I am so excited about working through this book. We had a big list of books to pick from, but we thought Sarah’s book really fit with what we do here. Right from the start, we knew this was the book for Sacred Margins. Here’s how she defines being “out of sorts:”
Out of sorts: a state of being in one’s heart or mind or body. Often used to describe one’s sense of self at a time when you feel like everything you once knew for sure has to be figured out all over again.
So that is what we will be exploring together for the next few weeks. We are going to tackle a chapter a week, but instead of just giving an overview of the chapters, we are going to use it as a launching point for discussion.
A few years ago, Brittany and I had some friends who were pregnant for the first time not long after we had our second child.
And God bless them, they had it all figured out.
They had read the parenting books, the nutritional information, the blogs, the podcasts…nothing was stopping them from being the best parents to ever grace God’s green earth. They knew exactly how this baby thing would go.
I remember thinking at the time: I can’t wait to have this conversation in a year.
We see this all the time right? We all know 20-year-olds we have the world figured out. I was an expert parent before I had kids. We are wildly naive about things until we go through the actual difficulty and experience of living.
And to use the example of our friends, what is it that brings humility? Late nights with no sleep. Dealing with problems you never knew existed. A tiny little person that doesn’t care even a little bit about what the books said and how you thought this thing would go.
Our friends are wonderful parents, and we are able to laugh about this now, but it often takes the difficulty of going through something to gain the much-needed perspective.
The humility of being able to admit you have no idea what you are doing as a parent, comes at great cost. We figure out that we don’t have it figured out because we encounter something, or more specifically someone, who does not fit into or care about our categories. We have to go through the actual pain, difficulty, and stress of real life; let go of our preconceived notions; and enter into whole new ways of seeing the world.
Which is what Bessey’s book is all about.
One of the brilliant things about this book is that she weaves beautiful storytelling and deep theological and philosophical ideas into something very accessible. And in the first chapter she introduced the idea of “Second Naiveté.”
This is an important concept for how we view our faith, and there are lots of ways to talk about it: Simplicity on the other side of complexity; light, heavy, light; Construction, Deconstruction, Reconstruction…
The point is there is a pattern for how we grow in our faith.
We start off with all the answers.
We have been handed the Truth and we follow it blindly. But then something happens, and the thing I knew for sure no longer works. So I begin to break those old beliefs down. I lose them, rethink them, argue with them, get upset with them, and they inevitable change or go away. But eventually I begin to build new ways of understanding and living out my faith because of the hard work of breaking the beliefs down.
But let’s pause right there. When I lose those initial ways of looking at the world, when my certainty is taken away, when the thing I relied on for so long no longer works, that process is incredibly painful. It causes dark nights of the soul. Or the dark nights cause it. Either way, it is a time of grief and difficulty. William Isaacs says we attach ideas so heavily to who we are that to change our minds is like an act of suicide.
Which is why we often avoid diving too deep. It is an act of self-protection. We are scared of what might happen.
I think this is often why you see people who so violently try to defend their own views. If I am terrified of what might happen if I give up a particular way of thinking or believing, then I have to blindly and violently oppose those who might think differently.
I am driven by fear.
I was listening to a Podcast during Advent about Mary and the birth of Jesus. There is one key little line in the story that makes sense of the whole narrative in Luke:
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.
God shows up….at night.
The first chapter of Luke shows all Mary has to give up in order to give birth to Jesus: The rights of her bloodline, acceptance of her family, comfort, security, and she is set in contrast with Zechariah as even giving up her certainty for knowing how and what is going to happen in the future.
The point is, God shows up at night. The story always starts at night. God is not waiting until we feel confident and comfortable. In fact, confidence and comfort often keep us from seeing God.
The story begins in the darkness. The darkness is where God works, and brings new things.
But we exert an extraordinary amount of effort into avoiding the darkness. We want to be sure, certain, comfortable, and taken care of. We want things to go our way and instead of accepting and entering into the darkness, we tend to avoid and ignore it.
Letting go of all we hold dear is terrifying because we assume we will be left with nothing. But what we find when we let go of everything, we are not left with nothing. We are left with God. So we emerge on the other side with a greater trust and confidence in God.
But actually allowing ourselves to enter into the darkness is how we grow. When we go through the grief, difficulty, and sorting of the darkness we emerge on the other side with something new. We have an expanded way of viewing and being in the world. We see God in new and amazing places.
And when I have this new trust and confidence in God, I am much more firm in my beliefs, but I hold them very loosely. I no longer have to defend them with all that is in me. I hold them loosely with wonder and awe, as well as a bold new commitment to larger ways of thinking more in line with the Kingdom of God.