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'Grace was waiting in the very place I feared'

Blogger and writer Sarah Bessey talks to Claire Musters about how she has made peace with her evolving faith ...

Sarah Bessey is an award-winning blogger and writer of the acclaimed Jesus Feminist. Her latest book, Out of Sorts, is an honest look at her times of wrestling with her faith and how they have drawn her away from and then back to church. She talks to CLAIRE MUSTERS here about how she has made peace with her evolving faith, and how she believes others can too …

I think my journey of discovery started because I had simply tried for too long to pretend that everything was fine.

I had questions, doubts and wonderings but, instead of leaning into them, I stuffed them away and ignored them. I figured if I kept busy, became more of a ‘hero’ for God, then those things would go away.

But the reality was that the Spirit was breathing in those very questions, nudging me into them. Grace was waiting in the very place I feared. But it wasn’t until I had my heart broken through loss that I finally felt the freedom to let go, to lean into that pain and let it bring the release.

Surprised by Jesus

As a child, I had a deeply loving, uncomplicated and intimate view of Jesus. Our language and church experiences were very simple, centred on the man from Galilee. As I grew up, I heard less about Jesus and more about church, doctrine and ‘lessons for living’. I feel like I lost Jesus in church for a while there.

It seemed you could be a Christian without really knowing or following the actual Jesus. And so, when I began to disentangle from the unfair expectations I had placed on the church, as well as seek healing, I decided that I should probably figure out how to follow Jesus.

Somehow I had created a Jesus that was a nice moral guy in my head, but now I was absolutely consumed with curiosity. As I learned about him I found he was so much more than I expected – more wild, more wonderful, more free, more welcoming, more challenging, more loving, more surprising ...

Falling back in love with the Church

When I decided to stop going to church, I thought that I was done. I thought that I had the revelation and that it was a new and fresh expression, far from institutions. And I found healing and a whole community of people who love God outside the doors. It was wonderful. And then I discovered other traditions of Christianity.

I began to realise just how big, diverse and generous our faith really is – how much I didn’t know! When I had too much baggage around my own tradition, God graciously allowed me to meet him in other ways, in other expressions, in other people.

I suppose it makes sense that since some of my greatest hurts have come from the Church that some of my greatest healings have happened there, too.

Now, not only am I a real ‘church lady’ – complete with prayer team commitments and Sunday school schedules – but I found myself right back in a similar tradition to that which first introduced me to Jesus.

Embracing our ‘sorting out’ moments

We tend to be afraid of the ones who challenge or question. But really, it’s healthy and often the Spirit wants to meet with us right in that space. If our theology doesn’t shift and change throughout our lifetime, then I don’t think we’re paying enough attention.

Jesus doesn’t change but we are always changing in response to that very beautiful truth! Curiosity and wonder are so important in our walk with God. I think recapturing that is often a scary thing but it’s exhilarating too; it brings us life.

I look back on some of the things I used to think, or the woman I used to be, and I can only give thanks to God for the ways that I’ve changed and evolved. And the humbling thing is to recognise that I’ll probably think the exact same thing another 10 years from now!

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