For the love of faith groundbreakers: Episode 06

Sarah Bessey:  Life on the Other Side of Being Broken

Sarah Bessey is the friend we all need, the one who will welcome you with open arms, tuck you under a blanket she knitted herself, and hand you a cup of tea while you talk about the mysteries of life. As a matter of fact, she’s exactly that kind of friend to Jen—and through this episode, you’ll feel the love too. As a beautiful and insightful writer, her books take us through the deconstruction of her faith, with wonderings and wanderings so many of us have had, or may be experiencing now, back to a relationship with God that allows for questions and a desire for change in our religious systems. Sarah also opens up about a shift in her reality that she’s been quietly living through for the last couple of years—the aftermath of a serious car accident, which upended the life she was building and left her in chronic pain. Having to hit pause on the speaking career she loved and the book she thought she would write, Sarah embarked on an all new journey to rediscover who God was in this season of life, and contemplates what’s different on the other side of being broken. Her new book, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things,  chronicles these life-altering events and how she’s still dealing with them today.

Transcript from the show

Narrator:  Hi everybody, my name is Remy. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast, with your host Jen Hatmaker, my mom. She writes books and speaks to crowds. But she mostly loves talking to amazing people every week on this podcast. Thanks for listening! We hope you enjoy the show.
Jen:  Hey, guys. Jen Hatmaker is here. Welcome to the For the Love Podcast. I'm so very glad that you are here today, and you are going to be too.

Right now, we are in the series called For The Love of Faith Groundbreakers, and it is exactly that. We're talking with people who are, in one way or another, sort of going off the beaten path, and showing us how to blaze a new spiritual trail, and perhaps think a little outside of the norm. And big, big shock: I'm really here for this.

This is a great day you guys, you lucky listeners. Literally, one of my dearest and best friends is on the show today. It's so great when you can do work stuff with your friends, and we've done lots of work stuff together, and lots of friend stuff together.

So, let me tell you a little bit about my guest today, Sarah Bessey, your favorite and mine. She's a gorgeous writer. and I mean that, like, gorgeous. Lyrical, thoughtful, amazing. Just read two sentences of hers and you'll see what I mean. She is a writer's writer, 100% so gifted.

Sarah's Canadian. She lives absolutely up to the “Canadians are the nicest people on Earth” trope. She grew up on western Canada, but now she lives near Vancouver in the most beautiful place on Earth. When she posts pictures, it feels fake.

Plus, she's brilliant. She and another one of my friends and podcast favorite, Rachel Held Evans, actually founded the Evolving Faith Conference, which they describe as a gathering for the wanderers, the wonder-ers, status quo upenders, and spiritual refugees to discover you are not alone. So, obviously, she is one of ours. I was there last year and I just won't forget it. What I picked up at that conference, I am still thinking about. I am still musing in my brain, I am still rolling it over. Just outstanding people and place.

So, Sarah is a wife to the love of her life, Brian. We'll talk about him and they have four kids: Anne, and Joseph, and Evelynn, and Maggie.

She is an Enneagram 9, if you're an Enneagramer. Unashamed lover of Doctor Who and Call the Midwife, like, don't get her started. She is in a nutshell, absolutely wonderful.

So, she's got two pretty critically acclaimed books, Jesus Feminist, great, and Out of Sorts. And then she has just turned in her third book called Miracles and Other Reasonable Things: Unlearning and Relearning God. I've read some of it. And I can tell you right now that when this book comes out in the fall, in October, you're gonna want it. In fact, better yet, just go pre-order it right now. I'll have the link over in the transcript page. You will thank me later.

And a couple of years ago, Sarah was in a pretty bad car wreck that has kind of changed the course of her life, which we're gonna talk about it. And so, she's been quietly thinking and writing through all of this, and how her view of God has dramatically changed over the last couple of years, and we'll talk about what all of this means.

And if you don't already know her, if you don't already follow her, you are going to be charmed out of your ever loving minds today because Sarah Bessey is one of the greatest human beings on this planet, and that is not a word of exaggeration. You're gonna love our conversation. She is so full of depth, and wisdom, and goodness, and kindness, and she's just a little bit snarky. So, that's like the best human combination on the planet.

So, you guys, help me welcome my very precious and good friend, Sarah Bessey. 
It's kind of funny to welcome you to the podcast because we talk almost every day. Don't we? On Voxer?

Sarah: We do. In a way, we need to be very careful to remember that other people are listening 'cause otherwise, this could get off the rails pretty quick.

Jen: Right. This just feels utterly familiar and so, we could just go down a rabbit hole of talking some crap like we do sometimes. It's fair.

Sarah: Who me?

Jen: How long have we've been friends? When did we become . . .  When did we meet?

Sarah: I think we met in person in 2012 when we went to Haiti.

Jen: That's right. Thank you. That was a huge trip. Yeah, we've logged a lot of miles.

Sarah: We did.

Jen: Me and you and our friend group.

Sarah: You know, I can't remember ever in my life being so hot. I remember turning to you—I mean, again, we had just met—and being like, "Is it normal to sweat down your spine? Because I'm sweating down my spine." You were like, "Just go with it."

Jen: That was like Haiti hot.

Sarah: And then you'll probably need to cut this out, but I don't know if you remember this or not, but . . .

Jen: I will not cut it out.

Sarah: We were tied to those. You might want to. There was this moment when we were supposed to be filming video for the Legacy project that we were doing for the school and I couldn't do it. Remember?

Jen: I remember.

Sarah: I just like lost my mind. I was so nervous. I had never been on camera. I had never preached in my life. I had never spoken in public. This was a huge thing for me. It was my first time leaving my children.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: This was a huge, huge trip for me. And I remember being like literally losing it.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Sitting at that little blue desk.

Jen: I remember.

Sarah: Putting my head on the desk and crying like a little diaper baby. You came up to me and you were like, "You can quit and you can walk away, but then I'll tell everyone you hate orphans."

Jen: Oh. Oh, I forgot I said that. What is wrong with me? You know what? You did it.
Sarah: I did it.

Jen: The threat of public shame, you powered through. Oh my gosh. I have a picture of you with your head on that desk.

Sarah: It's 100% the reason why I say the best friendships are equal parts hair-patting and ass-kicking. Like you need both.

Jen: Oh man. Do we ever have that in spades? 
So, look. Most of my listeners know you because I've talked about you a million times. But for those of them that do not, I have filled them in about a little bit about you, and kind of your background, sort of the arc of your story, but I wonder if just for a minute, would you indulge me and go backwards just a little bit and kind of set the table?

So, you grew up, obviously, on the plains of western Canada. And then I love this part of your story and I've heard you talk about a lot, but your parents, who are so dear to me—I don't even know your parents, except I feel like I do—became Christians when you were a kid. So, they're grown up new Christians, which is rare. And so, can you sort of talk about that season of your life? Childhood, new Christian parents, and how it impacted you and really your whole family to move into sort of a faith world? Which we don't see that, that often.

Sarah: No, I mean, that was sort of my origin story, really, was very much alongside of my parents. And I think that that's one of the things that is really special about it, especially now from this standpoint being in this stage of my life, being able to look back and say, "We did all that together."

