Season 1 / Church & Women: Breaking the Mold - with Sarah Bessey

In this episode, Ariana gets to chat with one of her faith journey heroines, Sarah Bessey. She has a huge heart for women and people on the margins. Sarah doesn't mince words, but still finds a way to speak with a spirit of gentleness and poise. Let's hear what she has to say about women becoming bold and breaking molds in the Church.

To read more from Sarah, visit her website. You can sign up for her Field Notes newsletter, see her upcoming speaking engagements, or follow her on social media.

Ariana deVries

Well, welcome to the podcast today, everybody. I'm super thrilled to be able to chat with Sarah Bessey. She's a bestselling author, a mom and wife, a preacher, and she loves people so much. So welcome today, Sarah.

Sarah Bessey

Oh, thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. So I feel like I know you pretty well from reading all your books and following you on social media. But for the listeners out there who may not have heard of you yet, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Sarah Bessey

Sure. Um, well, I mean, on a dark and stormy night...That never ends well. [Laughter]

Ariana deVries

No kidding. [Laughter]

Sarah Bessey

So I'm a writer. I've written three books. My first one was called Jesus Feminist; which is a nice, soft, easy topic to introduce yourself to the world with. [Laughter] My second book was Out of Sorts; about making peace with an evolving faith. It was a book that I wrote that grew out of my own experience of deconstruction and then beginning to the process of rebuilding my faith on the other side of the wilderness or even, you know, within the wilderness and what that might look like.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, that book was a big deal to me.

Sarah Bessey

Oh, good. I'm glad to hear that. I really love that one. And that's actually the book that gave rise to the Evolving Faith Conference that I run. Started initially with one of my dear friends, Rachel Held Evans. Her book Searching for Sunday had just come out and Out of Sorts had come out. We just kind of joined forces in a lot of ways. So that was a fun kind of origin point, actually, for the conference as well. Then my third book just came out last week called Miracles and Other Reasonable Things. And it is more of a memoir about grappling with healing and narratives around miracles and having both grief and faith at the same time. I speak and I preach and run a conference as I said, and have been married for 19 years now to my husband Brian. We have four kids. We live out west in a city just outside of Vancouver. But I grew up more in the prairies of Canada and still consider myself a prairie girl by ethos, I think.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. That's great!

Sarah Bessey

I think that's pretty much everything, right?

Ariana deVries

Aside from your insane love of Doctor Who and Anne of Green Gables and all that but you know...

Sarah Bessey

My unrelenting fandom? Yeah, I'm one of those people. I always joke - I'm like, I may not be an Evangelical, either ever or maybe anymore, but I'm evangelical in how I feel about my shows.

Ariana deVries

Hey, we all have something.

Sarah Bessey

I want to convert everybody to the shows that I like.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. So that's fantastic.

So you've written about your faith journey in your books. Can you share a little bit about what your experience with church was like growing up and how that's kind of changed a bit over the years?

Sarah Bessey

Sure. You know, my experiences with church I think mirror a lot of people's within. I mean, the details maybe are quite different or particular to each one of our stories, but I think, like a lot of people, there's a path of spiritual formation that we tend to follow. You know that you have your kind of initial, the philosopher Ricoeur calls that your first naivety, where you just believe it and love it. That was definitely my case.

My parents are first generation Christians and I have very, very clear memories of our life before and after Jesus, and before coming to faith. They're very sweet memories to me. In a lot of ways, I was alongside my parents. We grew up together when it came to faith. We found ourselves in sort of that Charismatic Renewal movement, Word of Faith kind of stuff that was happening in the 80s. And of course, we didn't know, right? We didn't know there were different kinds of Christians. I mean, it wasn't that my parents had walked away from God or anything like that. It's my parents' grandparents who were the last generation who were in church in our neck of the woods. And so in a lot of ways my experiences with church when I was young were very innocent, very clear eyed, uncomplicated; God was good, Jesus was just everything to us. In a lot of ways, I have a lot of gratitude for the church that mothered me.

