Lessons In Belonging {review and giveaway}

Lessons In Belonging {review and giveaway}

Lessons In Belonging

Lessons In BelongingI wanted to read Erin Lane’s new book, Lessons in Belonging, because belonging is my thing. I talk and write and think about it more than anything else. Belonging, and longing for belonging, is the lens through which I see the world. The more I read about it, the more curious I became. It’s a book about church, and about what it looks like to be a millennial in church. It’s a book about how terrifying and momentous it can be to commit to a church body, and to find your way there every week. But it’s about more than that. It’s a book about a woman, a marriage, a life. It’s a love story in every sense of the word. It is a book about what it means to belong, and how it feels when you don’t.

There is a feeling I get when I’m reading a book by Lauren Winner. If you’ve been here long, you know that she is my favorite. I trust her to tell me the truth, to be honest about what she doesn’t know, to take me along on the journey. I felt that way, walking alongside Erin.

It is almost a cliche to say that a book is conversational. Most of the time, I don’t think we mean it. We mean that it is relatable, or informal. This book is conversational. It is punctuated by humor that made me laugh aloud in my empty house and exclaim “Oh Erin” (or frankly “Oh Rush,” about her husband). There is a give and take to the dialogue and the narrative that made me feel a part of the experience, not just a bystander. Erin did not just write about belonging, she invited me to belong in her thought processes and her relationships. She is hospitable with her words in a way that made me forgetful of the limitations of our medium. I am guessing that she will receive many emails, letters and comments from people who consider her a friend after reading this book.

Like any good love story, there is a fair amount of “will-she-or-won’t-she” in these pages. She writes gratefully about her Catholic father who continued to bring her and her brother to Mass, whether they wanted to go, or not. Later in the book, she writes about the Pharisees in a passage that zinged somewhere deep in my heart: “Now if you grew up in Sunday school, you’ll probably remember the Pharisees as the ‘teacher’s pets’  who were always trying to find favor with God through dogged obedience to religious law…I’m tempted to place myself out of their ranks. But Jesus spends a lot of time with the Pharisees, and I should be grateful for that. I suspect that this is a group of people to which I would have belonged, albeit reluctantly.”

But it’s not just a horizontal love story, but a vertical one, too. Although Erin’s faith doesn’t waver more than any honest person’s does, her words paint a picture of her love for a God whose love and dominion are vast and spacious. “Recognizing that God is both friend and stranger helps me hold the paradox that God is both knowable and unknowable,” she writes.

As if this book hadn’t already captured my heart enough, Erin also writes about friendship, learning to ask for what she needs from those around her, and “blurting out at random, “Do you like me? And secondly, do you have time for me?”

Late in the book, Erin describes herself as an “anthropologist of belonging” (she graduated with an anthropology degree, after all). As soon as I read it, I realized the full import of this book. This is not a how-to guide, or a self-help tome. It won’t teach you to like church better, or to find one for your very own. This book is a close study of what it looks like to belong, mostly from the outside. It is a missive of hope that says clearly: “this is possible, don’t give up.”


If I could, I would give all of you a copy of this lovely, insightful book. Thanks to Intervarsity Press, I do get to give it away to five of you. You can enter using the Rafflecopter below (if you're reading this on an email, you will have to click through to enter).

This is a book to buy for yourself and give away to friends. I already have several people in mind who need it. You can buy it here.

If you're local to my area, you'll also want to put March 5th on your calendar and come down to The Book Parlor from 7-8pm for a reading and book signing. Find out more here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway