Pray

Hi, my name is Lisa and I am a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.

All joking aside, that really is who I am. I am so western and so Christian that I can’t separate who I am from those two descriptions.

Because of who I am, if I chose to retreat from the world, meditate, and rebuild my spirit, it would most likely be in a place that looks like this:


The people there would probably look a lot like this:

And the worship service might look like this:

Or this:

I have to be honest: the idea of taking four months of my life to focus on spiritual disciplines and learn new habits before having to come back to “real life” sounds wonderful.

Beyond wonderful. Heavenly. Impossible.

But I’m not Liz Gilbert. As a writer, she was able to craft an assignment where she was able to do just that: pursue spirituality from within her realm of belief. The place looked more like this:


The people who lived and studied there looked more like this:


And worship times looked like this:

Gilbert’s willingness to spend four months pursuing an in-depth, in-person spiritual experience is to be commended. I know of many Christians who grieve this part of the book because of its extremely Eastern focus. And yet, Gilbert explores the spirituality she knows. She didn’t grow up in a home that pursued Christian spirituality. They were nominal church goers and when Gilbert decided to truly connect with God, she explored what she knew: eastern religion.

There are so many reasons I believe this section of Eat, Pray, Love is important, but I’m only going to discuss two. The first is that we — as white, anglo-saxon Christians who are immersed in that worldview so fully that we cannot separate ourselves from it — need to understand that not everyone shares our worldview. Not only do we need to mentally grasp that fact, we need to understand how they view the world. What is their definition of spirituality? How is it different from ours? Better yet, how is it similar to ours? You may not see a lot of carry over between Restoration Movement or Evangelical Christianity, but if you dig into orthodox Christian writings, you will see similarities. The value of stillness. The importance of manual labor to clear the mind. The need to put others before selves in order to not only serve them, but to also serve God more fully.

The second is that rarely have I read such an honest account of anyone’s search to connect with the divine. Maybe that’s a shortcoming on my part. If you have a reading suggestion, please let me know. Reading this part of Eat, Pray, Love gives you a look into Liz Gilbert’s heart, mind, and soul at a level that many of us never share with anyone. She puts it all out there — the failure of her marriage, her desire to cling to another relationship to avoid dealing with being alone. Her control issues. Her inability to focus and “be still and know.”

Maybe it is self-centered to talk so much about her experience, but how else could she share her personal journey? Can you do that? Share your spiritual journey with someone without talking about yourself?

I think we try. I think we try to discuss big ideas and truth and “ought to” and “should” and “ideal” and never get to the core issues of our selves. Hurting marriages. Parents who feel like failures. Living at full speed and yet never feeling like you’re doing enough.

Maybe — just maybe — if we were as honest with each other as Liz Gilbert is with us then we would have more answers than questions about true spirituality.

I hope so. That’s one of my goals. I want to be more open; I want to be transparent. Hold me to it, y’all. Hold me to it.

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Eat


When I slow down to think about it, I’m amazed by how rarely we Americans let ourselves actually feel anything. We try to rush through grief, only to be surprised when it catches up with us six months down the road. We even fill our days with so much activity that we have a hard time feeling happiness.

Several years ago I decided that I was done answering, “How are you?” with a glib, “Fine.” I don’t give casual inquirers a laundry list of all my ailments, but I do try to answer honestly.

How are you? Tired.
How are you? Kind of overwhelmed.
How are you? Too busy.

During her time in Italy, Liz Gilbert focused on being able to be aware of the beauty that was around her. Although it’s known as her pursuit of pleasure, it was actually her time of coming to terms with being an individual and being able to enjoy life for the simple pleasure of being alive. The beauty of Rome. The taste of gelato. The gift of daily life and moments of solitude. Learning to be alone without being lonely.

Sitting, savoring, experiencing each moment in a way that is similar to experiencing the food we eat.

Job 11:12 Does not the ear test words as the tongue tastes food?

Well, no, quite often we don’t. We don’t really hear anything nor do we really taste anything.

If you are going to read Eat, Pray, Love, you must understand that Gilbert is not a Christian, beyond the sense of being born and raised in a culture affected by Christianity. She makes choices that I hope none of my friends would make. Yes, she leaves her marriage. Yes, she quickly falls into another relationship. No, I do not believe any of this glamorizes divorce. She shares her heartache and her agony. She shares the intense loneliness and guilt that she goes through. Her year abroad is not a result of wanting to leave her husband. It’s the result of realizing that she never learned to live life as an individual. Men were her addiction and she wanted to learn to be sober.

Facing your addictions is a noble quest. Learning to be OK with yourself and being present in your own life is a big first step.

Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusts in him.

You cannot give yourself to God if you do not know who you are.

Today, slow down a bit. Taste life. Savor the smell and taste of what’s in front of you. Don’t spend your time wondering about the next thing or last week or twenty years from now. Be where you are. Listen, taste, feel.

Eat.

While you’re waiting

This is a busy week so I don’t want to jump into writing about Eat, Pray, Love but neither do I want to lose you in the mean time.

So . . . go check out what Christianity Today’s Her.meneutics blog has to say about it. I haven’t read all of these, but it will give you something to think about for the next few days.

This is a five-part discussion, written by a variety of people.

Part 1 sets the stage.

Part 2 discusses the beauty and tragedy of India.

Part 3 looks at Gilbert’s spiritual journey.

Part 4 examines why so many women envy Gilbert’s experience.

Part 5 focuses on the movie.

It’s been a couple of years since I read the book but even I noticed differences between the book and the movie. I’m rereading it now with plans to discuss it with a friend as we reread together.

How will I respond this time? What will speak to me? What will bother me. I confess that there were times with my first read through that I though, “Really? That’s the best you can do?” But it didn’t stop me from seeing the elements of truth that were there.

So … read the book or go see the movie or just read about at the Her.meneutics blog, but come back here next week to start thinking about it together.

Eat, Pray, Love


Have you read this book?

Or maybe you want to see this movie.


Well, I’ve done both. I read the book a year or so ago and on Saturday, Emily and I went to see the movie together. She and I are trying to take care of each other this year. We’ll be the only girls in the house once Noelle goes to college and Becca moves back out. So yeah — me and my baby girl are going to be the estrogen representatives in our world for a while and we’re going to take care of each other.


I know there are people in my faith tradition who have problems with Eat, Pray, Love because it has a lot of Buddhist leanings and because they feel that it glamorizes divorce.

I understand those concerns.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’m going to write about my response to Eat, Pray, Love and why it spoke so clearly to me. Why I took my daughter to see the movie. Why I’m encouraging friends to go see it.

Do I approve of all of Gilbert’s decisions? No. Do I hope that no one I love will make the same ones? Yes.

But I also believe that we can all learn a lot from Gilbert’s willingness to be honest about her shortcomings and investigate her own life patterns.

So stay tuned.