Lauren Winner’s Divorce

Lauren Winner’s Divorce February 6, 2012

All week, I’ll be posting about Lauren Winner’s new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. I’m doing so because I think it’s an important book, and I hope that you all read it.

Although Lauren denies it at the beginning of the book, this is a memoir. It is the sequel to Girl Meets God. And it is, like that book, funny, literary, and honest honest honest. It’s that honesty that is most striking to me in the book

A couple years ago, Lauren got divorced. In fact, we got divorced at about the same time, and we had a couple of late-night phone conversations about our shared experience. I didn’t really know Lauren before that, and we’ve become close friends since.

Back when we first talked about our divorces, we discussed the incredible pain involved. We also wondered about how honest we’d be able to be about our divorces in the Christian community. There is an inevitable — and understandable — stigma attached to divorce in the church, particularly among those of us who are considered Christian “leaders” (authors, speakers, professors, pastors). How honest can we be? we asked each other.

Well, for her part, Lauren answers that question in the preface:

I was carried to the middle of my spiritual life by two particular events: my mother died, and I got married, and the marriage was an unhappy one.

Lauren returns to the marriage and the divorce repeatedly in the book. And in every instance, she speaks respectfully about her former spouse and self-deprecatingly about herself. It’s as though she knows that she needed to leave the marriage, but she still can’t quite articulate why she had to. That’s led a couple of reviewers already to criticizing her for not taking marriage seriously enough, for not having enough sticktoitiveness.

Lauren doesn’t quite say that she got married because she missed her mom so much, but that seems to be one of the issues at play. There is also, as any of us can attest, enormous pressure in the Christian community to get married. It’s the norm, and it’s what’s expected.

As a reader, I think the most wrenching passage in the entire book is when a priest asks Lauren if she was lying when she said her vows on her wedding day (I’ll let you read this passage yourself rather than recreating it here). This is not the kind of thing that is usually repeated outside of the confessional moment, so I can only imagine the extraordinary courage that it took for Lauren to let this moment see print.

As I told someone immediately upon finishing Still, Lauren has given me the courage to write about my own divorce. I don’t know if I ever will — with kids involved, the calculus of memoir become significantly more complicated — but at least now I know that I can.

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  • Good post.
    Good recommendation.

  • I’m very interested to read this one, and I have to admit it’s for the divorce aspect. For some reason this appears to be fascinating to many Christians – I don’t know if apart of it is gossip-driven – we like hearing dirt. I do think it’s fascinating for many because it’s real, finally some Christians have failed and admitted they’ve failed – so it’s refreshing to read about someone who isn’t raving about how perfect their life is and how everything has worked out for them.

  • Luke Allison

    I have to be somewhat honest: I was very disappointed when I heard this news. This comes in the wake of reading “Real Sex” and Lauren’s fantastic essay “The Counter-Cultural Way” from some book on dating.
    I got so excited about her insight that I told everyone about it. I used it to teach students, and actually saw some lights go off behind their eyes. Her articulation of marital sex as normal and routine rather than constantly new and gymnastic was refreshing and thought-provoking.

    So I’m disappointed…not because one of my favorite authors/thinkers got divorced, but because it seems as if her thoughts didn’t work for her. Maybe this is why we shouldn’t write books about subjects we’re barely acquainted with? Regardless, I’ll continue to articulate her perspectives on these matters, because they are fresh and vibrant in a field of stale old thoughts.

  • Dan Brennan

    Blessings Tony for posting about the pain and the stigma compounding the pain.

  • Wendy

    fabulous book. i read it in a day – she uses wonderful, emotive prose and shares her vulnerability beautifully. only think that made me sad was finishing it and knowing i’ll have to wait for her next book.

  • I’m waiting on my copy. It sounds like a painfully important book. Blessings on your journey too, Tony.

  • I don’t conclude from Ms. Winner’s divorce that “her thoughts didn’t work out for her.” Not knowing her circumstances (I’ll begin reading the book presently), I hesitantly conclude from the fact that an author who wrote the kinds of things she wrote about marriage got divorced only that sometimes we try to talk ourselves into belief. If I write it and someone publishes it, then maybe I’ll be able to fully believe it.
    It seems to me that what changes is our estimation of our own ability to believe what we’re saying and, more importantly, our estimation of the truth of what we’ve been saying. People come to view things differently based on their experience, and I’m more and more privileging peoples’ experience in these matters, even if it veers from what they’ve said they believe.

  • I don’t know if it counts…but my blog has come about because of my journey out of an abusive marriage where both of us claim to be Christians. My journey is not even a year along – as far as the divorce part of it – but it has definitely had many ups and downs. And the cool thing is I see how God is redeeming ALL of it for His glory and to use my life to help others – men, women & children …especially those within the church – who are and have been caught in an abusive marriage.

    On another note, God is not quite on divorce in the Bible…as I used to believe. I have found several – well 3 really – good books that talk about the use of divorce in biblical times and how to apply that to today’s culture and times. I list them on the resources link in my blog.

    Most of all, though, I encourage any one who is a Christian to talk about their divorce…of course with good boundaries. But the fact is a huge percentage of us are getting divorced…and the church is down on us. But maybe there is something they can learn from us…and the younger generation can learn from us so either
    a) they don’t end up getting divorced
    b) they learn that there is a consequence for bad behavior in marriage…and it is called a divorce
    c) to stop judging those of us who have had the misfortune and heartache of having to suffer thru a divorce

    At least this is my dream…a lofty one I know. But I love to dream!

    Blessings to you Tony!

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  • This is the first I have heard of her divorce. I just feel compassion for her.
    Thanks for the insightful review. My copy is on hold.