But I think the shadow side of how we were introduced to God and how we worshipped and what we believed about the Bible, or that our place in the world even was overly simplistic and certainly over realize, and in a lot of ways - I think the person who best sums it up was Barbara Brown Taylor in her book it's called Learning to Walk in the Dark, she talks about how there are solar Christians - that was us. Our answers exist in that light of certainty. It was full sun all the time; you only knew Jesus through a narrative of victory and overcoming and always being on top. And so for me, I think for anybody who lives for longer than a hot second, you realize that that's not always true. That if the story isn't true for everyone, it's probably not the gospel. The insufficiency of a language and a theology, and even an anointing for the experience of being human, of suffering, of loss, of grief, of the very real things that almost everybody will have touch their lives in some capacity. What does it mean to find God in those places? We had no language for that.

And so I think that was kind of the origin point of my deconstruction; it was the sense of, well all the answers I've been given don't add up anymore. All the ways that I was taught to understand God or church or scripture or whatever else, these feel very insufficient. And I was filled with a lot of skepticism, which I think like a lot of people can often turn towards anger and is not necessarily wrong, right? There's nothing necessarily wrong with anger. I think that was kind of the origin point and the tipping point for me, in terms of church, but what I found is very similar to what a lot of philosophers and teachers who kind of lead through a lot of spiritual formation work.

Richard Rohr calls the order -> disorder -> chaos -> reorder, and in a lot of ways that pattern has been less of a linear one in my life than a circular one. Or oftentimes, I'll still feel that - okay, I've got everything settled, I got my order all set up. And then all of a sudden chaos or something will throw off the order of how I've understood the universe or God or, scripture, or whatever else it is particular issue. And then you have to rethink it again. And I think what I have learned through that process is that that reordering, that disorder, that sense of disorientation even is not my enemy, but instead an invitation from the Holy Spirit that there's something good waiting in the wilderness on the other side of that, and it's not anything to be afraid of.

That's probably more of an answer than you needed, but...

Ariana deVries

Oh that's okay. I love it. Might as well share more.

So then, have you ever felt like you didn't belong in church or that you couldn't hold a position of leadership because of your gender?

Sarah Bessey

Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, you know, I took a number of years away from church and organized religion all together. And I think I've always been someone who felt a little bit on the outside edge of the inside, when it came to the institutions. I think that in a lot of ways, and if I feel like that, I mean, for heaven's sake, let's be honest here. I'm a straight, white married mother, the church is pretty much set up for people like me.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, I'm with you on that one.

Sarah Bessey

And if even I feel like that how much more people whose lives don't tick all the boxes of what women in church are supposed to be - right? I think that the question of not being able to hold a position of leadership because of gender is an interesting one for me in my tradition, because my tradition with roots in the Pentecostal movement and the Charismatic Renewal movement, actually has had a lot of room for women in ministry. There's some really fantastic and generational stories, especially in the 20s about women leading a church planting and just the amount of work and goodness that came through a partnership with men and women within the tradition. And so that's always been something that we kind of celebrated or pat ourselves on the back for. And yet I have found that in the last number of years with the resurgence of the biblical patriarchy movement, often catalogued or called complimentarianism had had a big rise again in the 80s.

But in a lot of ways we've lost ground. And in traditions that once prided themselves on being very egalitarian have now functionally become patriarchal. And so even if they don't, for instance, have a white paper in the denomination saying women can't preach, functionally women don't and women aren't hired. Women aren't invited to the table of leadership. And if they are, it feels very conditional. So in some ways, that can be a complicated question, because it's almost more straightforward. If people will say straight up, "No, we don't have women on our elder board" or "We don't have women who teach or preach or lead or whatever". Versus when you have communities that say, "Oh, yeah, we're absolutely 100% for that". And then actually never do it. You get all the benefits of having the right opinion without actually having to change your way of doing things.

