Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey
Upon completing Out of Sorts, I have now read both of Sarah Bessey’s books, as well as several of her blogs over the past couple of years. I’m generally one to take more of a logical propositional approach to things I read (and watch, and sing, and hear). That makes reviewing Sarah’s works a bit tougher. If I tried to take it at this level, there are a lot of great propositions in Out of Sorts about a variety of theological topics: the Church, interpreting the Bible, Jesus, spiritual gifts, the problem of evil. They aren’t necessarily propositions I hadn’t heard before and we generally agree on pretty much any theological topic I’ve heard her talk about. There’s a reason I gave a quote of hers from Jesus Feminist as the last words in my chapter of A Living Alternative. She says a lot of great stuff. But more to the point, she says that great stuff in really compelling ways.
The big point I would make as I read Sarah’s words is that her love of Jesus is contagious. Sometimes in the Church we talk about how we should be so filled with the Spirit, having experienced so much of God’s love, that it just overflows into talking about it as well as loving others in practical ways. I can really only think of one person I know personally who is like this, but Sarah seems to be operating in that way a lot of the time as well. Sure, part of that is personality and ways of speaking, but I think it is more than that, too. I think she really does feel that way about Jesus, at least most of the time.
Out of Sorts is not simply a happy book. This contagious love is not achieved by reciting lots of abstract worship songs about how great God is. You can usually see right through that as a false mask, or at the minimum naivete from never really experiencing suffering in your life. Sarah has clearly wrestled with the bad times, though. She discusses things like multiple miscarriages and learning to reject the evangelical hero complex that paid professional ministry is a superior calling to that of any other job. Sure, she’s got a fair bit of privilege in her life and I think she’d readily admit that, but she also has experienced real problems and has wrestled through those problems.
Because of that wrestling, her faith is much stronger than if she simply tried to ignore those realities. Rather than her love of Jesus coming across as less compelling when discussing these times, it comes across as even stronger. Ultimately that’s because it felt so much more real. Jesus was with her in these times. He wasn’t off in Heaven uninterested. Just as he took on flesh, including our suffering, 2000 years ago, he took on Sarah’s suffering and walked with her through it. I’ve said this before and heard lots of others say similar ideas, so I already believed it in the abstract, but once again, Sarah’s compelling writing style gives it life in a new life. It makes her love of Jesus contagious in a new way.
I definitely recommend this book. Wrestle with the big ideas she discusses, but even more, take the time to feel God’s presence in your life as Sarah describes it in hers.