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And it was really remarkable. I mean, we did not . . .  my parents did not come from a context that was church-going or Christian in any capacity.

And so, when my parents began to explore the idea of going to church, it was really disruptive. And especially because, I mean, my parents are the type of people that, I mean, once you're in, you're all the way in. I don't know where I get it from.

Jen: Sure.

Sarah: So, anyway, they just fell head over heels in love with Jesus, honestly. I mean, I could make it a little bit more proper or whatever. But I remember we had a Mennonite babysitter, actually, that lived across the alley from my Gran. And she went away to a church camp and they had kind of done the whole church camp thing about, you know, get people saved and whatever else. And she didn't really have a large social circle and she was not comfortable with the idea of knocking on doors, but she thought, Well, I do babysit for these heathens.

Jen: Right?

Sarah: That was us. And so, she brought us this record. I don't know if you're . . .  Oh, I'm dating myself, obviously. Now, people call them “vinyls.”

Jen: Sure.

Sarah: But back then, it was a record and it was a Maranatha one, Bullfrogs & Butterflies.

Jen: Girl, I can sing it right now.

Sarah: I know. I literally can't even. I literally cannot hear those songs without just weeping.

Jen: It's so sweet.

Sarah: Absolutely weeping. And she brought it for my sister and I for Christmas with her babysitting money.

Jen: Aww.

Sarah: And my sister and I loved it. We thought it was . . .  I mean, again, we had two records. And so, it got a lot of mileage. But when we would go to school, my mum would sit at home alone with that record and she would listen to it over and over and just cry and cry 'cause it was the first time she'd ever heard the gospel.

Jen: I can bawl. It's too dear.

Sarah: And so, that was the point when she realized that what she was looking for was Jesus. And so, she dragged us off to a little community church. I mean, some of my most vivid memories, my very first memories of church of are my mum sitting beside me in Sunday School because there were no other . . .  hardly any other kids there.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: And they wanted my mum to teach 'cause we were probably the only people under 50.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: They wanted her to teach Sunday School and she was like, "I don't know anything."

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: "I can't teach it."

Jen: Right.

Sarah: And she's like, "But I'll come." And so, she used to come and pass out crayons and sit beside me. And I remember they would teach us things about Jesus and teach us the gospels. And I remember my mum and I looking at each other from those little dumb plastic kindergarten chairs, and her knees up, all the way up, and her looking at me, and being like, "Isn't He amazing?"

Jen: It's the sweetest thing.

Sarah: And I was like, "Oh, He's so amazing."

And so, we did all of that together. And so, in a lot of ways, we were learning together, we were coming of age together. Even when I hit seasons in my life when I was deconstructing or I was reconstructing or rethinking, in a lot of ways, my parents have kept pace with me in that instead of seeing it as a threat.

Jen: That is my favorite story of your childhood. 
It's interesting because, I mean, you are fully Canadian. You are a Canada girl. And you came to the U.S. for college and specifically, so opposite day, you went to Oklahoma. Like opposite day.

So, I would love for you to talk about that season. First of all, I'm not even sure I've heard you say why you came here. I don't even know if I know that. And then I would love to hear your analysis of the difference between U.S. and Canadian Christianity at that time, and what did that feel like to you during . . .  You know, you're 18, you're a kid.

Sarah: Oh, a baby. I can't even believe it now when I look back on it. It's just absolutely bonkers.

But I think that that was part of these . . .  even what drove my desire to go to the United States, was I had spent 10 years in just regular life. I grew up in Saskatchewan, and we moved to Winnipeg, and then by then, we were living in Calgary. And when it came time to go to university, I mean, we had a lot of great universities here and that was certainly an option. But I ended up hearing about this school down at Oklahoma that was a Christian school, that was a liberal arts Christian school, and I thought, I wanna do that.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Maybe not for long, maybe just for a year, but I would love to go to school with Christians. That sounds amazing.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Like it's so incredibly dear, right? I was like, "I wanna be with people who love Jesus. This would be amazing."

And so, it ended up kind of coming together and back then, that was a really big deal to move to the States.

Jen: Of course.

Sarah: I mean, that was before email was a thing.

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Sarah: That was before anybody had a cell phone. Calling home was a really big deal. It cost a lot of money.

Jen: Totally. Yes. I mean, you're like watching the clock. How many minutes can you log?

Sarah: Yeah. I mean, there was this sense of adventure to it. The sense of doing something different because of the nature of the churches where I grew up, I mean, I grew up in really small basement churches, right? With 20 people and a tambourine.
We did not know what we did not know. We were all like misfits, all of us. You know?
 
Jen: What was that like? Because without question, probably what you experienced and what you expected had to have some pretty big departure points.

Sarah: Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think, too, because this was in the mid-90s. And so, to me, the thing I remember most about being so different there was how big everything was. The churches were huge. There was so many people in them. Everybody you knew was a believer. Stores, garage sale, stores carried Christian stuff.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: I was like, "What is happening right now?"

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: Literally, just craziness.

And I remember being in these churches that were like arenas and really missing the dumb, happy, clappy, homemade, janky churches that I had known and loved because I was like, "I don't know how to do this." But I mean, at the same time, there were so many beautiful things to learn and things to see, and people to listen to, and new voices that I hadn't heard before. And so, it was a really beautiful thing to be able to experience and have that happen.

I mean, there was a lot of culture shock moving from Canada to Oklahoma. Apparently, people actually do carry guns.

Jen: That's real.

Sarah: That's a thing.

Jen: Yeah, that's a real thing.

Sarah: So we lived in the States. I ended up marrying an American, Brian's American. And we lived in Texas for a number of years and then moved back home, I think, in '05.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And so, I wanna say it's for about eight or nine years. And it feels like a totally different place to me now than it did then.

Jen: Yeah. Me, too. And I've never left here. There's been so much monumental shifting.

You know what's funny as I'm hearing you talk? I'm sure we've said this before, but you and I were on the same street in Tulsa at the same time.

Sarah: Yes.

Jen: Yeah, we were up the street at Southern Hills Baptist and you were down the street at ORU. I mean, we were a mile apart. We moved there in '96. When were you in college?

Sarah: I moved there I think summer of '97.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah, '97.

Jen: We were literally neighbors and didn't know. But it is interesting to think about how much has shifted here even since, which we're gonna get to. 
SPONSOR MESSAGE:
Jen: Hey, guys, Jen breaking in to make a quick recommendation.

As a writer and creative myself, I know how easy it is to fall into working in a vacuum. When I’m trying to get a project done isn't the best way or time to expand my perspective or help me grow in my craft, which is why I love Skillshare.
Skillshare is an online learning community for creators, for creatives of any kind. So with more than 25,000 classes in design and business, writing, social media, photography—so much more—you can discover, honestly, endless ways to fuel your curiosity, or your creativity, or even the career you already have.

So you can join the millions of students already learning on Skillshare today with a very awesome offer just for my listeners. You can get 2 months of Skillshare for free. Skillshare is offering the For the Love community 2 months of unlimited access to over 25,000 classes for absolutely free.
So sign up—this is all you have to do—go to skillshare.com/forthelove. Okay, that’s it. That’s the link you need. Skillshare.com/forthelove to start your free two months right now.

