Middle-age. Middle management. Mid-life crisis. Middle child. Middle school.
Middle doesn’t have that good a reputation.
Beginnings and endings get all the glory, excitement and recognition. But the middle is often overlooked. Which is disheartening because it is where most of the work is done. Middle is about perseverance. About fortitude. About forging steadily onward no matter the obstacles in your path.
Author Lauren Winner discusses the trials of middle in her book, Still, Thoughts on a Mid-Faith Crisis. This book, a collection of disjointed essays portrays the feeling of middle. The stagnant, stillness of the mundane, the everyday. The feeling of dragging through life. She relates her experiences of middle to her marriage. But she doesn’t pull punches or wear rose colored glasses. Winner does not try to portray herself as perfect. In fact, she is far more focused on her own sin than anyone else’s. She is open about her sin and shortcomings, even when it’s painful. She talks about how her marriage started – and how it ended. She discusses the weight of her unhappiness and the wrestling with theology – in which Jesus is clear about his thoughts about divorce. She writes about how she felt through it all.
Winner is a poet. She can see lessons in everything in life from coffee with a friend, to visiting Emily Dickenson’s house. There is no plot in his reflective novel and Winner is clear that it is not a memoir because of its lack of narrative. But through her essays, you are journeying with Winner through her middle. Through her crisis of faith. Through her desire to have hope and worship again.
In that way, it is haunting as I can see myself having similar stages in my Christian journey. I am knowledgeable. I have a Master’s degree in theology. I’ve been at this Christian thing for some time. Am I getting bored? Is that the reason for the spiritual funk in which I find myself?
Winner doesn’t give her readers a conclusion. She wants them to wrestle with their middles.
I’m wrestling with mine. I’m in the middle.