The Beginnings of a Book Review by Lydia Pratt Tatum
A couple of us Church Daughters are still in school, so our reading outside of our syllabi is rare these days. I say this mostly to place a disclaimer on this premature review. You see, I am one of those Daughters still in school; and while I have the next week of classes off for “reading days,” I still work. Break shmake. These days are to be used primarily for catching up on all of the work of my course load, but I am intentionally taking some of the time to do a bit of selfish reading. I will not finish an entire extracurricular book, but I will skim a good bit of something I love.
Lauren Winner’s new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, arrived on my doorstep with impeccable timing last Thursday. While I was at school studying for midterms, my husband called to let me know that this unexpected surprise had arrived with a sweet form letter from the author. The thing about Lauren (you know we are on a first name basis now, as I dream I am with all of my favorite authors) is that she writes with such beautiful honesty and vulnerability. I fell in love with her writing and her story the first time I read Girl Meets God; and her letter, though only a form with my name inserted for a more personal feel, was characteristically Lauren – pure, honest, raw.
Lauren’s new book is not intended as a memoir but as a confession of where she has ended up after the newness of conversion has worn off and life has marched on with its inevitable ups and downs. She suspects, and correctly so, that many Christians (if not all) have a point where they wind up in the middle of their journey – far enough from the beginning point that the warm fuzzy feelings have faded and the reality of disappointment and doubt distract the journeyer from truth. Lauren tells her story unapologetically. And, I respect the hutzpah (catch that Lauren?) that it takes to offer such honesty to a public that would be content reading Girl Meets God like they would watch a movie–assuming that happily ever after lasted after the last period. Her sequel, however, tells us otherwise. In Still, the happily ever after has worn off, and we get a picture of a life of an honest Christian in the middle of her journey. She has days of doubt and loss, and she has days of seeming clarity.
Lauren’s story is my story, and I suspect it is the story of every honest Christian in the middle. There are days when I am completely clear on my calling to be a Christian and it seems that God and I are in sync with one another. But, there are also days when I struggle to make out God’s voice, and I struggle to remember the joy and passion that I first felt as a new Christian.
In her form letter, Lauren suggests that her book be used as a guide through Lent. She offers a reading guide and discussion questions relating to the book for mid-life Christians. Though I have only read the preface and part one, I assure you that this book is real. It is honest. It is my story. And, it is probably a bit of your story, too. We are a week and a half into Lent, but do not let that be your excuse for not picking up this book and grappling with your own mid-faith crisis with Lauren and with me.
Lydia Pratt Tatum is student ministry associate at Trinity Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina. She wrote this review in early March for Church Daughters, a blog she and six other women ministers created.