This is a good investment in you, in your work, in your creativity, and in your dreams. So skillshare.com/forthelove
Jen: One thing that you've always called yourself and I love this, I wish I would've coined this 'cause it's so clever, you've described yourself as “a recovering know-it-all,” which is delightful. Can you talk about that for a minute and what that means, and when did the recovery process, if you are recovering, start?

Sarah: Well, you know, this is one of those things that was almost something that I lived into before I was able to name it, if that makes sense.

Jen: It sure does.

Sarah: I think that there was this . . .  A big part of what happened for me in my early 20s and mid-20s, and I would say even into my late 20s and into my early 30s, was the sense of needing to get all the right answers and be right.

Jen: Yup.

Sarah: And even when I would shift in my opinions, there was still this sense of, “But I know. I know the answer. I know the right thing.” And there was almost this way of understanding the world that I felt was one part given to me and one part just what I kind of construed, which was that it was . . .  everything could be systematically understood and explained.

And it wasn't until I had really walked through more grief and more loss, I think almost everybody when they begin to lose their know-it-all-ness, if that makes sense, or they move into a season even of what we would maybe call deconstruction, it happens at the threshold of grief, at a threshold of loss.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And so, there's this sense of I've lost either people or I've lost community, or I've lost my right answer. So, I've lost someone. And so, for me, a big thing that shifted for me was realizing I didn't need more right answers. What I needed was to let go of being such a know-it-all.
I became more comfortable with being curious, with having some wonder, with re-embracing mystery, with learning how to say "I don't know, but isn't it amazing?" And that to me has almost become like a spiritual discipline or practice, which is when I kind of coined the phrase “being a recovering know-it-all” because to me, there's an active participatory thing to that.

Jen: Yes.
Sarah: You almost have to discipline yourself to remember that I'm not called to be a know-it-all. I'm called to be a disciple of Jesus and that's enough.

Jen: I appreciate you saying that because there is still, to this living second, a very active and dominant culture that prioritizes rightness and certainty. This isn't something of yesteryear, you know? It's not like the church at large has sort of moved through that phase and it's sort of its story. That's still very present in operation.

And so, for me, it is, too, almost like an active resistance to continue to say, "Not only is it okay to not know, we don't know." Who can fathom the entire canon and mysteries of God? Hopefully not us.

I've learned a lot from you on this, a ton. I met you online as you were . . .  I'm not gonna jump ahead. We're gonna get to this, but when you were very deeply working this out in sort of a public written space and that was-

Sarah: Like a big dummy.

Jen: Well, you know what? Wasn't everybody?

Because, you know, you and I both have kind of like warm, fuzzy, nostalgia for that fun season of online writing, but that's when I started listening to you before I ever met you. And you were asking those big questions, and you were giving these really beautifully wonderful answers that sounded nothing like the answers I had grown up with. I mean, absolutely nothing. There was room for so much mystery in it.

And so, to that end, a parallel path running alongside of that process has been . . .  Well, specifically your relationship with the church and then a bunch of us can relate.
But to your story, your relationship with the church along this forward momentum has had a lot of ups and downs, which so has mine and I get it. So, I wonder if you can talk about how those dovetailed for you because some people think that doubt is . . .  it's contagious and dangerous, and there's no room for any of it, but I actually think it's really healthy, and good, and nourishing, and spiritually forming. So, can you talk about that time for you? What was happening with church? And then sort of how that came back together?

Sarah: Church has been one of those things that for me, there was someone I was reading back in the mid-2000s that coined . . .  His name was Wayne Jacobson, and he coined a phrase called “gratefully disillusioned” that I have really loved because I have found that losing my illusions about church and even losing my ideals, in some ways, has made me more able to love what is.

Jen: That's good.

Sarah: And to embrace what is. I think sometimes we can get so caught up in what it should be or what it ought to be, that we forget to love it for what it is, which is imperfect, and messy, and frustrating, and beautiful, and redemptive, and sometimes, devastating. Right? All the things about being human happened within this context.

And so, I mean, a big part of my story, my husband was in full-time vocational ministry. And we were at one of the megachurch kind of context in Texas, and that was a huge turning point for me, spiritually. I struggled. I mean, it's one of those things that I think we don't talk about enough, about deconstructions. It's how in those early stages, you're a horrible person to be with.

Jen: Horrible. Just literally intolerable.

Sarah: Yeah.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: Absolutely intolerable. And so, there were many, many people I've had to go back and almost apologize to and say, "I'm sorry. My questions were legitimate. I was a bit of a jerk."

Jen: Right. Same. I've done the exact same work.

Sarah: And so, there was this sense of when we left the ministry, it was a whole, large story that's not really mine to tell, but we crashed out of ministry. We were burnt out. We were exhausted. Our hearts were completely broken. We were devastated in almost every way. And in that moment, I tacked really hard away. I kind of became very anti-institutional. I did not want to . . .  I could hardly even bring myself to walk in the door of church without feeling almost something like trauma.

And meanwhile, my husband was like, "I'm gonna go to seminary."

Jen: Right. Right. So, that was different.

Sarah: That was great.

Jen: Mm-hmm.
Sarah: And I always have so much compassion when people talk to me about their relationships with their partners that they have when they are in different places because Brian and I lived like that for a really long time and had to learn how to love each other, and create a thriving home, and marriage, and family while being on very different theological pages.
Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And so, I mean, honestly, I'd never thought I'd probably go back to church and that was really when I began blogging, was in '04, '05, wrestling through a lot of those things, not thinking anybody would be reading it, of course, because I mean, honestly, why would anybody read anything I wrote other than my sister?

Jen: Right?

Sarah:  She'll read everything, which is what's great about sisters.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: So, there was a sense though of, This is done for me.

Jen: Done.

Sarah: I've evolved past church. I don't need this. This is probably doing a lot of harm in the world and it's certainly not doing me any good.

And in a lot of ways, losing church is what gave me back church in a more healthy way.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: Because then when I ended up actually beginning to piece together and realizing that the people who I loved in the world and the people who were doing good work in the world, they were all followers of Jesus.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And I began to realize this is why we gather. This is who we are. It's not that I need them to meet every need. It's not that I expect them to be perfect. It's not that every single Sunday I'll walk out there being like, "Well, that was the best sermon I've ever heard in my life."

Jen: Right, no, gosh.

Sarah: That can't happen, right? But it was more this sense of, “I wanna be together with you.”

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: “I wanna bake casseroles for you when you have a baby, and I want to pray for you when your marriage is struggling, and I want to partner with you in the work we're doing in this world. I want to be your friend.” And so, having God give church back to me in the last eight or nine years that I have had has been redemptive, and beautiful, and good, and freeing, and frustrating, and all of the things all at the same time, but I feel now my way of being in church is less stranglehold and more open hands.

Jen: Totally. Same. I used to want something from church that was really unfair to even ask. It was incapable of giving me my entire being and life, and spiritual development.

