Review of Lauren F Winner’s book Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis

`These middle verbs, it seems to me, are religious; they are the very actions that constitute a religious life; to forgive, to imagine, to grow, to Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisisyearn to lament, to meet, to kneel. To have one’s body doused in the waters of baptism. To ponder. All of which suggests to me that the middle is the language of spirituality, of devotion, the language of religious choreography…it is the voice that tells you that I am changed when I do these things and that there is something about me that allows these happenings to happen; and yet it is a voice that insists that there is another agent at work, another agent always vivifying the action, even when unnamed.”

I am so glad that someone has written about the “middles” of one’s faith. Much has been written about helping people come to faith and what I consider the early stages of faith but outside of simply reading scripture, praying, going to worship, fellowshipping and serving, little, if anything, has been written about navigating the middles we encounter in our lives and in our faith. Winner has provided a unique and helpful set of snapshots that reveals her journey through crisis in light of her failed marriage and the crisis of faith it created.

I say snapshots because that is what they are. Snapshots. Snapshots of where she went, what she did and did not do, as she navigated the middle of her life, a life that was turned upside down. Still: Notes on a mid-Faith Crisis, is not a `how to’ book. This is a wonderful pictorial directory of how one person, walking in and through the middle of a crisis and life, began to rediscover her faith in and with God. If you are looking for a how to book, you need to look elsewhere. But I would advise you to read Winners’ book. Those of you who like first person narrative accounts will probably like this book. (By the way, you might want to read the q and a that appears in the back of the book before you read this (Sorry, Lauren) as it might help you before you start reading.)

Winner is a well read person and so there are numerous literary allusions that fill this book. Don’t let them throw you off. Worship shows up. Bible reading and reflection return. Baptism is a part her story. But this book is written by one who sought answers in familiar places and routines and ultimately returned to, and I think was found by, God as she kept moving forward.

Her description of middles as places where the strategy is developed is very helpful here. And I think those who are in the midst of their middles will find it helpful. It serves as a reminder that a life of faith is not a mindless thing but one that requires diligent attention to the `how’ as well as the `why.’

I liked this book because it adds what I consider a missing part of Christian discipleship- navigating the middle of faith when there are dangers of dryness and losing faith but also where significant growth occurs. I think Winner’s willingness to share her pain and confusion with us is a wonderful reminder that life and faith are not always mountain top experiences.

In my very unscientific rating system, I give this book 4.5 stars. It is a great book that requires more than one reading.
Note: I received an advance reader’s copy of this book via the Amazon Vine review program and I was not required to offer a positive review of the book. It will be published in February 2012 by Harper One.


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