Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Still

This is a book review of "Still" by Lauren Winner.

I had not read her previous books, but this young gal can really write. I like her prose, the way she describes things. I like her history.  She seems to have been places I have visited spiritually.

I am older.  I am further on the journey. I'm still learning.


She journeys with refreshing ideas. She's still learning.

This book is about her doubt, her meeting the "brassy heavens." God seems remote to her. Her Christian walk has been tested with divorce, death, and discouragement.

Is her faith strong enough to hold? Is she "still" a Christian? She asks.

Pineapple gummi bears are sought out by both of us. I can relate to her. We are the same type of person. She loves to feel His presence as I love to.

My big concern is that she is still trying to create God in her idea of Him.  We all do. We all meet Him, get to know him. Gradually. No one knows Him well at first, and when he doesn't fit our image of him we waver.

Part of sanctification is accepting God as He is.

So which God?

Is He Muslim? Hindu? Buddhist?

Methodist? Baptist? Lutheran? Catholic?

Jewish? Pagan? Anglican? Presbyterian?

At some point an authority must be chosen. Which one? Can God work through all of these types?

I'd say, of course. He is all powerful.

BUT,

I would test the authority more than anything. God's Word must be central.  Sanctification is a process of learning who God is through understanding Scripture.

Sometimes the God of the Bible seems "unacceptable" to our tiny minds. (Think Oprah Winfrey and her now famous quote about a jealous God)

I sense that Lauren has accepted only the character of God that she can fathom up until now in her faith journey.

She is not alone.

Finding the God of the Bible is the path of life. It is a life pursuit. It is demanding and requires everything. It will break you of your pre-conceived ideas of who He is.

And we all must be prepared to meet Him as he is, not as we want to see Him.

Read your Bible. All of it. Not just the parts you like. Read the hard sayings too. THEN take the time to meditate and process, pray for wisdom. See what God reveals to you about His character. Don't just branch off on your own cultish tendencies.

Can we say "balance?"

As in the training of an animal or a child, swing around through the motions again and again. Learn the behaviors of spiritual discipline, and discover, through Scripture, who He is.

I think Lauren is learning. She's on her path. She's about to get into the meat of her spiritual walk, and there will be dark hours of cleansing through the Word (washing in the Word) for her to withstand and emerge from, victorious and strong, knowing Christ better than ever.


Sublime end.

3 comments:

Tracy S. said...

Thank you for reading this and letting me know what you thought. I have read two of her earlier books, "Girl Meets God" and "Mudhouse Sabbath" and yes, she can really write. I think she is sort of a prodigy whose amazing writing catapulted her to "professional christian" status before her faith had matured. I admire how she cracks open her heart and lets us in to see her joy and pain, but at the same time I want to shout at her, "No, you are not ready to share this with the world. You need some time to grow up!" This has gotten her in trouble in the past.

I have been having a dry, questioning time in my spiritual walk lately, and my family has had some struggles. I think these two factors are intertwined in my life (big surprise there) and I really felt a kinship to her in that regard--at least at first. Later, I began to wonder about whether there was something else going on there.

Disclosure--not quite full, but enough to give you a hint of my perspective: I have spent the last 18 months with a depressed teenager in my home. She has been suicidal at times, been hospitalized twice, and tried at least 8 antidepressants and mood stabilizers. She is currently doing ok--not great, but better. You now already know where I am going here.

Lauren talked about panic attacks that kept her lying on the floor for hours, unable to get up and others that made her worry that she needed to choose a seat in church that would allow her to get out quickly if necessary. She talked at length about compulsively checking the stove, calling a neighbor to check the stove, being compelled to take out her licence dozens of times on the way to the airport.

Her depression comes through in every word and when she got astonishing relief through one medication but suffered (horrible) side effects, she decided that she didn't want to try anything else. A more reasonable view would have been to try another medication--with the assistance of a psychiatrist, not a family doctor that apparently didn't know anything about her, other than she was sent by the psychologist.

By the time I got to the end of the book, I felt I had a pretty clear description of someone who is suffering depression, OCD and panic attacks and is trying to treat them with prayer. I don't think any of this is a stretch for me to put a name on the behaviors. It appears that her parents' divorce left her mother in a pretty bad way emotionally, and it is no surprise that her own marriage would bring up issues that were painful and needed very serious attention. Instead, she ran away.

Please believe me that I am not sitting in judgement of her--she did, and is doing, the best she could at the time. I am just concerned that if she doesn't deal with the mental health side of this, then this is only going to get worse.

I am also not saying that psychological difficulties are unrelated to spiritual struggles. Sin in our lives causes issues to spring up in other places. What I am saying that when a person's life is spiraling out of control like this, her friends need to be encouraging her towards getting psychological help. She seems to have a great group of supportive friends, so that is what I pray for.

Costanza said...

Insightful impression. I too have struggled with depression, so perhaps that is why I could relate to her so!
You had mentioned some of your struggle before. I hoped there was improvement for your daughter. Painful. I will pray!
Perhaps you should "stick your neck out" for Lauren and suggest more help for her condition. I know chemical imbalance can be horrific regarding depression. I sense a spiritual aspect too---and I suggested that in what I wrote earlier.
If you could see legitimate patterns of depression needing treatment don't hesitate to reach out to Lauren!
I see her book as a cry----like you, for spiritual maturity, but also perhaps for healing.
You have the platform!

Tracy S. said...

I never thought of actually contacting her, but it wouldn't be hard (actually a quick Google search turned up her email as the top result). I will have to think about it; meanwhile, I have been praying for her. Mostly, my reaction was so strong that I wondered at the fact that no one else ever really mentioned these things in their reviews.

I saw reviews stating that it was an "instant classic" and a comfort to others facing dry spiritual times or doubt and others disappointed or angry that she said that God seemed far away. The latter groups usually responded with, "Well, yeah, that's what happens when you make sinful choices".

Am I just reading it through the lens of my experiences with my daughter (and a handful of friends, too), or is it really there? Even more interestingly, does she know very well that there are these issues, but she chose not to write about them, much as she decided not to discuss the details or her marriage? She has developed a reputation for being so open about her life, that it's hard to imagine that she'd decide that ongoing psychotherapy was too private to mention. So, is it there or not?

You know, one of the things that fascinates me about her is that self-disclosure. I would die a thousand deaths if I had to work through my own issues in such a public way, yet I am becoming more aware that it is sometimes rooted in pride. [Feel free to point out that I am discussing it here rather than in my church small group.] I am learning to take cues from my daughter, who astonishes me with her bravery in discussing some of her problems with others. I can see that she gives other students around her permission to be less than perfect and that is a great thing in a small christian school.

On the other hand, I do sometimes caution my daughter to be very careful about disclosing private information because sometimes people don't need to know details. Teenagers can be very unkind and adults are not comfortable with the idea of "nice christian kids" from good homes having serious problems. I guess balance is needed here, as it is in so many other areas of life.