I used to believe that Following Jesus meant being conservative, embracing conservative values and philosophies and being involved in my church, was all I needed to be who God wanted me to be.
But now I believe that the most important thing I can do in my life, for me, for my family and those friends I love dearly, and everyone else is quite simple: Follow Jesus.
So many times in the Bible, Jesus calls others to "Follow Me".
And isn't that exactly what He is calling me (and quite possibly you) to do as well?
It is not about being conservative; I don't think I ever really embraced that. Although I was never hurt by the church, I know many who were. Perhaps being involved in a para church ministry my entire adult life precluded me from believing that the church was the end all, be all.
Quite possibly, we seemed to pick churches where we had friends and because of our own all encompassing ministry, we were not that involved in many church activities, except for me attending women's bible studies for years and years.
For many, the church (and what exactly is "the church"?) has hurt -hopefully unintentionally-their members, whether it be for what they say is the "gospel truth", or for the values they impose (ie we don't drink, dance, swear or go with those who do). Maybe as you went for advice about doubts or why God says this in the Bible, you were told something that made you feel belittled, or that you weren't the "christian" you were supposed to be.
Sarah Bessey(author of Jesus Feminist) has written another book, called "Out of Sorts: making Peace with an Evolving Faith.
This book is truly a gem. I have underlined and highlighted so much, that well, you might think I am a bit pen happy. BUT REALLY.
I have been on this faith journey for 44 years now and from the 19 year old college sophomore to the 63 year old Grammy, my faith has changed, shifted, grown and become much more compassionate, realizing much much more that I don't always know the answers, and that GOD IS THE ULTIMATE GIVER OF ANSWERS AND JUDGE.
There are so many quotes I want you to see, but also realize that might take up another book in itself.
It would be hard to pick a favorite, but one that really captured me was:
" If our theology doesn't shift and change over our lifetimes, then I have to wonder if we're paying attention. The Spirit is often breathing in the very changes or shifts that used to terrify us."
Looking back over forty plus years of walking with Christ, I realize it is really a journey. A journey that has its ups and downs. Those straight aways when you see clearly and are sailing ahead smoothly. Those winding mountains with the curves that can scare us and bring forth our fears, the ones that you don't expect and blurs your vision for a time, and then there is the valleys. Those places where you have been blind-sided, where your hope might vanish, the doubts are debilitating, the grief unending. It could be from an unexpected loss; a death of a loved one, a spouse leaving, a pink slip, a broken relationship. It can be from lingering and unrelenting mental illness. In the valley, you just want a break. A brief respite from the deep pain and often there is nothing. God's silence is LOUD.
And finally there is a break, you begin to trust God again, you make some forward motion steps, and you can see a road-any road, that might lead you out of the valley.
How I have viewed God for now going on five decades has shifted and changed. Some things have remained constant: I know He loves me. I know He is there, even in the deafening silence. I know He cares. But have I doubted? Yes. Plenty of times. Do I wonder if He hears my cries for help. I know He does, but His answers often take forever in coming (or so it seems).
I have seen His hand of protection over a loved one's life when He spared them from a suicide attempt, but I wonder, why some others succeed.
I have wondered if God slept when atrocities are being committed all over and throughout history.
I have many questions that are unanswered.
What I have learned is that God doesn't change. I do.
As the years go by, I have known Him better. Been the recipient of multiple and multiple graces.
I realize that I don't have the answers. That only God does. And well meaning pastors have told me things that aren't true, and then I wonder why God would place them over people.
My faith has changed; I have become more compassionate and way less judging of others.
I want to love and show Christ's love. I don't want to condemn, but I want to accept others and pray that they too will come to know the ONE who gave them life.
This is basically what the book, Out of Sorts is about. Navigating your faith through your lifetime.
Sarah Bessey gives us her reasons for choosing to follow Jesus day in and day out. In spite of the messiness. In spite of being hurt and lonely. Cheering us on to be what Jesus envisions us to be.
She considers the Church as a whole and reminds us that we are the church. We are Christ's ambassadors here and now. Are we representing Him accurately?
She writes about the Bible, what we think and believe, how to ponder the questions we have freely and without guilt. She writes about the people in our lives, our community.
What she writes about is FAITH.
Sarah Bessey is real and authentic. She is honest with her questions and how she has been hurt.
She is so genuine in her love for Jesus and others; this fact leaks out page after page.
If you have never heard of her, you need to.
She writes with honesty and conviction. And she blesses the socks out of me. I read her words with a pen in hand. I take notes and ponder her words.
What she expresses over and over again is Jesus's words: FOLLOW ME. And invites and encourages us to do the same. Sarah isn't perfect; none of us are. But she longs for Jesus with a heart that seeks Him diligently. And isn't that what we all should be desiring.
Oh IF ONLY, I had this book at her age!!