The celebrated and movie-fied book Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert lived in the dusty back row of my bookshelf for over a year. I tried reading it once before, but got hung up on this sentence in the introduction:
“Sincere spiritual investigation is, and always has been, an endeavor of methodical discipline.”
I’m not a big fan of the D-word: discipline. (If you know me, you are probably shaking your head vigorously in agreement. Stop it! 😙) Anyhow, my spiritual path has been guided more by J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Not all those who wander are lost.”
I’ve started reading Eat Pray Love again, because I had the movie on recently while cleaning out my side of the bedroom 😷 in preparation for Christmas. I found myself cleaning only during the commercials and sitting on the bed watching when the movie came back on. So, I decided to read the book as a sort of meditation, a focus, for the month of December.
Elizabeth Gilbert’s story speaks to some Very Big Questions with which I’ve been wrestling for years. In particular, why am I, a so-called cradle Lutheran, steeped in church tradition and Bible-reading and such–so extremely uncomfortable with the idea that the only path to the Divine (whom I call God) is through a rigid script that goes something like this: 1) Realize you’re a sinner. 2) Repent from all your sin. 3) Confess your sins to Jesus.?
I mean, what about the person sitting on a rock somewhere in Jabip in the mountains. What if they don’t know the salvation formula?
I know; I know: Paul said in the book of Romans in the Bible that here’s how you are saved. Please don’t get your Christian panties in a bunch. Couldn’t we just entertain the idea that people need to embrace living in Love and then share that Love with everyone? Wouldn’t living in Love be our salvation?
Okay, I’m not looking for a debate here. I’m a big fan of Jesus. He has shown me the way to heaven, although I’m not talking about where I go when I die; I’m talking about where I’m already a citizen and where I can learn how to act like it.
But I digress.
Two-ish years ago, my husband began a before-mentioned (in another post or two) cancer-curing journey. Three months before that was the surgery on the back of my teenager’s skull to give her brain enough space to hang free. Before that, five emergency trips to the hospital in two months for my mom.
They all got better, thank God! Except for me. I got worse. I’ve spent the last year-ish recovering from the worry and hurry of addressing my loved ones’ needs. (FYI I’d do it all again for them.) I’ve been learning lots and, in the process, shedding a whole lot of stuff that has weighed me down for years, stuff that had become a habit. Fear. Worry. Dread. Hopelessness. Guilt. Toxic Shame. Hesitation to act on my own behalf. Caring about what people think about what I’m doing or how I look. Self-Criticism. Wondering endlessly about getting it right spiritually.
That last one is the latest to go. Worrying about my questions about Jesus’ purpose and plan for me and all people. You see, I noticed that Jesus did something amazing for humanity, yes, and also said that we would do greater things than he did. There are so many places in the Bible that hang me up, that make the God of the Universe that I know so unrecognizable that I’ve been known to toss the whole notion of God right out the nearest stainglass window.
You see, I see God (aka Love) in people who don’t profess Jesus as their savior. I’ve seen God in people who do bad things. (Ahem! Like, all of us.) I saw God in a dog the other day. Really! Here’s her pic:
And let me say here that I know the hackles of many a Christian will be raised by these notions I’m putting forth. I know that they will point to the Bible and say, “It says right here that…” But I have a problem with that. I think that, perhaps, we’ve gotten the Bible a little wrong here and there. I can’t see God excluding anyone, for any reason, from His/Her Love. I can’t. It’s too capricious. God isn’t capricious. The Universe is designed to be good to all, isn’t it, no matter how we act? God The Father & Mother Of The Universe is loving, supportive, perfect, inclusive, forgiving. Right?
Or, perhaps we can lovingly agree to disagree. And we can pray for each other.
Back to my story. What I’m reading in Eat Pray Love is resonating deeply in me. It’s about emotional and spiritual and geographic journeys. It’s about leaps of faith. I relate to so much in what I’ve read so far. Five months ago, I left my job of umpteen years. Didn’t know why at the time, but I needed to. Since then, I learned that I’d been living with lung-restricting stress from all those family emergencies, and that I needed self care in a way I’d never needed it before. That realization has brought me to mind-blowing heights of insight and inspiration, and down to my knees as I surrender, one by one, my need to hang on to unhealthy habits of thinking and doing and being. I know I’m loved by the Lover Of Everyone In The Universe.
Today I see madness in my city, country and all over the world. I’m shocked, as I’m sure you are, at the daily news of bloodshed, political shenanigans, unbridled greed, and…but, wait! I remember to stop daily, breathe, and I see what I have, where I’ve been, and that Love is with me. I’m eating good spiritual food. I’m praying for and consciously loving everyone, including the people I see as enemies. I’m terrible at it, sometimes. I don’t let that stop me, though. Please don’t let it stop you.
I’m an Amazon Associate. If you want the book, click here: Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert.