The Pilgrim Life (a book review)

The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster explores the “ancient practice” of pilgrimage, offering both traditional and more abstract avenues through which to act the pilgrim (or at least think like a pilgrim). Foster does not attempt to “defend” pilgrimage. He does not offer a historical overview of the practice, and he does not provide many practical steps toward living pilgrimage. This isn’t a “practical” book.

It is, however, a beautiful meditation on the pilgrim life.

Foster’s book illuminates so much of what we suburban Christians are missing out on while we drive our comfortable cars— when we live in the same city for the whole of our lives, when we exist totally in an air-conditioned, cushioned, familiar world.

Pilgrimages teach us the beauty of a journey. They teach us to embrace messiness and simplicity. They connect the body and spirit. They remind us that we do not belong, that (while on earth) we are not home.

I love Foster’s chapter on “thin places,” places where, for whatever reason, God seems closer, “where, if you [are] quiet enough, you [can] hear the murmurings of God.” I have decided that the sea is my thin place. And I have vowed to visit Jerusalem.

But this book didn’t just make me want to travel. It made we want to live like a traveler, to pack light, to make tentative plans, to make room for the unexpected.

Foster reminds his readers in achingly lovely language that pilgrimage is more lifestyle than practice. We don’t just make pilgrimages. We are pilgrims.

P.S. This quote from early in the book is one of my favorite lines EVER:

"The kingdom is an eternal party, and it has already started. Everyone’s invited, but almost nobody comes. It’s perhaps not surprising. We’re told that if you come you’re likely to be killed. But who cares? If you get killed for dancing, you’ll just carry on dancing forever."