And so, I think in so many ways, we're setting the American church up for failure. When we say, “It's possible to organize this in such a way that we can literally meet virtually every need in the congregation,” there's nowhere to go but down from there. And so, people are so chronically disappointed and discouraged, and feel disconnected. And yet, we're the one saying, "This is what we can offer you." You know? I mean-

Sarah: There's a sense, too, of being . . .  What's the word I'm looking for? I think that you're right in terms of disappointment, but I think there's also this sense of it centralizes and it turns us into spectators.

Jen: Totally.

Sarah: Instead of participants.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And one of the things that is probably most dear to me in my expression of community and church, and what I believe in so much is that priesthood of believers.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: It's just this sense of having things open so everybody is fully functioning, everybody is involved. That it's not a matter of . . .  And that was part of the reason I think why we burnt out of ministry all those years ago was the pressure.

Jen: Of course.

Sarah: It was the sense that you had to be everything to everybody, and run everything, and fix everything, and do everything, and even if you worked 70 hours a week, that's not how we're supposed to be.

Jen: Exactly.

Sarah: And what's more is, it creates this whole system that then exists just to perpetuate itself.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: You become almost like this silo that doesn't have any reach or breadth, or strength within the community or anything outside of even your own club.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And that, to me, I find really dangerous. And so, I feel like the less . . .  I still get a little bit sketchy about some things about church, for sure.

Jen: Of course.

Sarah: I mean, I feel most comfortable with the more stripped-down kind of expressions anytime someone's getting too, you know, forceful-

Jen: Fancy.

Sarah: Yeah, I tend to get a bit nervous, but that's probably more my own baggage than the Holy Spirit.

Jen: No, I feel the same way and I've cycled through church much in the same way that you have. I've been in every sort of version of church. Traditional, absolutely traditional, and conservative, then . . .  I don't know what else to call it except for cool church, you know?

Sarah: Hipster church.

Jen: Yeah. Cool, hipster church. And we play Saturday Night Live clips in a Sunday sermon and whatever.

Sarah: “We're so edgy, we're gonna play Coldplay on the transitions.”

Jen: That's exactly the . . .  That's God's truth right there.

And then now into sort of a little wonky, wobbly, little ratchet thing, and I now know church is beautiful and a mess. And it will both build us up in wonderful, beautiful, irreplaceable ways and sometimes it'll make us mad as the devil's hell. And so, I think I expect a little bit less out of it and that frees me up to love it better and just be a normal person in it and let everybody else be a normal person as well. 
SPONSOR MESSAGE:
Jen:  Hey, everybody, Jen dropping into the show for just a bonus minute.

Okay, look: this is a message for my fellow sisters out there who may share this dilemma in a certain category of shopping. I don't know how you feel, but for me bra shopping is the worst. Figuring out your size, whether you need padding or underwire, what kind of neckline and fabrics, just whatever—I end up just grabbing one off the rack that looks kind of right and hope I can just breathe in it.
Happy news: I have found an online service that makes bra shopping a whole new experience.

ThirdLove uses these data points generated by literally millions of women who have taken their Fit Finder Quiz, so they design bras with breast size and shape in mind for this for a perfect fit, a premium feel. I'm wearing the bra that they said, "This is the one for you." And they were exactly spot-on right.

And listen: they have more than 70 sizes, okay? Including—gosh, I've been waiting for this my whole life—their signature half-cup sizes. And this is awesome: every customer has 60 days to wear it and wash it. If you don't like it, you can return it and ThirdLove will wash it and donate it to a woman in need.
Right now, they are offering my listeners 15% off your first order. So here's what you do: go to thirdlove.com/forthelove to get your perfect-fitting bra from the comfort of your own home and 15% off your first purchase.

All right, back to our show.
Jen: You mentioned something a minute ago that I would love to talk about because in your season of stepping away from the church and I don't know if you said this, but you and Brian moved back to Canada.

Sarah: Yeah.

Jen: You were healing.

Sarah: There was a little bit of that for me.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: I mean, for sure. I think less for Brian, but definitely for me, there was this sense of the winds shifted.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And I didn't belong.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: And I mean, just the Iraq War was gearing up.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: I was deep into deconstruction. It felt very difficult to be able to do that in the context that we were in. And I think that's one of the reasons why maybe I'm so tender about church now is because I lost it for so long. I never thought I'd get it back and had grieved it, right? Had let it go and really let it sink to the bottom. And so, it was a huge surprise of resurrection almost.

But I think when you come back to it, what you were talking about there is just . . .  I think it's worth our intention.
Jen: I do, too.

Sarah: I think it's worth my energy. I think it's worth my love and my presence. And I think that at the end of the day . . .  Oh, there was this story that I kind of told in . . . I think it was in Out of Sorts, but who can remember?

Jen: Honestly.

Sarah: At this point. But there was a thing that I remember thinking about one of the ways that I felt like the Holy Spirit kind of broke this through for me was helping me move from the general to the particular. 
And one of the ways that I looked at that was when Brian and I met, I had zero interest in marriage, in general. I did not really particularly want to get married. I was young. I had a lot of other plans. To be fair, he did, too.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: You know, neither one of us in general wanted to get married. But when we met each other, the particularity of each other was, “I want you.”

Jen: Oh, that's a great example.

Sarah: “I wanna wake up with you. I wanna kiss you against the dryer. I wanna do the minivan run with you. I want all of this forever.” And in a lot of ways, church became that way for me where, in general, it can make me absolutely insane.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: I could maybe feel like I am gonna tear the hair out of my head. What are we even doing here? But in the particularities, and I look at my school gym with the folding chairs, and a pat here at the door, and the peace people who have taught my kids Sunday School, and they have shown up for me, and loved me, and hopefully, I have done the same for them. In the particularities, I want them.

Jen: That's right. That is wisdom right there. Such wisdom because it is easy to fire shots across the bow from 30,000 feet up, you know? It's all like this and it's never like this, and big sweeping statements, but it's true . . .  In a granular way, kind of down at the ground, that is the rare experience for me, not the common experience. The common experience is these people raised me and my kids, and they're the ones that show up, and they're the ones that I love.

Sarah:
We nursed our babies together at the back of the church, flashing each other our boobs.

Jen: That's right. Exactly right. 100%, this is it.

Sarah: Like this is what we actually do. And I mean, I don't want anybody listening to misunderstand me because I'm incredibly grateful for the season I spent away from church.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: I'm incredibly grateful for the . . .  There were things I did need to leave. There were things I did need to walk away from. There were some toxic environments for me, or theology, or beliefs, and I did have to shift and find a place where I felt like I could thrive and be my whole self. So, I don't want anybody to kind of misunderstand me and say that you know, "Well, you need to just kind of double down and stay put."
Jen: Totally.

Sarah: That's not at all my expression at all. I wanna leave enough room here for people to be able to listen to the Holy Spirit for their own selves.

Jen: That's good.

So, during that time, during the away season, I do wanna talk about this. That, as you mentioned, is when you started writing, and it was in the golden age, truly, of blogging. And those were in the like starry-eyed, rosy glasses, early stages of this really incredible, unprecedented, brand-new online community of writers and readers. And it was dreamy.

We've pretty much lost it. I mean, there's little remnants, little pockets maybe that hang on, but I would look because you were an OG here. You really were. I would love for you to talk about that season a little bit and what was great about it, what you miss about it, all of it.

Sarah: It was a really fun season. I look back on it now with a lot of tenderness almost, if that's a word.

Jen:
Yup.

Sarah: Mainly because it was so decentralized. It was such a hot mess. This was before social media really had taken root in the public consciousness.

Jen: Totally.

Sarah: There was a really embedded sense of community. And literally I knew the . . .  I read the blogs of every single person who commented on my blog.

Jen: And still do.

Sarah: We could pre-suppose relationship. If we didn't like what somebody wrote that day, we knew that they'd write something the next day that we'd probably love. And so, there was this sense of community to it, goodwill, longevity. It didn't feel so monumental.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: You felt like you got to play. And I think that's the thing that I miss the most now is like oftentimes when I write, I feel like I need to like say the thing that will stand the test of time.

Jen: Oh, I feel sad. Oh, totally.

Sarah: And be above reproach, and criticism, and whatever else. And back then, I said so much wrong stuff.

Jen: And prolifically.
Sarah: Prolifically. There was not a time that I went and preached anywhere for probably the first three or four years where I was not described as a prolific blogger, and that never really felt like a compliment.

Jen: 'Cause you wrote virtually every day, right?

Sarah:
Oh, I did.

Jen: Yeah.
Sarah: I wrote every single day, and there was no endgame to it for me.

Jen: That's great.

Sarah: And I think that that was part of the fun, is we began to hear from voices that the gatekeepers had never really opened up to.

Jen: Exactly.

Sarah: It used to be that it was primarily, especially when it came to theological writing or spiritual writing, the precedent was always an older, very well educated white male.

Jen: Yup.

Sarah: And now, we had women. And we had people from low church traditions, like myself. And we had people from outside of America. We had people who had different experiences with church, and we had people who were not towing the party line. And we had people of color. I mean, I remember when people began to read a lot of queer bloggers and being like, "What do you know? They love Jesus!"

Jen: Right. “They just sound like normal people!” Right.

Sarah: And there was this sense of flattening.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: I'm probably romanticizing it a bit in context. But at the same time, it was really exciting because to me, it felt like for the first time, we were hearing and being led by people who had usually been outside the gates and on the margins.

Jen: That's right. That's right.

Sarah: The people who were not invited to the table. And we began to realize that these were people who actually we could be following.

Jen: And should be following. Oh my gosh, that was such an awakening for me that season.

I wasn't writing online. I was just reading and I met you and then your cohorts, because everybody linked to everybody back then. It was this very generous community. It's like what? I had just never read so many of those perspectives or those ideas. I had just had such a myopic understanding of God, and church, and faith, and theology up until that point. And that was just one of the most exciting times of my spiritual life, of just sitting there, scrolling.

Sarah: It was really exciting 'cause it was . . .  Yeah, I know. I remember doing that.

Jen: Yes, for millions of years.

Sarah: I still grieve the loss of Google Reader.

Jen: Aw, yes!

Sarah: That was so fun. We'd just read everything. Every morning, I would read all the blogs.

Jen: Oh.

Sarah: One of those things that I loved about it was that it was almost all blogging was happening in the context of your life.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And that was the point that I loved you so much because you were wrestling out your theology— not as an issue, and not as something apart from your life, but deeply embedded within your actual, real life. So, it was equal parts raising kids, and doing church, and living in your community, and what movie did you watch this weekend, and here's what it sparked for me about God and scripture. There was just this seamlessness to it that I find really exciting.

I really struggle with siloed theology that somehow is separate from embedded, incarnational humanity. And so, it felt very incarnational. It felt like the Holy Spirit was breathing in every bit of it, even when sometimes we were just writing dumb stuff.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Because it was fun.

Jen: It was fun. That's a good period at the end of that sentence. It was fun and everything . . .  The stakes weren't so high.

People can attribute sort of this space and this work to you specifically because you are such a fierce supporter of women on every level, from low church, as you mentioned, all the way to the top of the ranks. And we could and have spent millions of days talking about the way that we need more women. We need them in the pulpit, we need them at the decision-making tables, we need them in charge, we need them everywhere, frankly.

But if we could sort of go underneath that, like at its ground level, because you've, again, written an entire book about this, but why do you think that a woman's perspective matters? Like why does this even matter? Do we just have an axe to grind? Or is there something really vital about hearing a woman's perspective, specifically in a position of authority? What's under all this that has such value and deserves our attention?

Sarah: That's a great question and a really interesting way to frame it. I think that there's a lot of different ways I think that we could approach that and answer that, I mean, from a perspective of the historical church and also other kind of stuff. But at the end of the day, what I feel like we're missing if women are not in the room is part of the image of God.

Jen: I do, too.

Sarah: Right? In the very beginning, the narrative that we are given is that we are made in the image of God. And I think that that's something that we lose when we start with the fall. Right? We lose the fact that this whole thing of patriarchy and the way that things are is a consequence that the fall. It is not God's original blessing and original heart for us.

And so, for me, I feel like this is something that is actually a story of redemption, a place where the church can and should be leading. Paul uses this phrase in one of his letters where he talks about that we do not war against flesh and blood, but against powers and principalities. One of the fantastic phrases from the King James, "Against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: Love that with my whole heart.

Jen: Wickedness. It's a delicious word.

Sarah: Here for it.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: But I honestly don't know what other term to kind of use for what patriarchy is, or racism, or homophobia. These feel like powers and principalities to me, that we as the people of God, get to participate in the very teeth of those things, setting up signs of God's new world.
Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And some of those signs include women walking in the wholeness and the fullness of who God has created and called her to be, and that brings richness and goodness to our churches, to our homes, to our communities.

To me, that was always . . .  Even my heart when I was writing Jesus Feminist was it was never meant to be this academic defense of Christian feminism, which anybody who's read it knows we know, right? 
So, people who have done that way better than I have, and stood on their shoulders, and honor that work, I think the thing that I wanted was for it to make the jump out of academia and out of the seminary, and into our lives, into our marriages, our interactions with one another, our churches. There is something that we are missing about the whole image of God if we are not all at the table, if we are not all there.

Jen: No, I couldn't possibly agree more and I'm watching that truth and the way it lodges in my heart and mind, roll out further, and further, and further. And it's such a good question to ask because it's taught me to say, "Who's not here?"

Sarah: Yeah.

Jen: "Who's not at the table?"

Sarah: Are you looking around and saying, "Who's missing?"

Jen: Who's missing? Right. Exactly.

Sarah: And you know and this is one of the things I find, especially with churches that perhaps embrace theologically a position of equality or what theologians would call egalitarianism, but they don't actually practice it.

Jen: That's right.
Sarah: Right? And so, in a lot of ways, it's just ingenuous because you talk a big game, but there's no women on your elder broad. There's no women preaching from the pulpit. There's literally not a single time in my life that I preached, Jen, and you probably had the same story. There's not a single time in my life that I have preached, that I have not had multiple people come up to me and tell me, "This is the very first time they've heard a woman preach."

