We are not left to find our way alone, for God is at once our destination and our means of reaching it.

Lisa Deam, 3000 Miles to Jesus

What might it mean to view this life as a pilgrimage? Even in the midst of this pandemic, when travel is difficult, life is still a journey, as many have pointed out. But the Christian life is not just a journey, it is a pilgrimage. We are pilgrims on our way to “the city that shimmers beneath a horizon we cannot yet see,” as Lisa Deam puts it in her wonderful new book.

We’re going to Jerusalem, the city at the center of the world – the city where Jesus waits to welcome us home.

Lisa Deam, 3000 Miles to Jesus

Viewing life as a pilgrimage can help us to travel through the ups and downs of this life with faith and with courage. Viewing life as a pilgrimage also invites us to turn to pilgrims who have gone before us, and to learn from them how to travel faithfully, and how to “embrace a life of intentional pilgrimage.” 

In this book, Deam turns to a unique source to help us do this: English pilgrims from the middle ages, some of whom embarked on arduous, perilous pilgrimages to Jerusalem, a distance of some three thousand miles in all. There is much that we can learn from them, and Deam does a fine job of sorting through their journals and pilgrimage experiences to find nuggets of faith-filled wisdom for us modern-day pilgrims. I enjoyed learning about these pilgrims, people like Felix Fabri, Margery Kempe, and Pietro Casolapeople. They lived in a world so different from our own, and yet they also faced many of the same spiritual challenges that we do. They journeyed to Jerusalem looking for God, for life’s true meaning, and for an experience that would deepen their faith and help them grow closer to God. They recorded their joys and frustrations, their challenges and blessings on the way, and their experience can teach us and encourage us on our way. 

For example, these pilgrims teach us that “The first lesson of our pilgrimage is this: before we even walk out our front door, we need to know where to point our feet.” Using these pilgrims as guides, Deam pushes against the oft-shared wisdom of our time, that it is the journey that matters. Not completely – the destination also matters. And the good news in viewing life in this way is that we know where the path leads. As Christians, we know where our lives are headed, and because of that we can take risks and face our trials with courage. 

And not only do we know our final destination, where the path of faith leads, but Deam reminds us that “one of the great paradoxes of pilgrimage” is that “as we make this pilgrimage to God, we also make it with God. We are not left to find our way alone, for God is at once our destination and our means of reaching it.” Isn’t this what Jesus promised in his very last words of Matthew’s Gospel? “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

In this book we also learn from other mentors of the faith, such as the English mystic, Walter Hilton. Hilton reminds us that as people of faith we should travel light and trust in our loving God. He offers a simple mantra:

I am nothing; I have nothing; I desire nothing but the love of Jesus alone.

Walter Hilton

When the storms of life throw us off course, we can return to this mantra, and “retrain our gaze on our destination.” Hilton also assures us and all pilgrims that we will reach our destination, no matter how arduous the journey becomes.

If you keep on this way, I promise that you shall not be slain but come to the place that you desire.

Walter Hilton

The place that we desire has a name. We can call it Jerusalem, or Heaven, but the place is always, and only, where our loving God is to be found. We are pilgrims on the way to this blessed place, assured not only that we will come to this place, but that our loving God is with us every step of the way. 

I am grateful to have received an advanced digital copy of this book to be able to offer this review, and I encourage all of my fellow pilgrims to let Lisa Deam’s faith-filled words of wisdom guide you on your way to the  “the city that shimmers beneath a horizon we cannot yet see.”

You can find her book here: 3000 Miles to Jesus: Pilgrimage as a Way of Life for Spiritual Seekers.

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