It’s got to be pretty tough to be Richard Foster’s son. The man who wrote “Celebration of Discipline,” the modern textbook on spiritual disciplines, casts a very large shadow that would be hard to escape. Nathan Foster has spent his fair share of time trying to live out of that shadow, pursuing a life of rebellion and angst, but now he is back to let the rest of us know that there is hope beyond the shadows, hope beyond the larger than life legacies that have been left behind by those who have gone before us.
“The Making of An Ordinary Saint” is a memoir of sorts. It feels as if Foster simply published his journal as he intentionally journeyed through the spiritual disciplines outlines in his father’s book. In fact, each experience of a discipline is prefaced with a brief word and synopsis from Richard Foster, Nathan’s dad, outlining and highlighting the significance of the discipline. For those who are familiar with the disciplines, it’s a helpful recap to reacquaint yourself with them. For those unfamiliar with the disciplines, these serve as helpful introductions to “wet the whistle” of those who may embark on their own spiritual journey through the disciplines.
Nathan Foster is wide open, unafraid and unhindered by the truth of who he is and who he is becoming. He’s not afraid to reveal his flaws and mistakes in an effort to help the rest of us feel better about our own pursuits. With humor and stirring narrative, Foster moves through the disciplines: submission, fasting, study, solitude, meditation, confession, simplicity, service, prayer, guidance, worship, and celebration. He brings the reader into his own journey, allowing us to see, think, and feel all that he sees, thinks, and feels.
“The Making of An Ordinary Saint” hits the mark closer to home for me, the son of a pastor who has had to find a way outside of the shadow of my own father’s legacy. To experience and relive the journey of another fellow sojourner is a comfort, like a warm blanket on a cold and rainy day. Foster invites us all to join him in the journey and to celebrate the fact that the practice of the disciplines is not as far away and unattainable as we might think.
“The disciplines reveal our shortcomings. I’m beginning to see that practicing the disciplines for any reason other than as a response to love is potentially dangerous.”Choosing to practice the disciplines for selfish reasons or personal gain will be a frustrating experience, fraught with failures and shortcomings. But if we enter into it with humility and reluctance, we may find, as Foster did, that the disciplines are much closer than we think, that they blend into one another, and that practicing them may become as easy to us as breathing.
“The Making of An Ordinary Saint” wasn’t written for the scholars among us, those who are seeking to find a play by play description of how to apply these disciplines to our lives. In fact, Nathan Foster still seems to be on a journey back to the church, the Bride of Christ, after a long hiatus. It seems that there is still hurt and bitterness there, still healing that is in the process. That being said, some may be disappointed that Foster doesn’t dig as deep into theology as they might hope, but it serves as a reminder that this book was most likely written for those who are in the process of “coming back,” the prodigals whose journey will end with them in the arms of the Loving Father after wallowing in the filth with the pigs and squandering their inheritance on frivolities and self pursuits. It is for those that this book was most likely written, those who simply need to know the love of the Father.
I would highly recommend “The Making of An Ordinary Saint” for anyone who is interested in knowing more about the spiritual disciplines. Whether you are a newcomer to these disciplines or an old novice, this book is a refreshing tale of one man’s journey through the disciplines, his survival to tell the story, and his willingness to share with the rest of us who find ourselves becoming just ordinary saints.
(This review is based upon a copy of this book which was provided free of charge from Baker Books. These opinions are my own; I was not required to write a positive review, nor was I compensated for this review.)