Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Review - Lost in the Middle

Lost in the Middle by Dr. Paul David Tripp (Shepherd Press)

Midlife can be a potential minefield of disappointments, broken promises and wayward dreams. In his latest book Lost in the Middle, Paul Tripp guides us through the challenges of midlife by bringing a gospel-centric view to this interesting period of life. As far as I know, it’s the first book of its kind written from a thoroughly biblical perspective. Paul Tripp has written many fine books including Age of Opportunity and War of Words. I've found that the strength of Tripp’s writings stems from his deeply insightful understanding of the human struggle matched with his commitment to bring biblical truth to bear on that struggle.

In Lost in the Middle Tripp does a masterful job of communicating what it feels like to enter this phase of life. He understands that “the struggles of midlife are a window to deeper, more fundamental struggles”. He identifies common themes that mark the road through midlife such as an awareness of mortality, the increasing tally of regrets and the loss of dreams once held dear. Instead of simply identifying these markers, he skillfully leads the reader through a biblically informed interpretation of these challenging situations.

For instance, in Chapter 3 – The Death of Invincibility, he tackles the issue of aging:

“…three factors that make midlife such a struggle: the universal awareness of the unnaturalness of death, the happy delusions of youth and the obsessive physical focus of our culture. Yet together they are not enough to explain why physical aging so often becomes a spiritual crisis in midlife.”

Tripp’s answer is simple, yet profound:

“It is humbling but it is true: if we are going to understand the huge struggle of physical aging, we can’t just look at the culture in which we live but must also examine our hearts…the only real solution is in heart change”

“The Lover of our souls is using the occasion of midlife and the reality of aging to expose and deliver us from the idols that resided in secret and ruled us.”

Perhaps because I’m a little bit of a dreamer, I found Chapter 5 – Towers to the Sky, particularly compelling. In this chapter, he discusses the power of our dreams and imagination. He reminds us that the ability to dream is a gift from God but also warns us that they can take hold of our hearts.

"...in the pursuit of my essential dream, I have been slowly building my own personal tower to my personal heaven. It has me. It defines me. It motivates me. It guides and directs me. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to press on."

Paul Tripp offers us a remedy for wayward dreams – dream vertically.

“Remember why you have been given this ability: so that the eyes of your heart could be enthralled with a vision of him and his kingdom.”

What makes this book so engaging is the real life anecdotes interlaced through every chapter. I found myself identifying with the individuals in these stories and connecting those anecdotes to similar situations in my own life. I found that it made the advice dispensed in the book more memorable and applicable.

One last point – don’t let the title fool you. I think “Lost in the Middle” has valuable lessons for readers of all ages. Many of the examples may be more applicable for those in midlife but the insightful interpretation of these life experiences and the biblically informed advice are lessons for a lifetime.

Lost in the Middle is an outstanding book - it's insightful to the struggles of midlife but finds its answers firmly rooted in biblical truth. I highly recommend it.

4 comments:

Tom Yi said...

Thanks for the book recommendation Andre. Paul Tripp definitely has a gift of pinpointing heart issues found in life's circumstances.

Also Andre, here is the book I mentioned to you earlier, "One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God" by Sam Storms.

Desiring God sent a copy to me and I am benefitting much from it. Here is one excerpt that I love:

"When it comes to satisfying our spiritual appetites, there is no such thing as excess. There are no rules of temperance or laws requiring moderation or boundaries beyond which we cannot go in seeking to enjoy him...You cannot desire pleasure too much. You can desire the wrong kind of pleasure. You can rely on the wrong things to satisfy your soul, things that God has forbidden. But the intensity of the soul's search for joy cannot be too great or too deep or too sharp or too powerful. The divine invitation is that we would satisfy our voracious appetite for spiritual delight by indulging our souls in every delicacy that God has to offer. He bids us imbibe the waters of spiritual refreshment from a well that never runs dry. He points us to the river of his delights (Ps. 36:8) and says, "Drink!"

andre said...

Tom, Thanks for your recommendation of Sam Storms' book. I recently heard about it but have not read it - please update us as you find nuggets of truth to savor.

Steve said...

Andre,
Thanks for your review of Lost In The Middle! Though I have not yet reached what most would consider middle age (I'm barely 29), this is nevertheless one of the best books I've ever read. I consider a helpful preparation for all the opportunities and temptations that may await.

I add my voice to yours: I commend this book for all, as a resource that repeatedly lifts our gaze from ourselves to our beloved Savior. Read and enjoy!

steve whitacre

andre said...

steve

thanks for taking the time to post a comment and for providing insight as to how the book has been helpful to someone not yet in mid life.