Recently I found Reluctant Pilgrim, a book that I really enjoyed. I chose it because I liked its graphics and subtitle: “A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Community.”
Enuma Okoro took me in on one of the first pages when I read, “It’s hard to want to engage someone when it’s clear right off the bat that they are going to see what they want to see about you and rarely anything more–usually because it would be too much work, as mutual life-giving relationships have a habit of being.”
The last part of that sentence told me that she knows something about relationships and words, and the rest of the book confirmed that hunch.
She talks about how people can call each other to be useful in the Kingdom of God, and also about how we communicate with God, and what prayer is, and who He is.
“Learning to pray and communicate from the present seat of your emotions is part of learning to be awake and aware of life around you and within you. You are a very intelligent woman, Enuma, but sometimes we can get addicted to our minds just like an alcoholic becomes addicted to the bottle to cope. Sometimes we can over-analyze God’s presence in our lives, always looking for signs to interpret. Sometimes the most faithful prayers are the questions we bring to God.”
Come to think of it, it’s kind of awesome that we serve a God who wants us to articulate our thoughts, to argue, to be persistent, to not give up easily, to go ahead and make our mistakes and learn from them. That’s good parenting, isn’t it?
The book is full of a woman’s pathos, her fears, wilderness, and joy in her search for meaning and love which, she discovered, is not found in seeing yourself as the center of the world, but in the Gospel’s unattractive ideas of sacrifice, humility, generosity, cross. But she makes those words seem more inviting and beautiful than before–as something that is beautiful and something to aspire to.
Usually God’s story will come into conflict with who I already think I am and what I already assume I should be doing with my life. Because other endless loud and extremely convincing narratives about consumption, feeling good, personal identity, and nurturing self easily draw me in but have little to do with community, radical hospitality, obedience, discipline, worship, and the kingdom of God. Perhaps the bonus gift is that I am also learning that Christ-like community takes shape within regular old relationships.
She is refreshing and honest, which means she’s vulnerable, serious, and funny enough to make me laugh aloud sometimes. Which is my definition of a good book.