Jen: Through tears, yes.
Sarah: The very first time that they have heard a woman proclaim the gospel.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah:
And I remember some of the most powerful times of proclaiming the gospel for me was when I was pregnant. Visibly pregnant. And there was this sense of just this holiness of being like you're carrying life and you're carrying the gospel, and you're proclaiming it, and it just is beautiful, and redemptive, and good. Having women's perspectives in the room when decisions are made, having women even leading a lot of those decisions. It is, I mean, from a business perspective, you can see the reason why that's important, but I honestly believe that part of why it's important for us as the people of God is that these are signs of God's new world.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: This is a glimpse of what life is like in the Kingdom of God when we are alongside of each other, when we are not at enmity with one another, when we are not concerned about power and control, that we have a sense of love, and welcome, and grace towards one another that allows everybody to flourish.

Jen: I wonder if one of the greatness enemies, that sort of egalitarian spiritual environment isn't that . . .  typically the men, more typically the white men, who are at the table are both probably in practice and certainly in a self-evaluation, well-intentioned. So, they're thinking, "We're good."

Sarah: Absolutely.

Jen: "We're good people. We love God. We care about the church. We're spiritually formed." It's this sort of idea that . . .  "But we're so qualified for this."

And so, I have literally been guilty of this. Even just very, very recently in my own church. I'm on our board and also, I preach, too. And as we were adding new members to our board, we had some blind spots and it was so humbling to go backwards and A, have to fix what we screwed up, but B, really go, "How did I miss that?" I think it was just simply we were looking at the make-up of who we had and everybody was so beloved. These are good people. And so, it is some work, actually. It's work to say, “Who's not here?”

Sarah: It is. It's active participation.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: Yeah.

Jen: “Who's not here? And if they're not here, we are all the lesser for it. That's the truth. We will not flourish in the way that God has intentions for us to flourish if we are not including these voices from this wide array of those people.” And I've learned that a ton from you.

Sarah: Oh, I want to take a look back really quickly on something you were saying about your church and I thought that you modeled that really beautifully.

Jen: Thank you.

Sarah: When I saw you walking through all of that and even especially just being quick to apologize and re-correct, I think is a huge thing. And one of the things that I often hear from churches, they'll come to me and say, "We want to do better at this. How do we do better at it? I look around, you know, I just don't see it. Where are the women? Where are the . . . "

Jen: Yeah, yes.

Sarah: And I mean, just bless it.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: But I think one of the things that you did really well in that season that I think is worthy of mentioning within the context of this conversation is you apologized and you asked. And I feel like that is literally the lowest bar that we can for do one another.
 
Historically women are conditioned not to put their hand up. They're conditioned that way, especially if they'd come from a religious background that told them that it is simple, or wicked, or evil for them to do so, to be a leader. And so, if you see women or people who are being marginalized in your community, there's so much more that is benching them than what we can see with our eyeballs.
Jen: That's a great point.

Sarah: So, you almost have to part the weeds of that and not only teach to it, but call it out. And that was something you did for me, that was something that a lot of girlfriends did for me, a lot of leaders whom I trust and know, they parted the waves and they asked.
Jen: Yeah, that's so right.

Sarah: And it seems like that, that we need in our lives. We need them to ask us, we need them to equip us, we need them to teach us, to train us, and send us out. We need them to say, "You would be good at this and you should do it when you're bad at it until you're good at it."

Jen: Yes.
Jen: Hey, guys, this is Jen. I wanted to share something with you that could potentially change the way you look at meal planning.
So if you're like me, trying to stick to healthier eating with my job, and traveling, and wrangling up food all the time for five kids, whose tastes range from hot dogs (that's my husband) to straight up vegan, it’s a challenge.

I got my first Green Chef box sent straight to my door recently and I'll tell you: I am a believer. Green Chef is a USDA Certified Organic company—that matters to me. And their meal plans include paleo—which I chose and loved—vegan, vegetarian, keto, gluten free, omnivore (LOL) and carnivore.

So recipes are super quick and easy. Chef tips and photos, which I actually love, to guide you along. Everything's hand-picked and delivered right to your door. Ingredients come pre-measured, perfectly portioned, and mostly prepped. 
You can try Green Chef today and get fifty dollars off your first box by going to greenchef.us/forthelove
Jen: Let's come forward a little bit. I am, as you know, sincerely, and genuinely, and personally thrilled about your next book, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things. We labored over that title with you.

Sarah: We did. It was painful.
Jen: But we got it.

Sarah: We did.

Jen: I love your title. I love your cover, another labor. I want you to talk about this for a minute because it wasn't the book you thought you were gonna write. It wasn't actually the book you wrote originally. But, you know, life comes in like a wrecking ball sometimes. And so, I would love for you to talk about how this book came to be and obviously,  we're gonna have to include a little bit about the Pope. Can you sort of high-level this book story for us?
Sarah: Sure. Well, my last book came out four years ago. And I had gotten started on writing a third book, and right about halfway through that process, I had a very devastating car accident.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And it was life-changing in almost every way. And I embarked on a year of . . .  It's been a few years now since then, but I kept trying to write that third book while I was recovering. Just almost a sense of digging in my heels. I'm not gonna admit that I'm wounded. I'm not gonna admit how much I'm struggling. And honestly, just, it was a nightmare.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: It was a total nightmare.

Jen: It was.

Sarah: And I remember turning in that book to my publisher and saying like, almost like, "Here." You know?

Jen: “Good luck.”

Sarah: Yes. I mean, my previous two books are not perfect, but there was a sense for me when I was releasing them to begin kind of the editing process and begin to sort of shape them for actual people to read them. It was a sense of like, This is the very best I have, and let's make it better, and I'm proud of it, and I love it. And with this book, I was like, "Here's a pudding. Catch." You know? It was supposed to be 60,000 words. I think I turned in like 130,000 words.

Jen: Oh, Sarah, gosh.

Sarah: Because I just kept writing.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: 'Cause I couldn't find my way out.

Jen: Yup.

Sarah: I could not figure out what I needed to say, what I wanted to say. I was in such constant, chronic pain. I was completely depressed. I was filled with anxiety and bitterness. I mean, just such a difficult season of life.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: And one of the best things that ever happened to me is they came back to me and told me it was garbage. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me and it was devastating. I was angry and I was sad, and I was . . .  Honestly, one of the things that I find most, maybe, instructive in how I was feeling in that moment, and even in the months afterwards was, I felt humiliated.

Jen: Yes. Yup.

Sarah: I was embarrassed. Right? I'm supposed to be able to do better at this. This is my thing. This is what I do, and now I'm garbage at it. And I thought I was gonna quit writing. I did quit probably 17 times and you feel like a lost cause.

Jen: Yeah, yup, yup.

Sarah: “So, that's it. I've had two books. It's been a nice time. Goodnight, everybody.”

It was only by embracing, then at that point, the sense of, I need to think about healing. I can't keep doing this. I can spend the rest of my life circling this drain of failure and exhaustion and brokenness even, and what does it mean to pursue healing when it looks differently perhaps than I had been taught?