I think that leadership and women's leadership in the church is a real opportunity that we still have right now. I don't think I could have realized back in 2012, when I was writing Jesus Feminist, how relevant it would still be now. Sometimes it feels like it was even a bit ahead of its time in some of those conversations, because yeah, I just don't believe that God's dream for the world was ever patriarchy, in any fashion or any form. And in a lot of ways, when I wrote that book, it was with an eye, less on giving like this very big, Christian, feminist, theological stance on things. It, for me, it was always a book about the kingdom of God, and what it looks like when men and women are both empowered to embody the gospel in every sphere of influence - not simply just within the church - and what that looks like for not only our own flourishing, but the flourishing of our communities, of our churches, of our marriages, of our friendships, and relationships, and what that means for justice in the world; what it means for our neighbours. I think that there's a lot of our theology that tracks its way back to what we actually think about the nature and character of God.

Ariana deVries

Wow, that's so good. Because you are more of a prominent figure right now - for those in the evolving faith and all that; How do you respond to say the naysayers that are people who don't believe that women should be preaching or holding prominent spiritual positions? How do you handle that?

Sarah Bessey

Well, it doesn't slow me down very much. [Laughter]

Ariana deVries

Well, that's good! We need people who just keep plowing right on through.

Sarah Bessey

I guess that maybe even as a part of maybe the sense of calling or where we feel like our vocation or our lane lies, I have never felt like my lane is one of debate and convincing people. My lane is more one of simply embodying and moving out. And so for people who don't believe that women should preach or be spiritual leaders or have equality, I think that in a lot of ways I'm not waiting for their permission. And I don't think any of us need to wait for their permission. If that is work that they're wanting to do, if they're wanting to be engaged and learn and hear why, there's a lot of resources and places where they can kind of wrestle through some of those questions.

To me, it was not a matter of maybe, somehow doing some hermeneutical gymnastics with Scripture, or with the church tradition in order to become a feminist. To me it was 100% following Jesus that actually led me to be identifying as a feminist. I believe that the Bible and that the early church and the traditions of the church, uphold a way that is countercultural to the world's ways of patriarchy. And it is just a real shame that we have lost that narrative, that we've lost that plot, that we could be a prophetic community of what things look like in the kingdom of God.

For me, I guess maybe that's one of the benefits of coming up in blogging back in the 2000s. Because, I don't know, you can't really be a people pleaser - an approval addict - on the internet for very long. They'll cure you of that right quick. And in a lot of ways I think that was a good training ground for me. I think, especially as someone who is prone to avoiding conflict and would like for everybody to be at peace with each other, learning to hold that tension of saying, "You disagree. You can think I'm a heretic".

I remember one time being called an "evil leftist menace to the gospel", which was one of my favourites. And at the same that doesn't enter into your heart or your life or that doesn't need to impede the work that you feel God has given you to do, and even your sense of joy in it. I don't, I don't necessarily write or work or minister for those folks. I'm doing it for Jesus. And then if it does land with some people great and brings greater freedom and life and flourishing to them - even better. I'm always surprised at the ones for whom that happens. There are people who buy all weights and measures should not have changed their mind or had their hearts opened to a different way perhaps of being in marriage, for instance, or in church leadership. And yet the Holy Spirit is at work - not me. And so it's a really beautiful thing to be able to participate in that when that happens for people. And if it doesn't, that's God's work not mine.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. So you've talked about how you do work with women in Haiti. What first inspired you to take up the cause for women on the margins, especially in places where they aren't seen, necessarily. What inspired you to do that?

Sarah Bessey

I think I've always had a real posture towards women from a really young age. I think that I've always just loved it. I always loved being in groups of women and having friendships with women, and had a great passion for the capacity of women.

I think that one of the things that was a big turning point for me, was beginning to listen to stories that were different than my own. A lot of ways we can have our understanding of femininity or understanding of, of womanhood, our understanding of Scripture, or church or whatever else it is filtered only through ourselves or through people who look like us or sound like us or have very similar life experiences. And the becoming someone who had an ear out for the ones for him that story wasn't true, or was different. I found rather than unsettling my faith, it actually enriched it and made it deeper. In a lot of ways, being alongside of other women who were engaged in the work of women's liberation and wholeness has also been a big influence on me, I have a lot of friends who are doing a lot of dangerous work, and they make it hard to be on the sidelines.

