Sarah Bessey writes “field notes” every week from the middle of her life, telling the truth as she understands it. She will poke and prod you to think about what kind of person you are becoming.

Sarah and RHE

I connected with Sarah through her friendship with Rachel Held Evans. Sarah describes herself as a pseudo-hermit bookworm, an enthusiastic knitter, tea-drinker, hockey fan, total hugger, endlessly fascinated with Jesus, and she lives with chronic illness.

Sarah writes for those who feel alone and unsure about their path forward. Those who are ready to reimagine the scripture and theology they used to take for granted. People who are searching for answers at the intersections of faith, justice, belonging, scripture, church, and life.

There are a few subjects where Sarah and I are not on the same page. Sarah and I do overlap on core beliefs and values such as these:

“We are deeply loved by God and sometimes we don’t know what that even means;

we miss who we used to be and we love the person we are becoming;

the kin-dom of God is happening right this blessed minute and it’s not here yet.”

The Best of Sarah Bessey

1. It’s when I feel like this – frustrated, angry, ineffective, small in the face of great wickedness or tragedy – that I am often left with the question, “What is our invitation right now?” What could we possibly do that makes a difference in the face of overwhelming times?

2. I’ve stopped asking whether or not anyone needs my writing or my knitting. Because I need it.

3. The old world has been disrupted, overturned, and a new world is breathing, about to be born. There is nothing against us or in us that can stop us from clinging to Jesus, from turning to redemption, over and over, turning again and again. And whatever happened on the cross, however we impose meaning and narrative and metaphors onto it, however we try to explain or understand it, this is the truest truth of it all: it was enough.

4. By now I’ve learned that God is enough and no one else is in charge of the guest list, so I’m not worried.

Apocalyptic

5. These days feel apocalyptic to us precisely because they are. The apocalypse has touched our lives and the answers we were once given, the prayers we once prayed, the certainties we once took for granted, our political opinions, our leaders, all of these have crumbled like the house built on a foundation of sand in Jesus’ parables.

6. Daring to change our story when we find our primary identity in that particular story feels like we are losing our own sense of self. It’s more than just changing an opinion or a way of life: it’s changing who we thought we were.

7. If we pay attention to our life, we will change. In fact, we will change in ways that we never imagined and even though there is grief to leaving behind that old story, there is freedom and life and space waiting on the other side of the threshold.

8. We get to testify to what we have seen and heard and learned from the Spirit. Honour your curiosity and questions because you can always trust the Spirit’s invitation to the depths. Value your story, God has met with you in that altar.

Deconstruction

9. Faith deconstruction doesn’t mean we burn down everything that was once precious to us either. Whatever else our deconstruction does for us, maybe the point is never about being “more right” or having different opinions. Maybe all along it’s been about becoming more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-disciplined.

10. I need a God who is as close to us in the despair as in the hope, in the doubt as in the certainty, in the total experience of our humanity.

11. When people learn that I don’t believe in eternal conscious punishment, their first question is often a telling one: “Then what’s the point?” Meaning, why bother being a Christian if it isn’t to escape eternal conscious punishment? What’s to stop you or scare you or any of us into right behaviour without the consequences of eternal damnation? Why preach the Gospel even?

12. I don’t mind criticism one bit – my critics have made me better in many ways – but I don’t attend arguments on social media.

13. I think the question to ask isn’t “do I really need to go to church?” but is the participation in whatever expression you’re in right now helping you to love God and love people?

14. You will learn to hold your disillusionment with your compassion, they become good friends.

More From Sarah

I’ve heard that most of our theology is autobiography. I think that’s true. I think we often project what we learned about authority or our parents, in particular, onto God. And then we often parent our children in the way that we believe God is parenting us. So if we believe God is a terrible judge with exacting standards and a trapdoor to hell, then that changes how we move through our lives, how we judge others, particularly our children. And yes, I think that damages people.

 

But what if we see God through the metaphor of a mother with a newborn babe? What do we see instead? I’m often reminded in these tender days just after giving birth and caring for a newborn that I’m part of that metaphor, too, with my labour and my pain, with my ferocious protectiveness and my consuming love.

Sarah

Sarah Bessey is a Canadian with a homebase in Calgary. She is the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed books Jesus Feminist (2013); Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith (2015); and Miracles and Other Reasonable Things (2019).

Along with her friends, the late Rachel Held Evans and Jim Chaffee, Sarah co-founded Evolving Faith. She now co-leads the community and conference alongside Jeff Chu. Sarah is also the co-host of The Evolving Faith Podcast which debuted at the top of the charts for Religion and Spirituality Podcasts.

