselves.
My daughter is a people pleaser and wants to please her mommy above all else. She is hardly ever openly disobedient but oh, how she will weave a little lie so quickly if the truth makes her look bad in my eyes!
The moment I realize there is a smudge on my heart that tries so hard to be quiet and good, I quickly try to gloss over it and hide it from God. I lie about what is really going on inside my heart and head, like He doesn’t already know!
Not six chapters into the Bible we see that God saw the human race for what we really were “and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time.” (Genesis 6.5)
As much as I might want a pure, holy, and quiet heart I cannot have it on my own. God knew this all along! It didn’t stop Him from sacrificing it all to win us back and it doesn’t stop Him from pursuing us today.
“Be persuaded, timid soul,” says Archbishop Fenelon, “that He has loved you too much to cease loving you.” Nothing in you is ever going to separate you from God!
In those moments, I find I come back to the words of Psalm 139 – Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”
Be honest with God. Ask Him to search the heart that He created and knows so well. Ask Him to point out anything in you that offends. I know those are the things you want to hide. But He sees them already and He will blot them out completely if you let Him!
I know sometimes though the things you feel burdening your heart, that you feel you can’t bring to God, might even be doubts about what you believe. For nearly a month now, I have looked at keeping a quiet heart but I realize sometimes what we need it to speak our minds in order to quiet our hearts.
Next week I will be discussing a book that I think will resonate with anyone who has ever struggled with doubts or questions, a heart that can’t be quiet even when you want to force it to be.
I have been privileged to be on the launch team for Sarah Bessey’s forthcoming book Out of Sorts and have been slowly digesting all she has to say about “making peace with an evolving faith.”
For anyone who wanders, who has questions in their heart they haven’t been able to be honest about, this book candidly wrestles with issues of who Jesus is, with theology, the Bible, the church, and so much more.
As Jen Hatmaker says in the forward of Out of Sorts, this book will give you “permission to leave behind the stale trappings of religion in order to find Jesus again. He is as good as we ever hoped.”
I hope you’ll join me then. Until then, two more days of a Quiet Heart to go!
It is reasonable to believe that the One who made the worlds, including this one and us who live in it, is willing to teach us how to live. He "became flesh" in order to show us, day by day, as He walked the lanes of Galilee, and the streets of Jerusalem, how to live in company with God. - Elisabeth Elliot
I always knew Christ was fully God and fully man, though that is one of those aspects of theology I didn't think too much about. It is too much for the mind to fully grasp, one of those things I just took on faith that I would understand one day but it didn't matter too much to me now. All I needed to know is He was my life, how his humanity and deity merged didn't change how I felt about following Him.
But then I was sitting in the place where this God-man preached and lived and I was being taught about His life, much like He taught His followers. As the cool spring breeze drifted off the Sea of Galilee onto us in Capernaum, we listened to the teacher talk to us about the humanity and deity of Jesus. Something shifted for me in that moment.
He talked about how Christ was fully Human and how his deity was "veiled" while He lived on this earth. He never stopped being God but to live fully among us, He became fully man as well. And not just fully man but the embodiment of the perfect human. He had to stay connected to the Father to receive His "marching orders," how to live His life. In the words of 1 John 1.1, "the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us."
I always knew it was my life's goal as a follower of Christ to live a life that looked like His. But somehow when I really knew that He didn't come to earth just to save me but to show me the perfect human life, how one can really "live in company with God," I saw Him in a whole new light.
The Second Adam lived as man was created to live before He fell out of communion with God. He lived as we one day will live when all is restored.
Sarah Bessey says it so beautifully in her soon to be released book Out of Sorts, "Because He was fully and completely human, he is our perfect example of the humanity we were meant to embody as we move through this life."
We see how He moved through life with a heart that was never troubled because He stayed in constant connection with His Father, knowing He was in full control. He grieved with people. He had compassion on His sheep without a shepherd. But He lived with a heart so intertwined with the heart of God, that it was not at unrest.
A quiet heart, like the heart of Jesus, is one that keeps company with God at all times. He had that quiet heart and our perfect Jesus living in us offers it to us as well. May we look to Him to show us how to have and keep that quiet heart!
Saturdays on 31 Days of a Quiet Heart I will be highlighting a quote or idea from the book that inspired the series, Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot.
I will be giving away a copy of this book during the last week of the series, so keep reading! The series isn't based on the book but God used it to inspire the thinking that lead me to seek after the qualities of a quiet heart for this month. That is something I always saw exemplified in Elisabeth Elliot's writings and something I always admired in her and yearned for in my own life. I will keep diving into some thoughts inspired by the book.
Stay with me - 4 more Saturdays to go!