When you have women in your life who are engaged in justice issues or in peacemaking in any capacity, it just makes you want to be at their side. I'm not under any illusions. There's a lot of work to do in the world. One of my favorite proverbs is that when sleeping women wake, mountains move. And I've always felt like that is how my experience, for instance, in Haiti; my story intersected there a number of years ago. I've always had a great passion for pregnancy and birth. And midwifery is a model for care, especially in developing world, and being able to come alongside of midwives and Haitian midwives and leaders and see indigenous communities rising up to look after women, to ensure maternal mortality rates were there, that children were being raised, and I mean, it was beautiful and life giving, and this tips the whole balance in a community. I think that being able to witness that sort of thing is the sort of thing that gives you hope.

There's a lot of things that will give us despair in this world and you can either sit at home and wring your hands about it and say, "look at the world is going to hell in a hand basket", or you can pick up and say, "we're going to make mountains move together", and be a part of that company of people who are, however useless and small it feels that time, is still moving the needle forward.

Ariana deVries

That is really inspiring. And it's so encouraging when your passions line up with ways that you can help and love others, that's really fantastic. So how do you believe that women can make a difference in the church or in their family and their community? And as a result in the world? What are some practical things that we can do to love others well?

Sarah Bessey

Oh, that's a great question. You know, I think that there's a number of things that women can do, but I'm always a little bit wary of task lists. I feel like women already are labouring under a tremendous amount of pressure. Right? You know, you need to look a certain way and be a certain way, and I mean, there's never an end to all the ways that the world and sometimes the church are telling us that we're not doing enough. I'm always a little bit hesitant to say, or think, that these sorts of things should be something that is adding to that burden or contributing to a narrative of hustle more and do more and try harder.

So in a lot of ways, I feel like some of the ways that women can engage, whether it's within their church, or their family or their communities, is in a lot of ways engaging with what makes her feel most alive. You know, what are the things that that God has placed in your heart or in your life where you feel that sense of energy and joy and pleasure and flourishing? What would it look like to lean into that? What would it look like to say, “Maybe this is an invitation from God”? What would it look like to stop saying yes to all the things you really wish you could say no to? I think that's terrifying sometimes in a society that's predicated on women's agreement.

But, at the same time, I think one of the things that I would really encourage women to do is to lean into both her joy and her anger. Because somewhere at that intersection is usually where your calling is hiding. The things that are making you angry, the things that are are upsetting you, the things that are keeping you up at night, the things that feel like a heavy yoke or a burden or something that is ill fitting either for you or for this world. But also the things that bring you joy, the things that make you feel like your most full self, the things that make you feel like all this is why I was made. This is why. This is what my thing is. I always feel like if you are honest about both of those things, both your anger, or your grief, and your joy, your path often will emerge for you and not in a way that looks like do more, be more try harder, but more one of the things I can clear away in order to have a path to follow ahead of me that actually brings life.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. And I know that I can often feel like, "Oh, my anger isn't something that I should be looking at or paying attention to, because that's something that's negative and how can something good come from negativity"?

Sarah Bessey

Oh, totally right. Christian girls are told all the time. Like, it's not good, nice girls don't get angry.

Ariana deVries

Or anybody nice doesn't get angry.

Sarah Bessey

And so it can feel a little bit counterproductive. And I'm not talking about like the kind of, you know, Petty, self indulgent thing, right, right. I'm talking about the things that are like right in your core where you're like, this isn't right. Yes, this isn't. This isn't how it should be.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, totally. I really like how you wrote in your book Jesus Feminist. It said, "Stop waiting for someone else to validate your created self - that is done. Stop holding your breath working to earn through your apologetics and memorized arguments, through your quietness, your submission, your home, your children, and your correct doctrine that God has already freely given to you". And I feel like that's just bang on. Sometimes we're just waiting for someone to tell us how we can help and how we should love or how we should support those around us. And sometimes it's just right there and it's already been given to us and it's already inside of us.