And so, a lot of the seeds for this book had happened in the last few years and I have held all of this story very close to my chest. 10 years ago, I would've blogged every single day through it, but that is not how I have been the last four or five years. And so, I have held the cards for this whole story of my life really, really closely and it has been a very tender experience of locking it out with my family and with my friends, with my community, and then beginning to reimagine what could possibly be for life on the other side of being broken.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: What kind of life is on the other side of devastation, of humiliation, of loss, of even physical loss, right? My life is very different now than it was before that accident and remains very different. And so, it was a really beautiful thing then to begin to write and almost tie all those threads together for the last few years. In a way, it felt like I literally don't know how I could continue in any kind of public ministry or leadership without telling everybody exactly what God has done to me, and that was what this book has become for me.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: 
Way more memoir than my previous two books, but of course, being me, of course, there's always a weaving of a large theological story within that.

Jen: Sure.

Sarah: But I feel this sense of like it was a joy to write it. It's weird. It is such a weird vibe. It is so personal and it is just like all . . .  And again, I mean, we have all these things from car accidents to meeting the Pope in Rome to miracles to chronic illness. All these things that are all just kind of weaving together to be able to say, "This is what it looks like when God un-becomes for us and then re-becomes again."

Jen: You touched on it a bit, but the suffering is real, and genuine, and physical, and emotional, and spiritual. And then put your head down and believe. I mean, I don't know what else to say. You just did. You just believed. You believed God for it all and that he is still active and good. Then this whole thing has emerged that is just a wonder.

Sarah: That's the thing I think that I'm so excited to put it in people's hands, is I want people to remember that your grief is an altar to meet with God.

Jen: That's good.

Sarah: Right? That God doesn't love the most productive people most. You know?

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: Jesus doesn't just hang out with the winners.

Jen: That's good.

Sarah: And sometimes, it's when you are really down in the dirt that you begin to realize what it means to be one with God, what it means to be loved by God, what it means to separate all those ways that you have hidden yourself from God. When those things get stripped away, it becomes an incredibly beautiful practice of being able to say, "Well, here I am."

Jen: Yeah. Just like this and that's so instructive. And I think we need it. I think we need this message right now. I think we're hungry for it, as opposed to the winner's circle theology. The timing is right, and I'll always be grateful that this meandering path has brought you to this place and now you're gonna gift the world with it.

When does it come out? October?

Sarah: October.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: Yeah, beginning of October is when it comes out, which feels like forever away. Like you know when you're really excited to give somebody something and you're just like "Oh my gosh, it's so early. Why can't I just give it to everybody right now?"

I think one of the things that is most unique about this book for me is that I'm way more open and I write through my experiences in particular with the Holy Spirit and wanting to name and put some narrative around how I experience the Holy Spirit and what that looks like for me.

And so, for me being able to kind of swing open that, feels a little bit scary.

Jen: Sure.

Sarah: 'Cause it's not something we talk about a whole lot in the church with any degree of humility.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: Right? Usually when we talk about the Holy Spirit, it's either like to weaponize it, or manipulate it, or to act like we've got it and somebody else doesn't, and you know, like whatever else. And so, learning to open up that door hopefully with some sense of invitation instead of certainty, has been a really beautiful thing to be able to kind of explore as well.

Jen: Wonderful.

The one other thing I just want you to mention is something that you're doing right now that you know I am all in for, I love it, I'm here for it. It's your monthly newsletters a bit in transition called Field Notes, which at this point is essentially a magazine. I mean, let's not sugar coat this.

Sarah: Definitely it is.

Jen: It is full-court-press magazine. It's packed. I mean, it's just packed with goodness. Everyone, I think, cannot believe how much time you log on this amazing content. So, I would love for you to talk about Field Notes and a little bit about your Book Club. Can you drop both those in real quick?

Sarah: Yeah, sure. Well, when I pivoted away from blogging a few years ago, I really missed my readers. I mean, that's a big part of what we do and I think that's something that you and I really hold in common is that we genuinely think of and love relationship with the people who read our stuff.

Jen: That's right.

Sarah: And I miss that. And so, I started doing an e-newsletter just kind of more to be like, "Well, here's . . . " almost to fill in the gap that blogging had lost for me. It felt more personal because you're in someone's email inbox instead of just like out in the wild web where anybody could come along and do a drive-by on what you were saying. And so, I felt like I got to be more personal, I got to be more open.

So, it started off with just kind of the exclusive essays and next thing I know, I was like, "Well, here's all the books I'm reading, and here's somebody I think that you should follow and you should check out. And here's women we're following. And here's things I'm loving. Let's talk about lipstick and Lent." And you know, all these other things.

Jen: Yes.

Sarah: And so, in a way, it's almost like a month's worth of blogging in one email. And so, that goes out once a month to my folks. And then I think it was back in January, I kind of mentioned in the essay that I was, personally myself, gonna read 12 books on spiritual formation in particular. I was particularly wanting to kind of lay a little bit more into spiritual formation this next year and was particularly going to be listening and reading only exclusively Black and indigenous and people of color writers.

And I said, "Here's the 12 I've picked. I have no idea if they're any good, I just haven't read them before." I tried to pick ones I haven't read before and particularly around spiritual formation. And I posted the list up, and had so many people ask to read it together. So I was like, "Oh, I'll just put together a quick Facebook group for it." And so, like three days later we've got 1,200 people in there. I was like, "Well, that escalated really quickly. I have no idea how to run a Book Club. I don't know what the Book Club is?" And so, anyway, we're just having such great conversations.

Jen: That's great.

Sarah: We're talking about our January book, our February book. We've got so many good ones coming up. It's just for subscribers to Field Notes, too. And so, that even feels good from perspective of, Oh, we get to talk to each other again.

Jen: That's great.

Sarah: Right? It's not just me sending an email to people. Now, it's like the comment section again where you actually get to interact with each other and not just me, right?

Jen: And they can sign up for Field Notes at sarahbessey.com?

Sarah: Yeah.

Jen: Yup.

Sarah: Yeah. All the links are all there.

Jen: Yeah, you're gonna want to, you guys. So, let me just make this real easy for you. Just go to SarahBessey.com. We'll link it in the transcript. It'll take you five seconds to sign up for Field Notes, and you're gonna be so glad that you did. And when it comes, you kind of want to like pour a big mug of coffee and just put a blanket on your lap, just settle in 'cause it's a deal. And there's so much in there. It's just so much good content. It's really a gift. And of course, that's your front door to the Book Club, too.

Sarah: Thank you. It is. Thank you so much for saying that.

Jen: Yes. Are you kidding me? I read every word!

Sarah: I think that's one of my favorite things when I hear from people is when they're like, "I save it for Saturday night or for Sunday morning, and I wait, and I click all the links, and I order all the books in the library, and I do all of that." I love that.

Jen: It's an event.

Sarah: It is. It's loved.
Jen: And I do wanna also make mention your ministry of gifs that is a part of the offering that you give and you typically pull from all of our shared favorites, notably Schitt's Creek, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn 99.

Sarah: I should probably send you a picture for the transcript of when I dressed up like Moira Rose for Halloween.

Jen: 
Well, you know I have the T-shirt 'cause your . . .  the T-shirt, 'cause you posted it. So, you made me buy it.

Sarah: I did.

