Saturday, April 13, 2019

Gracious Uncertainty: Book Review

Published 15 August 2017.
Jane Sigloh, who has experience as an Episcopal priest, published Gracious Uncertainty: Faith in the Second Half of Life (2017).

Because I am scheduled to teach Spirituality and Aging in the upcoming fall semester, I'm selecting 20 books on that topic so that each of my students can do a report to supplement the textbook.

Many of the books are tipped either to theology or to folk wisdom. However, too many of the books I've selected are steeped in theology (or even psychology or New Age theories).

Sigloh's book leans more towards the folk wisdom side of the spectrum. However, it's clear that she is well read and can take a more academic approach. She often chooses to be more accessible, and it's a strength.

Her chapters are brief, maybe three or four pages long, making them ideal as daily meditations. They might also serve as prompts for writing in a journal.

The chapters usually start with a reference to popular cultures--a song quote or a film reference. Or she might talk about a personal experience that readers will find relatable.

For example, in the chapter "A Lot of Unlearning," Sigloh starts with a references to billboards she saw as a child. She then deepens that to discuss the tension between being saved by works and being saved by grace. She quotes from Timothy and C.S. Lewis. She also describes her moral and physical weaknesses before wondering:
"Maybe there's a message in my weakness. Maybe it's a good thing to unlearn that sense of self-sufficiency" (92). 
To illustrate her ability to draw on other written works, see her chapter "To Clap or Not to Clap" she describes the scene in Peter Pan where readers/viewers are asked to invigorate Tinkerbell by clapping.

Sigloh then writes about the relationship between prayer, faith, and miracles. She weaves in her own experience with references to Huckleberry Finn, Eli Weisel, and C.S. Lewis, St. Thomas Aquinas.

I look forward to seeing what my twentysomething students have to say about this book and how it addresses age-related issues of retirement, disability, grief, and death.  But I also see how the book has universal appeal for its discussions of faith, humility, wisdom, patience, and compassion.

Sigloh has written a gentle, lyric book that invites readers to deepen their understanding of everyday challenges.


Books on Aging and Spiritual Growth


  1. I will be looking forward to your recap late fall on how your students respond. I will have to read this book! Thanks for the recommendation.

    1. I've read about a dozen books on spirituality and aging, and this one is perhaps the most accessible. Thanks for visiting the blog, Haralee.

  2. Sounds very interesting and I, too, will be looking forward to see what your young students make of it. Thanks!

    1. Bonnie, I will be sure to follow up in December with a summary of their responses.