Sarah Bessey

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I think that sometimes, whether it's because of personality or tradition or family of origin or cultural conditioning, women usually aren't the ones to put their hand up, right? They aren't usually the ones to challenge. That's not always the case, but culturally that's kind of the narrative that we've been given. So this notion of always waiting for permission, of always waiting for someone to invite, before you stand up or rise up or begin to be honest about your power, and the work that God has given you to do. Your voice even - learning to reclaim your voice and know who you are. That's work that's already been done, because of the cross. And so, to me this idea of holding back or shrinking back in some misguided notion to prop up someone else's fragile masculinity is just shameful.

It's a shame is what it is. Because, at the end of the day, I mean anyone who requires you to be less than who God has made you to be, that's not making them more. Right. And so I think that in a lot of ways, rising up, of embracing that, of stepping out in faith even, it will be disruptive. And at the same time, it will be something that brings freedom and goodness in life not only for you, but for the people around you. You're more your most full self in your friendships, in your community, in your school, in your work - you're bringing your full self instead of just a half self then.

Ariana deVries

Right. Totally. You mentioned earlier about how God taught you about mothering, and I would really love it if you could share more about the female side of God and how you shared in your book, Miracles and Other Reasonable Things about mothering and relating that to God. I'd really like to hear your thoughts on that.

Sarah Bessey

Oh, sure. It's a hard thing to I think talk about quickly because a lot of people have a very complicated relationship with the idea of mothering; either because of how they were mother themselves or their experiences of being a mother. It's not a clear cut Hallmark commercial. Right? It can have a lot of nuance and complication and heartbreak and betrayal within the notions of mothering. My personal story was that I was mothered very well. And so in a lot of ways, being able to open you know scripture and be begin to see the metaphors of God as a mother was this was an easy one for me. And then becoming a mother myself and becoming someone who cares for administers to and is raising, you know, these people that we've been trusted with. reopen that again, for me, right of seeing what that looks like and what it means to embrace and understand and named God as our mother just as much as our father.

To me, I feel like there is something that really opens up and shifts when we stop seeing God as just male. When we begin to say that God is that we are all made in the image of God, both male and female. And you begin to look for all those ways, and all those stories and moments in Scripture. It really is, I think, a path of spiritual formation and discipleship, that is a very needed counterweight to the overwhelming dominance, often of the masculine or the, you know, notion of God as Father, right. It's not that there's anything wrong with that that's beautiful and it has a lot of meaning and historical tradition and richness for a lot of people and you never want to take that away from anyone. I think the thing that I learned though, was that that counterweight or counterbalance of the mystery and the maternal and the feminine and seeing God just as much in those expressions deepened and enhanced and and made that such a better, more full picture, I think of what the love of God looks like in our lives. And and I found it very healing as well.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. I feel very similarly in my journey with discovering more who God is because it wasn't until I became a mother, that I saw that side of God a bit more and realized, Oh, wait, no, if I'm made in His image, yeah, then there must be another side to him. And that's a side that I can really connect with and share with others because that's part of who I am.

Sarah Bessey

Mm hmm. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. I think that in a lot of ways, that's maybe what has been missing. You know, sometimes from that conversation that does to bring in...I think this is sometimes what the church misses, going back to some of your earlier questions about having women's voices and experiences at the table. And that's not to say, of course, that women's voices and experiences are limited to that of mothering. But, at the same time, having women at the table, having women in the pulpit, having women in positions of leadership, and whose voices are being fully listened to and embraced, means that then you have a chance to hear aspects and sides of God that you maybe never would have known or experienced. In so many ways I find that, what we have said, you know and love God better when you hear why people who are very different than you also know and love and follow God, and it only brings greater richness and depth and colour and life to your own experiences with God when you can hear that from other people. And so is another reason why it's important to have people who are different from one another in the room and speaking to this.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, I feel like it connects the divide a bit more between heaven and earth and makes him not small but more relatable to some people who aren't always like loud and boisterous or angry or whatever side - a warrior - whatever side of God it is that a lot of people associate with more masculine sides and to bring it in and into a hug, so to speak. That's really comforting, I think; for a lot of people to realize I don't have to be a certain way for God to love me. That's really cool.

