Reading and Wrestling and Hope for Us All

In Tara Leigh Cobble’s memoir Here’s to Hindsight, she talks about Lauren F. Winner’s memoir Girl Meets God:

On my flight back from New York, I started reading a book called Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner, which might as well be called ‘Why I’m Better Than You.’ In other words, I’m jealous of her. … The author’s stories are the ones I wanted to live. It makes me wonder where I would be if I had not taken this route.
(Here’s to Hindsight, p. 36-37)

I never quite felt that way reading Girl Meets God, but I did feel like I wanted to be friends with Lauren Winner, in the same way that I wanted to be friends with Tara Leigh Cobble after reading her memoir. (They’re both two of my favorites, and I’d heartily recommend them both for reading material.)

So when I heard that Winner had come out with another memoir-esque book (she asserts that it is not a memoir) entitled Still, I couldn't wait to read it, since it's been nearly a decade since Girl Meets God was released.

The thing is, though, that while Girl Meets God was written in the wake of Winner becoming a Christian, Still is written in the wake of her divorce. I don’t know her, but like I said, I always thought if I did meet her, maybe we’d be friends. So when I learned that news—that she had divorced her husband—it kind of took my breath away, especially as a happily-married, couldn't-imagine that wife but more importantly Christian.

If you’re curious to know what went wrong in her marriage or all the sordid details of the marital breakdown, you won’t find it in this book. She actually mentions very little and what she does mention, she portrays all of that with grace and restraint and lots of self-deprecation, placing the blame of the failed marriage on herself rather than on her ex-husband.

But what you will find in this book is how she talks about how her divorce affected her relationship with God, how she found herself feeling disconnected from God. Most importantly, though, what you will find in this book, which I appreciated, is how even in those times of feeling disconnected from God, she pushed toward him, she continued seeking him, even when they were in only in bits and scraps of moments and efforts and thoughts and prayers.

It is a brutally honest book to be sure, and one that I think few would come away from saying that the moniker ought to be retitled “Why I’m Better Than You.” I think few will come away from reading this part of her story and find themselves jealous of the inner and spiritual turmoil she writes of.

This is not the place to discuss the sanctity of marriage or the sin of her actions and how they consequently affected her relationship with God and whether she was "asking for" the turmoil that ensued. That is not the point of this post.

Rather, the thing that captured my heart as I read her story was something that I think is a challenge we all will face at one time another, because that feeling of feeling disconnected from God, like he's pulled away from us, is a common one, I think, no matter whether it's caused by sin of our own or just the journey of faith.

The thing is, which I think Winner showcases in the book, is that in those moments we have to push on in our faiths, that even when we don’t “feel” like it, when we don’t “feel” close to God, that we still have to push through and fight for our faith and press to reconnect to him.

Too often, I think when some people find themselves at that juncture—whether it’s because of broken dreams or unanswered prayers or just a life that isn’t what they’d expected—they give up. Instead of fighting and pushing and pressing on, they give up.

And that just grieves my heart.

Because it doesn’t have to be that way.

In the Old Testament, we see Jacob who wrestles and wrestles and doesn’t let go until he gets that which he seeks, until the morning when he’s granted a blessing. There’s a lesson in that story, an archetype for all who have followed in his footsteps, Jacob, now renamed Israel: Sometimes we must be willing to wrestle and not let go until God reveals his face to us, until he relents and gives us his blessing.

And that is what I saw in Winner’s raw and honest and heart-wrenching book, Still. I saw proof that if we do not let go—even when our heart and our circumstances and our feelings tell us otherwise—that, as James 4:8 says, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you.”

Let us not give up on God, on our faith, on his Love that overcomes even the darkest of days and sorrowest of sins. Let us come close and wrestle until we receive the blessing of his presence.

(Here are links for finding Here's to Hindsight by Tara Leigh Cobble, Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner, and Still by Lauren F. Winner on Amazon.)

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  1. Great post. I never read her first book but I'm intrigued to read Still. I've had one close friend lose her faith through her divorce. It was & still is tough to understand the turmoil she went through spiritually. Very interesting.

