The Red Couch: Reluctant Pilgrim Introduction



We’ve all taken pilgrimages of sorts, some voluntarily, others as a matter of life circumstance. Even those we choose can be unexpectedly fraught with pain and joy. In Reluctant Pilgrim: A Moody, Somewhat Self-Indulgent Introvert’s Search for Spiritual Communitywe travel this sacred journey along with Enuma Okoro, catching journal-style glimpses of her path.

It is a story of being a child of the world, both Nigerian and American, while schooled in Ivory Coast and England and ultimately returning to the United States.

It is a story of falling in love with the ornate God of Catholicism while holding tight to her dad’s hands and then finding herself brought up Protestant by her mother.

It is the story of loss, that of a childhood torn by divorce, her father’s unexpected death and the beautiful and painful relationship with an addict deeply in love with God.

It is the story of singleness—of tear-jerking revelations of isolation in faith communities.

It is the story of a search for a calling—of making the leap to do work that she loves.

It is the story of a search for belonging— in a faith community, in a career, in a relationship.

And it is the story of the sustaining, miraculous power of the sisterhood of faith.

The gift of her introvert’s introspection generates deep spiritual reflections along her pilgrimage. She finds and shares key truth about God, faith communities, life and herself along the way.

All of these vulnerable themes are delivered with a generous sprinkling of wit, entertaining dialogue and disarming honesty (we learn about her shoe and celebrity obsessions and which Hollywood star she secretly wishes were her boyfriend.)

For me, the sisterhood of faith that Enuma’s story embodies was one of the most surprising, beautiful and touching parts of the book. She calls her girlfriends the women that show up in white lab coats (wearing gorgeous shoes), carrying steel tanks of oxygen. They are the women who keep her breathing when it seems her grief and loss have sucked all of the air out of her world, and she does the same for them.

We see it through the sacred, life-giving support expressed in a friend’s reassuring voice on the phone in the middle of the night, honest girlfriend conversations over lunch, and a friend sitting on the other side of the locked door holding space while Enuma weeps.

With each chapter just a few pages long, the 25 entries make it an easy book to read in a month. I read it over breakfast, savoring the spiritual insights to start my day (and laughing out loud on occasion.) Enuma’s search for spiritual community is the constant strand that binds the tapestry of entries together.

For whatever pilgrimage you may be facing–an unexpected move, the jump into parenthood, addiction recovery, a career transition, singleness–Enuma’s story will give you hope. There is space for you in the world, you will make it through your journey, and you will find a hand to hold along the way. You can start now by taking Enuma’s hand through her story and traveling along with her.

Come back Wednesday, Nov. 30 for our discussion post. Join the Facebook group to discuss the book throughout the month.

The Nightstand at SheLoves Magazine

Silence- And Other Surprising Invitations Of Advent– Enuma Okoro

Common Prayer: A Liturgy For Ordinary Radicals– Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hargrove, and Enuma Okoro

Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith– edited by Erin Lane and Enuma Okoro

Enuma Okoro (website)

Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith Sarah Bessey

Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church Rachel Held Evans

Found: A Story of Questions, Grace & Everyday Prayer Micha Boyett

*Recommended by Liana Norheim and Leigh Kramer


Are you reading Reluctant Pilgrim with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

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