Sarah Bessey

You're right. I think that there's a sense of - a lot of people have a wound even have the notion of Goddess father. Right? That is something that almost was deployed against them, or used against them, or became a rod in their life, right? And so being able to say, what are the other names of God? The ways or the character of God, that was always present, but maybe this is a new doorway to connect with God when the other ones have slammed shut for you.

Ariana deVries

So then, how could we help support and encourage other women? And then how can the men in our lives also help to empower us to feel like, "Yeah, we can do what we love".

Sarah Bessey

Mm hmm. Well, you know, what I have found...I think this is one of the things that I found most interesting is that oftentimes we're kind of fed this narrative that women are jealous and insecure and emotionally and this and that. And I have found that usually, if you start to get to know women, that's not usually true.

[Laughter]

Ariana deVries

[Laughter] Yeah, right.

Sarah Bessey

It seems like a lot of women are eager to cheer each other on. And I think becoming and being a woman who celebrates and affirms other women, who looks for ways to to elevate and advocate for and be on the team of other women, especially in your real walking around life. I think there's something really compelling about that. I mean, a lot of times people will think that the notion of women's empowerment is just a power grab, right? It's that you want power. You want to be the one who's in charge. You want to be the one in the pulpit this and that.

I have no interest in being in a pulpit or being anybody's pastor. But I sure get a heck of a lot of fun out of making sure other women can. Right? If that's what God has called them to do and wants them to do. So being able to be alongside of other women, making yourself someone who celebrates and affirms and calls out and names the things in the women in your life that you see that are glorious and good and strong, clearing a path for each other. Those are just really practical things that you can do for one another. And I have found that just like we hear all the time in Scripture, about the importance of those seeds that you're sowing. Right? All of those things are seeds. And so, I mean, then you are planting for generations to come. I've always felt like, it's so important. There's not a single time that I preached, not a single time, that I don't have multiple people come up to me and say it was the very first time they'd heard a woman preach.

Ariana deVries

Wow. Really?

Sarah Bessey

It matters, right? So it matters. It matters because you can't be it if you don't see it. If you don't see women who are walking in. I think even having visibility, and those sorts of relationships are great. I mean, in terms of a lot of the men in their churches right now. I would say it's time to prayerfully consider laying down power; to releasing and relinquishing power and inviting more people to share in it. I think that it's...a lot of times men will tell me, "Well, there's just no women. Well, where are they?" [Laugher] I don't know if I want to laugh or cry I think in that moment.

They're there. They're literally sitting in your church. There's no need for you to find me halfway across the country to come and preach in your church on Sunday morning. There are women in this church who could be preaching every Sunday.

Ariana deVries

Oh yes.

Sarah Bessey

I think one of the things that we can start to do is ask. We can ask. We can say...if you see someone that you think has leadership gifts. I think a good common question is, if this was a man, would I be super excited to ask them to be on the ministry board?

Ariana deVries

That's a good one.

Sarah Bessey

Well, you probably would so why aren't you asking her? I think inviting and asking, being in recognition and honesty about the power that you hold, whether it's admitted or explicit or implicit, and being someone who is a listener, taking a turn to be someone who lets others, or turns your ear towards the voices that are already often speaking within your communities and your churches. Those are all really practical, simple things that you can do.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. And that's part of the reason why I decided to start this podcast with my husband, because I wanted to have a voice to be able to share people's stories, and this was an easy way to do that - in a way. It's still a lot of work. But it's really great that I have a supportive husband who's cheering me on and believes that I can do it, which then makes me believe even more that I can do it. And that, Yeah, people want to hear what I have to say. And it's good and that other people have great things to say, too.

Sarah Bessey

It matters that you're out there doing it. That's important and valuable work that you're doing.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, that's really good. So for the women, and even the men, who may be struggling to find their place in positions of leadership, whether it's church or otherwise, what words of encouragement would you have for them?

Sarah Bessey

You know, whether it is within a church community, again, everything is very subjective. Right. And I think that this is one of the benefits of being someone who's of the charismatic, kind of Pentecostal wing of the church is I get to be like, "the Spirit will show you". And mean it with my whole heart.

