I often feel like I popped out of the womb a Christian.
It was a given: my mother was baptized while I wriggled inside her belly, and my father was the son of a Baptist minister and one sassy, piano-playing Church Lady. Growing up, we said our prayers over the dinner table and at bedtime. We went to church on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, not merely because it was what we thought we should do, but because it was simply What We Did.
And we did church. Never staking claim to any one denomination, we instead attended a variety of different churches: Presbyterian, Nazarene, American Baptist.
We made the Church People our people. We ate with them and we mourned with them. We laughed with them and fought with them and invited them into our home so that we could be their people, too.
Through my formative years, I never questioned why we did what we did, or even why we did what we did, because it was simply was who we were. Some people did little league, and some people did swim team. Some people did Girl Scouts and some people did family and some people did music. And we too did all of those things to an extent, for a time. But as for my family, we did church.
This was the narrative that shaped me and formed me, a liberal Baptist theology my faith’s foundation. So we sang the hymns and we got dunked in the baptismal font. We cheered on both men and women in the pulpit and in all forms of leadership. We went on mission trips and we invited our friends to youth group. We shaped our lives around the church’s schedule.
Until we didn’t.
Until I didn’t.
I’ve always been a bit of a rabble-rouser, in an I-took-the-biggest-piece-of-bread-from-the-communion-bowl-and-dipped-TWICE sort of way. So it always came as a shake to my foundation when my questions arose and circumstances changed.
Like when I started going to the most popular church in town, on my own as a sixteen-year-old, and didn’t see women in up-front roles.
Or when someone spray painted “God Hates Fags” on the side of the English department building in college, and I couldn’t reconcile a loving and a hating God inhabiting the same body.
Or when I read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies for the first time, and began to see a different sort of Jesus, a new people of God.
Or when I taught at a Christian school, and dozens of teachers were handed notices of leave because, “It was for the betterment of our lambs.” Or when I worked for a conservative outreach ministry, and questioned a one-sided, “non-negotiable” statement of sin. Or when I went to seminary and discovered liberation theology, among other things. Or when my best friend came out of the closet, and I couldn’t sense of how the two fit together, because he loved Jesus better than anyone I knew. Or when I left full-time ministry and began to discover different voices of faith, different perspectives of the same God. Or when I, or when I, or when I…
The list goes on.
For our theology – or how we see God – is a morphing, shifting, changing entity. And this shapeshifting faith can make us feel rather out of sorts sometimes.
But that’s normal.
And it’s good.
And, dare I say, it’s necessary if we are to grow as persons of faith.
That’s why I’m delighted to tell you about blogger, author and speaker Sarah Bessey’s new book, Out of Sorts. Because her story of a morphing, shifting, changing faith gives us permission to look into our own narratives and tell our stories of pain and of joy, of questions and of change. It’s different from her first memoir, Jesus Feminist, as it’s centered around the art of storytelling, and, given the subject matter, it’s that much more personal.
Really, her words make you feel like you’re sitting down over a cup of tea with a dear friend. And sometimes that’s the best and most comforting book you can read, especially when your faith feels out of sorts and upside-down and all over the place.
So, fellow pilgrim, friend and sojourner, might your exploration continue. And if you’re in this place in which it seems and feels like there are more questions than answers, know that you are not alone.
But you are seen and you are loved.
So, have you ever felt out of sorts, whether in your faith or in life in general? Share a story with us! And, as promised, leave a comment below to win a copy of Sarah’s new book. Contest ends Friday, November 6th.