    1. That's so sad to hear :( I think Winner's story could be insightful for you, maybe to help understand what she's going through. I hope that there's still a little spark left in her to trust and love the Lord again :/

  2. This was so poignant today Carmen. I am currently waiting to hear back from an interview, and it has shocked me to see how the fear and worry has caused me to seriously doubt God and His goodness. However, He has put my stubbornness to good use, and I have been pushing on with Bible reading and prayer, determined to wrestle on until I feel peace!

    1. Oh, good luck with the job, Louise! I hope that no matter what comes of it, that God will give you peace about it. There's this verse in Psalms 17:7 that I have latched onto this spring. It says, "Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways." And I'm always awed that he always does!

  3. Winner is a great writer, for sure...check out Mudhouse Sabbath if you haven't already. Her most recent book had to be a difficult one to write, but if it could be done certainly was here. Praying for her and many others, as we all seek to be made whole in Christ. :)

    1. Yes, prayers aplenty! You know, I did read Mudhouse Sabbath, but it wasn't really what I'd expected so I wasn't too impressed with it, personally. But I know lots of other people who read it and loved it; I guess I just wanted "more" from it in regards to the Jewish-Christian links. Ah well! Guess that's why there's something for everyone, right? :)

  4. Lauren F. Winner is one of my favorite authors! I knew she had a new book out -- I had no idea it was about her divorce. I'm so surprised and saddened to hear that after reading about her marriage in "Real Sex" and her entry in "5 Paths to the Love of your Life." I can't imagine the turmoil that must have caused; of course, many of us experience some degree of that "dark night of the soul" in which we feel so disconnected from God. I definitely will be praying for her and look forward to reading the book and hearing what lessons and truths about God she learned through the experience.

    1. I never read "Real Sex," but when I told a friend about "Still," she said the exact same thing--that she was really saddened, considering what she'd written in the former book. Piques my interest to read it now, too.

  5. Carmen, insightful post. One of your paragraphs in particular struck me:

    "Too often, I think when some people find themselves at that juncture—whether it’s because of broken dreams or unanswered prayers or just a life that isn’t what they’d expected—they give up. Instead of fighting and pushing and pressing on, they give up."

    I understand your sentiment, but your description of the reasons people give up at these tumultuous points in their lives seems a bit understated to me.

    Of course I haven't read Still, and I don't know what her divorce was like. But contemplating the severity of these types of issues, not just divorce, but also other situations I have experienced and others around me have experienced in which the struggler feels like giving up on faith, I think the piece that particularly troubles me is the "just a life that isn't what they'd expected."

    To me, the segment minimizes the horrible atrocities that many people suffer through with divorce and so many other life changing struggles. To make an example of divorce, and include this segment in the same post seems inappropriate.

    If I were to ponder the reasons people might give up, I think I'd only talk about it from my personal experience. I might say I've given up because "I've felt like I'm drowning in a hole of despair, certain that I could never possibly climb out--that my overwhelming situation could never change." I understand how another person might give up if they felt the same way.

    Of course people give up "too often", because God is always there for us, no matter what. I just think it's important not to underestimate or simplify the reasons why people might give up.

    1. Hmm... Thanks for your thoughts, Anonymous. I am not entirely sure what you mean in your comment so feel free to elaborate if you like. But you are right that there are TONS of reasons why people give up on God. Too innumerable to mention in a single blog post, unfortunately. :/

  6. Sarah (Proverbs 31:30)June 15, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Beautifully written, Carmen. I am not going to judge Winner. God doesn't like divorce, but that's all I'll say. What really stands out is that we pick ourselves up with God's help, admit we were wrong, and walk on the His path for us with a new heart. We may break our hearts, but He will pick up the broken pieces and put it all together again. I know from personal experience. For a while I gave up on everything- including God. But He NEVER gave up on me.

    1. Thank you, Sarah. I couldn't agree more and appreciate the gracious way you phrased it!

  7. I needed this today! I have been struggling with God for a while now just with my emotions and being disciplined about my time with God and this definitely hit the nail on the head for me. I am wrestling with God... just like Jacob. I just need to press into Him and not let go.


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