I think in a lot of ways there's not one path for each one. There may be some people who are at a crossroad with their community, and it is just time to move on. Right? It is time to find a place where you can flourish where your daughters and sons can flourish. Where you and your partner can. Where everybody would be welcome. And so when you find yourself at that crossroads, I think that there's times when wen people need to move forward with that, but then there's other people who feel very called to stay within slow to change institutions and structures, and be part of a faithful witness of people who are slowly moving the needle forward. And so there's not one right answer or one right way to make sure that those things happen.

I think the most important thing is to draw very near to Jesus, and to continue to be faithful; to just make sure that you are apprenticed to his way of doing and being things. Because, at the end of the day, you could have all the right opinions in the world and you can tick all the boxes and be like, I the right opinion on this and the right belief on that. But if you don't have the fruit of the Spirit active and engaged in your life, if you're not a woman of love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and even self control, I hear, then you're just a different kind of fundamentalist, right? You're just a different kind of the same thing that you were before, just with a nice, new tidy set of answers. And that doesn't bless anybod. That doesn't bring goodness and Shalom and peace to anybody.

And so I think that, in a lot of ways, the words of encouragement I would have would be to draw near to God. To continue to lean in to those places that you have been avoiding. To look your questions and your doubts and your hopes right in the eye, and invite the Holy Spirit into that space and say "what now?" and then pay attention.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, that's really valuable to hear and really encouraging. Thank you. So, one final question. And that is, did you ever think that someday you would have the influence and the impact on people's lives that you do today? [Laughter]

Sarah Bessey

[Laughter]

I'll let my mother answer that. She regularly looks at me and says, "Why you?"

I don't know. You know, It's a real privilege and an honour to be invited into people's stories and lives. I don't think you could have found someone who was less set up for that sort of thing or even my personality, my way of being, my way of writing, all those kinds of things are just not the typical narrative that you hear for like a leader in the church or whatever. And in a way, it's been fun then, because I just get to carve my own path. And so I'm endlessly surprised and delighted. It could all disappear tomorrow and that would be fine, too. But in the meantime, I want to steward it well. It's a real privilege I feel to serve people. And to come alongside of them, especially at a very tender moment in people's lives, which is usually when they encounter me and my work is when they have found themselves at a crossroads; and they are wondering what they believe about God or church or scripture or women or LGBTQ people or whatever else it is. They're just really in a season of real tenderness and disorientation. And I feel like it is just such a privilege to come alongside of people in that, and at the very least, remind them that they do not need to be afraid; that God is good and even better than we could have imagined.

Ariana deVries

Yeah, and that's what you were for me, really, is that reassuring, gentle voice that shared and put words to what I was thinking and feeling when I couldn't say it for myself. And that's what I have appreciated about you so very much. You were that mother figure that was more prominent, who was able to love through the words that you were writing, that I wasn't necessarily getting from other people, because people can sometimes sound - not the same, but they have a similar tone when they're speaking about bigger, tougher topics. And I so appreciated the way that you were gentle in the way that you talked about the things that you really cared about. And that really resonated with me, especially being someone who is also an Enneagram type nine [laughter] and wanting to to keep the peace and be gracious. But also, I do have pressure points and I can want to share my thoughts but don't know how and when to do that. So thank you very much for that.

Sarah Bessey

Thank you.

Ariana deVries

Yeah. And as we close, I have one more quote from your Jesus Feminist book and it said, "Just as some men serve God in business, and others in farmlands, some women serve God in missions and others serve God in their kitchens. There is not one way to be a woman. There's not one way to do women's ministry. There is only loving and serving God, doing life together in the full expression of our unique selves, make room for them all and give glory to God."

I really liked how you summed that up so beautifully.

Sarah Bessey

Thank you. That's a good word.

Ariana deVries

Well, thank you, Sarah, for being with us today and sharing your heart and sharing your thoughts on women in the church. Thank you.

Sarah Bessey

Thank you. I appreciate the conversation.