Right in the Middle But Left Out
by Jeffery Trees
BookVenture Publishing

"What in the name of God was happening, and what was making me feel I was right in the middle and yet left out? Well, the truth of the matter is, almost no one lives a life without being victimized somewhere along the line."

From the start of his memoir, Trees warns his is a heartbreaking tale.

He recounts his life, his family and work in ministry, and the lasting damages of abuse. Even as a young child, Trees' life begins with affliction. Born with a calcium deficiency, his prognosis is two years of life at best and though he survives, he is beset by the physical scar that remains from a calcium shot. This later affects his sciatic nerve (the largest single nerve in the human body) and the pain renders him unable to walk without crutches for nine months coupled with depression. A saving grace comes in the discovery of folk music, and he forms a semi-professional duet with friend and musician, Kent Locker. This sets in motion a life-long goal to entertain and spread the message of God. But one night, while gazing at the stars, he has a change of heart as the "whole universe was shouting" for him to answer a call of ministry far different from his dreams of music.

He meets and eventually marries, Kathy. Their relationship is plagued with complications from the start, and affliction continues to follow Trees as he begins his ministry career. The years in seminary is rife with uncertainty, regrets, corruption, depression, sickness, and death threats. He combats all of this with a mental strength that is admirable, as well as, his faith in God. Though not all is bleak as Trees is blessed by the birth of his children and manages to find love and support in small corners of each of the communities where he lives and works. But then Trees learns a dark truth about his wife, Kathy, who is a victim of sexual abuse, namely incest. As a Christian man and a minister, this is a hard truth to swallow, and it severely affects his marriage, the relationship with his wife and children, and everyone else around them. He strives to reconcile with this and desperately help his wife by means of counseling and support. Yet even these methods fail, and Kathy ultimately leaves him, driving a deeper wedge between him and the children and with a "hole in my soul and heart." An embarrassing truth comes to light as he realizes that he ministers to others yet is unable to minister to those he loves.

Trees is a good man and one may even go so far as to say he holds an angelic presence among the people deep-rooted in confusion and betrayal. He admits at one point, "all of us have our opportunity to be an angel to someone else, but we also have the opportunity to be the tempter and corrupter of others as well." Trees rises above the corruption, using his ministry and good nature for just cause, despite what failures come of it.

He is honest, sometimes too honest, a character trait he was once faulted for by another minister. A caveat to Trees' book is he has much to say and at times he offers too much. He is, by his own admission, an "extrovert's extrovert," which perhaps is an excuse for his lack of brevity. A chapter titled, "What in the Name of God Caused This?" is awkward only in the simple fact that it's considerably long. Trees pours such a wealth of biographical information into this one section without break for more than sixty pages that it potentially exhausts the reader. One needs time to process what is read, especially with sensitive subject matters, and breaking this chapter down might have benefitted the book as a whole. This is no way lessens the importance and relevance of what Trees discusses and shares but one may feel the need to pause. He makes up for it later when detailing his time spent with the support group for men married to incest victims. It is perhaps one of the strongest and most compelling parts of the book.

The recurring phrase, "right in the middle but left out," lends itself to the book's title and is peppered throughout. It is a reminder that no matter where Trees is and whatever he may be facing, he always seems to be in the middle of the situation yet on the outside looking in. Somehow he powers through these difficult situations, either alone or with the aid of others, and it strengthens him in the end. One never forgets that Trees is a minister as he interweaves well-known biblical stories to connect with and enhance his own story. Part memoir, part sermon, this is a deeply personal story that serves as a means of liberation. Trees calls attention to the injurious, long-term scars of sexual abuse. His story is eye-opening and through it he ministers himself and others experiencing similar trauma.

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