Have you read any of Sarah’s books or subscribe to her podcast? What do you think about her thinking? Please leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

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Bob Jones

Bob Jones

Happily married to Jocelyn for 43 years. We have two adult sons, Cory and his wife Lynsey and their son Vinnie and daughter Jayda; Jean Marc and his wife Angie and their three daughters, Quinn, Lena and Annora. I love inspiring people through communicating, blogging, and coaching. I enjoy writing, running, and reading. I'm a fan of the Double E, Bruins, Celtics, Red Sox and Pats. Follow me on Twitter @bobjones49ers

4 Comments

  • Jill+Burns says:

    Hey PB. I found it interesting Sarah doesn’t believe in “eternal conscious punishment”. That caught my attention and caused me to research her a little more and her podcast. The content and her cohost Jeff Chu appear to be telling indicators of Sarah’s belief system which doesn’t align with mine. Does supporting gay marriage and not believing in hell (as just 2 examples) align with your belief system?

  • Bob Jones says:

    Thank you for reading and researching about Sarah. I haven’t had a personal conversation with her, but I look forward to one. I appreciate Sarah because she is willing to publicly poke and prod thought about important issues of Christian faith. Perhaps in your research you read her article about affirming LBGTQ. https://sarahbessey.substack.com/p/penny-in-the-air
    I don’t share her takeaways from the life of Jesus in this article, as I don’t share her opinions about life after death. I admire and share her attitude of being a bridge builder. My energy at this stage of my life is being invested in entering conversations that the Holy Spirit has started with people in need of Jesus. I believe you and Sarah are on that page.

  • Jill+Burns says:

    I hadn’t seen her article you linked to, so thank you for that. It’s certainly an interesting read. I also read the comments and would agree with a couple of them in that she doesn’t address homosexuality as sin. She also doesn’t address marriage as designed between a man and a woman or for that matter that God created man and woman, not an endless number of genders. This is a massive topic and certainly a current events one that is having significant impacts on our culture, society, laws, churches, everything. So much of the global church message is turning to one of inclusion, love and acceptance while dismissing the truths of sin, holiness and the fear of God. I’m most interested at this stage in my life in championing truth, and I have a lot to learn. I read an interesting post today that sums up where I’m at… Love without truth has no character. Truth without love has no power.
    https://www.biblestudymagazine.com/bible-study-magazine-blog/2017/4/2/truth-love

  • Bob Jones says:

    Here’s a bit of my context. I see love as the expression of grace and truth or mercy and truth. Jesus was full of grace and truth. In Jesus, the lovingkindness, mercy, and grace that are God’s divine nature are met together with his unbending and unchanging demand for truth, righteousness, and judgment. Jesus lived that way. I’m trying to follow Jesus in that. The closest I can get to the tension in that context is that this is “an art not a science.” Does that make sense?

    Is difficult to do so I think people tend to lean to one side or the other in their focus. People either lean into truth and judgment and become like the teachers of the law or the Pharisees and become judgmental or lean into a feeling of love and become licentious.

    Jesus – perfect truth and power – drew tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, political radicals, esthetics to himself and he also invited teachers of the law to come close. (I was reading that in Mark 3 today.) In so doing he didn’t compromise his identity, nature, or his calling.

    You make use of the word inclusion. My word would be acceptance. Belonging. This following may sound trite but for me it sums up a big difference. Some Christians and churches follow the order of: believe, become, belong. Or believe, belong, become. Others follow: belong, believe, become. I follow the latter (and in many cases all 3 are happening at the same time, but it is the belonging that starts the process). There is a huge gap between the first and third process. I see the 3rd flow as an expression of Jesus inviting people to come close to him. Faith and love are not transferred by osmosis but they are observable, and contagious.

    I read the blog post in the attached link. At the conclusion, the author uses the phrase ”Christ’s truth” as though that is clearly observable and delineated by merely reading the Bible. The multiple theologies of historic Christian belief systems all based on the Bible remind me of how sincere Christ followers can have widely diverging interpretations and applications of Christ’s truth. Throughout history well meaning Christian leaders have characterized hateful behavior as love in pursuing the truth (the Crusades and the persecution of Jews as extreme examples). I say “well meaning” because in their historical context their behaviour was perceived as love by Christ followers of the day. The fact that my perspective isn’t the final word leaves my thinking open to conversations like this one.

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