Review: Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey
Sarah Bessey is a writer's writer. Her words are beautiful; Her language, poetry. She's someone I read when I need inspiration.
Needless to say, my expectations about her second book, Out of Sorts, were incredibly high, so much so that I was almost reluctant to pick it up, afraid I'd be disappointed.
I was not.
In Out of Sorts, Sarah explores several of the ways in which her faith has changed and continues to evolve. She examines everything from her beliefs about Jesus and Scripture, to her thoughts on heaven and the kingdom of God, grief and lament, and vocation and calling.
Throughout Out of Sorts, I was struck by the simplicity with which Sarah communicates her key ideas. For example, in the chapter on theology and change, she says, “When it comes to the Kingdom of God, everyone gets to play.” She expands this idea by saying, “Theology belongs just as much to the rest of us – the mother folding laundry, the father coaching basketball, the university student studying to be a nurse, the construction worker, the artist, the refugee – as it does to the great scholars.” To this, all I can say is a heartfelt, Amen.
Another thing I loved about Out of Sorts is Sarah's constant appreciation for the way in which other cultures and traditions view God and practice faith. As she says in her chapter about Scripture, “The whole story of God isn't exclusively in the Bible... Who can limit God to one book or one culture? I imagine God moving among all cultures and all nations in unique and beautiful ways right from the dawn of time.”
As someone who's a professional church worker, I also greatly appreciate Sarah's perspective on the church. As she recounts her story of leaving and returning to the church, she says, “I am back at church because I began to figure out that all the people I loved most, the ones who were quietly doing the work of the Gospel, who were peacemakers, who were people of love and grace and mercy, they were the church... I didn't need to pretend allegiance to everything, but I did need to be part of a community. I stopped thinking macro about Church and started to think micro. I let go of my modern ideals of control and sank right into the grassroots theology of place. I practiced the radical spiritual art of staying put.” She goes onto say, “I entwine my life with our local church, our community: This is something I can do. I go small, I choose reality, I choose the daily mess of an actual place and actual people over the abstracts.”
The strongest chapter in Out of Sorts is Sarah's chapter on grief and lament. It's perhaps the best explanation to the problem of evil I've read anywhere. In her words, “God can take anything that was meant for evil and turn it for our good – not the least of which is our own character and holiness, our growth and our compassion and our ministry, of course. Sovereignty is redemption, it's not causation.”
Throughout Out of Sorts, Sarah writes unashamedly from her perspective as a female, using language and metaphors males would never dare to use. For this reason, she breathes fresh insights into topics that many in Christianity are currently wrestling with. Make no mistake, though. Out of Sorts is not just a book for women. It's a book for anyone who's in the process of examining and sorting through their faith. It's also a book that would be helpful for veteran pastors to read in order to better understand how people in today's culture feel about faith and church.
To conclude, Out of Sorts is not a manual, nor is it a theology book, though it is a book about theology. Instead, it's Sarah's story – something that's valuable because as she says, “I feel like I'll know Jesus better if I hear about how you love Him or how you find Him or how you experience the divine in your life.”
Indeed, that's the case here.
I know Jesus better because through Out of Sorts, I've heard about how Sarah loves and experiences him.
May the same also be true of those who hear my – and your – stories of sorting through our faith.