Jen: I wore it on Christmas day.

Sarah: The best.

Jen: Okay.

Sarah: This is the best.
Jen: Wrapping up. These are just three quick little questions we're asking everybody in the Faith Series. Here's the first one. So, you can have dinner with any faith hero you want. Who do you pick? I think I know who you're gonna pick.

Sarah: I think everybody probably and their dog knows who I'm gonna pick.

Jen: Yes. Yes. Yes.

Sarah: If it would be anything in time and space, it would probably be Madeleine L'Engle.

Jen: Yes, of course. I knew it. I was gonna bet $1 million you were gonna say that.

Sarah: I think that the reason why is because I had been writing—or blogging, pardon me—for quite a long time and didn't really see a whole lot of other people who were writing like I was. And it wasn't until I found her memoirs—it would've been Circle of Quiet is the first one that I read—and she was writing about theology, and about scripture, and about these big themes of life, and philosophy, and understanding. But it was all woven through her life, through broken pipes, and tired kids, and things that were like the bad weather, and career stuff, and frustrations, and I was like, "Women can do this?"

Jen: So great.

Sarah: "There's room for writers like us?"

Jen: That's great.

Sarah: "There's room for women who write about finding, and knowing, and experiencing, and believing, and even hoping about God and the Kingdom of God? Not in spite of their life, but because of it?"

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: “Sign me up!”

Jen: Love that so much. How about this one? Do you have . . .  And this could be from a huge pool of things. It could be either a verse, maybe a story in the Bible, or a section, or a chapter, or a whole book of it, or a quote, or an idea, or any sort of spiritual phrase that captures what you would consider the essence of your faith. You can kind of pick.

Sarah: Honestly, almost every message I preach, at some point, I always come back to Jesus' farewell discourse in the Book of John in Chapter 15.

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And this is the point when He is talking to the disciples, He is about to head into the crucifixion, to his torture, to everything that's coming up ahead towards resurrection, and life on the other side. All these things are happening, and this is kind of that farewell discourse moment where he's talking about the vine and the branches. But He's the real vine and that God is the farmer, and they want to abide in the vine. That He wants us to make our home in Him just as He does in us. In this passage, He talks about how He's loved us the way that the Father’s loved Him, that we should make ourselves at home in His love.

And that this notion of being really remaining and being intimately embedded in the love of God is something that deeply shaped my reconstruction process, deeply shaped my life today. This is the part of a scripture where Jesus says, "No longer I call you servants, but now I call you friends."

Jen: Yeah.

Sarah: And there's this root command of, “You love each other. You love each other.”

There was this one phrase in The Message translation over in, I wanna say it's 1 John. I should remember this since I preach it all the time. 1 John 4 when he writes that, “We have taken up permanent residence in a life of love.”

Jen: That's good. I love that phrase.

Sarah: And that is something that I long for in my own life.

Jen: That's so great. Finally, a question that you and I both ask and answer on the regular. And as you know, can be whatever you want. What is saving your life right now?

Sarah: I think for me, what's saving my life right now is reconnecting with the daily life of my kids. Because of my health challenges and the way that life has changed, I've had to come off the road and quit preaching. And there has been a lot of grief to that for me because it did become such a huge part of vocation and a place where a found meaning, and goodness. I felt like a huge intersection of co-creation with the Holy Spirit in that space. And so, having to set down something that was so deeply meaningful to me was really painful and there was a lot of grief to that. There still is a lot of loss to that.

But on the other side, there has been this really beautiful thing of the slowing down of my life, of bringing it down to what is more essential, of taking away a lot of complications, of being able to be very steady for my children, especially at the season of life that they're in right now. We always used to joke around that when your kids are little, little, it's very physically exhausting. But when they get to . . .  start to grow up, it becomes more spiritually and emotionally exhausting.

Jen: This is 100% facts. Yes.

Sarah: The need to have the bandwidth for that, I think has been good. And honestly, being with them. There were just moments when we're all in the house and it's like it's a Saturday and there's literally nothing on the calendar. And I don't know what to do with that 'cause normally I'm gone on Saturdays.

Jen: That's right.
Sarah: I'm off, I'm doing things. And I said all of a sudden, "Look it. We have an open space on the calendar. Who wants to play a game? Or who wants to go for a walk? Or who wants to go and bake something in the kitchen?" And so, just the slowing down of my life was enforced, but it is what's saving my life now.
Jen: I love that and it's so like you to find that. To go, "Well, this is what it is. Where is the joy and the Jesus in it? And you will find it."

You are one of my dearest, best, most favorite friends in the whole world, and you know that's true. For everyone listening, we have . . .  well, we've been through everything, I guess? I guess there's nothing we haven't been through. And I love you so much and I'm so proud and honored to be your friend.

And so, thank you for how you served us all so well for so long. Your capacity to do that in a generous, and humble, and beautiful way is rare. To be able to hold the right things tightly and everything else loosely, it's just not something we get to see very often in a leader. And so, I've learned from you. I consider you a best friend, and I also consider you a mentor. And so-

Sarah: I love that so much. You know I feel the same way. Just being able to say that your friends are your mentors is an incredible, incredible gift and you know that everything that you said is definitely reciprocal.

Jen: Same-sies. It's reciprocal. I love you. Give the babies and Brian a big hug and a kiss for me.

Sarah: I love you. I sure will. I love you, too.

Jen: I love you, too. 
I love her so, so much. Like sincerely down to my core. I want you to know that that girl has been such a good friend to me for so many years. I mean, in the trenches, ride or die, going down with the ship kind of a friend. She has stood with me in public, in private, in earnest, in sincerity. I leaned on her during some really, really hard times, stuff I haven't even ever talked about. She's like the friend that you dream of, like this rock who is just unshakeable and forever in your corner.

And so, she's as good as her hype. She's as good as she sounded. And you would want to follow her immediately. Pre-order her book. Sign up for Field Notes. All of it. Do the whole thing.

Over at jenhatmaker.com, I will have all those links underneath the Podcast tab for this transcript, which is an amazing tool that Amanda builds out for you every single week, you guys. She logs so much time on that transcript page. Well, we'll put up a bunch of pictures, too, for me and Sarah over the years. You'll die. And just everything we talked about, we'll have it over there for you. And just of course, the transcript in case you ever just wanna read an interview as well. So be sure to be using that resource.

On behalf of Amanda, and Laura, our producer, and her team, we are so, so glad to bring you this show every single show. It's just one of the great joys of our life.

Thanks for subscribing, and reviewing, and rating, and sharing. You are the reason this podcast keeps working. So, we are in love with our listeners and this podcast community. So, thanks for being who you are.

More to come in this amazing series on Faith Groundbreakers. You're not gonna wanna miss a single one and everybody's different. It's really, really something interesting to share from every single guest in this line-up.

Absolutely come back next week. You'll be glad you did, you guys. Have a good one.
Narrator: That’s it for today’s show. Hope you enjoyed this chat. Be sure to subscribe to my mom’s podcast and give it a “thumbs up” rating if you like it. From the whole Hatmaker family, hope you have a great week and see you next time!

From the show:

Sarah's Books

Quotes from this Episode