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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Middle: Reading Lauren Winner's "Still"

I may not covet what you covet, but I’m just as guilty as you as wanting what another has. Sometimes it has to do with large kitchen appliances.

And I did just recently covet someone’s editor.

When another Redbud writer said that Lauren Winner had been assigned as an editor to her book project, I wanted to hate her.

Lauren Winner?

Lauren’s spiritual memoir, Girl Meets God, is terrific. I loved it, and it’s in my top five books of that genre. She’s a great writer, and her spiritual story is so interesting. Essentially, she was converted from Judaism to Christianity because of a dream. That’s about the gist of it.

(You must forgive. I read so many books. I remember so few.)

I’ve been wanting to read Lauren’s most recent book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, and have finally just started it. Although she says in the preface that this isn’t an autobiographical book, there’s lots of personal story from what I’ve read so far.

She explains how she’s come to find herself in the “middle” of her Christian life: a divorce, her mother’s death. The middle, as she describes it, is moment of uncertainty.

“Some days I am not sure if my faith is riddled with doubt or whether, graciously, my doubt is riddled with faith.”

In the middle, God feels far, but somehow, there’s an abiding faith that He is not gone.

“Even in those same moments of strained belief, of not knowing where or if God is, it has also seemed that the Christian story keeps explaining who and where I am, better than any other story I know. I continue to live in a world the way a religious person lives in the world; I keep living in a world that I know to be enchanted, and not left alone. I doubt; I am uncertain; I am restless, prone to wander. And yet glimmers of holy keep interrupting my gaze.”

I am consoled by this thought of middle.

I think I know this feeling of middle.

I think I’ve lived days where prayer feels like a monologue, my faith as dry as tinder.

And when I arrive there - to the middle (“probably we arrive at many middles”) - I am always wondering what I’ve done wrong to drive myself into that feeling of numbness and of distance.

Of silence.

But middles are necessary, begged by their beginnings and endings.

“Baptism, the conversion, is just the beginning, and what follows is a middle, and the middle may be long, and it may have little to do with whatever it was that got you to the font.”

The middle is a time for keeping faith.

For keeping watch.

“Then a small light dots the dark hills. And then two.”

* * * * *

If you pick up Lauren’s Girl Meets God or Still, let me know what you think!

And if you are Lauren Winner, leave a comment. I’ll think I’ve died and gone to heaven.