Friday, June 9, 2017

Still - Lauren F. Winner

Title: Still
Author: Lauren F. Winner
Publication Date: 1/31/12
Pages: 240
Genre: Faith / Memoir / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I honestly can't remember
Date Completed: 5/20/17

Summary: In the wake of her mother's death and her divorce, Winner contemplates faith and her crisis thereof. 

What I Thought: I've been reading about faith journeys recently. As I get older myself, I'm coming to a better understanding that faith is just that - a journey. I think I've always known this on some level, but the truth of that is becoming more real to me these years. 

As Winner notes, the faith journey typically begins with a burst of enthusiasm and fervency. Kathy Escobar talked about the same thing in her book, Faith Shift. While Escobar approached the journey from a more academic nature and covered a variety of stages, this book by Winner focusing on what Escobar would call the Shifting stage. The ground is moving under your feet and you're not sure where things are going to land.

For Winner, this stage was ushered in specifically by her mother's death and her divorce. Though the two events were years apart, each impacted her faith in big ways, as one might expect. Winner doesn't give many details about either event in the memoir. In fact, as she points out, calling this a memoir at all may be a bit of a misnomer. 

Rather, her prose is very poetic. The chapters are short and reflective. She's expressing ideas and emotions rather than details or doctrine. Winner is obviously very studied and intellectual (she teaches at Duke, so I would expect no less) and that comes across in her writing, but not in a pompous way. Her intellectualism feels soft and personal, a true aspect of her personality and not a posture that some authors put on when wanting to portray superiority. Winner is raw and real. Her writing is beautiful and vulnerable. 

There is no real conclusion to the book. Winner writes several times about this part of her faith journey being the "middle." She's clear that she doesn't know what an ending looks like and it may be years before she is in any other phase. I liked that she did not try to wrap things up. Rather, she honestly expresses the shifting, the uncertainty, the perseverance in the face of doubt and weariness. 

I really enjoyed the book. Winner practices her faith in the Episcopalian tradition, a perspective with which I am less familiar but in which I am very interested. I loved reading about her journey, both in the ways it mirrors and diverts from my own. She doesn't live far from me and reading the book made me wish we could sit down and get coffee or dinner and talk about some of this in person. 

I think this book holds value for those at any stage of a faith journey. We so often judge one another for the status of our faith, but I think understanding the journeys of others is important. We do not all experience the same story or same journey and reading about someone else's only increases our understanding and empathy for people at all stages of belief. 

Quotes I Loved:

  • "And yet 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."
  • "It is not that God is absent - it is, rather, that your spiritual life seems to have faded, like fabric."
  • "The problem is that your Christian life gets sick before it dies, and it is hard to keep praying when you are sick."
  • "I am not the author of my prayers; when they come, they come from God."
  • "I am not a saint. I am, however, beginning to learn that I am a small character in a story that is always fundamentally about God."

Rating: ★★★★☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes
If You Liked This, Try: Faith Shift / Searching for Sunday / Bread and Wine

A Reduced Review: A poignant, personal look at Winner's step into the "middle" of her faith journey. 

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