My latest book review for Booksneeze (aka Thomas Nelson) is The Sacred Journey by Charles Foster. It’s one in a series of books called the Ancient Practices, and perhaps the least known and least practiced of the seven ancient practices, at least by my account.
The book focuses on the concept of pilgrimage, traveling to sacred places in an effort to connect more fully with God. I have to admit that I approached this book with a bit of trepidation. Pilgrimage is not something I was ever really taught about; I most often associated it with people from other religions traveling halfway around the world to visit some shrine or landmark considered sacred in their religion. Having been taught about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (God IN us), the notion of needing to go to a particular place in order to feel God’s presence seemed to me like a bit of a waste of time and shoe leather.
That said, while I do not believe that one must go to a particular place (such as Jerusalem or Bethlehem or Rome) in order to experience God’s presence, there are certain places in which I do feel more connected with God. That’s one of the points that Foster makes–as he says, “…there is a sense in which everything is sacred–the veil between the sacred and secular has been ripped down. But that doesn’t mean that sanctity doesn’t bubble up particularly vigorously in certain places.”
Foster shares his own stories of journeys he’s made to various sacred places and the people and experiences he’s encountered during them. And the arrival, he points out, is less important than the actual journey and the lessons learned along the way.
He also states that traveling is fundamental to human beings, that we all have an inherent desire for change and for moving. He points out that Christ Himself was a nomad, one who wandered throughout His ministry with no permanent residence. Foster discusses the fact that pilgrimage requires great faith and is often painful, physically as well as emotionally and spiritually. But the road is often the place where God brings insight and revelation in a way that would not happen at home.
Pilgrimage is not limited to a physical journey, however; it is about getting beyond your comfort zone and pursuing God with your heart, not just your feet. Even those who are homebound due to physical limitations or responsibilities can experience pilgrimage.
This book was an enlightening glimpse into a practice that I didn’t know much about, and provided much food for thought. I have a feeling that this is one of those books that I’ll read again.