Monday, August 30, 2010


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.

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Have we talked about the book Soul Mending, by John Chryssavgis? I think you would really like to read what he has to say about confession....telling it like it is. In the right places, of course, within a safe relationship.

Let me know if you'd like to borrow it.

I love you, and I'm so glad you are committing to this new part of your journey.

And I'm glad we can talk more than twice a year now, too. :-)

(Though I wouldn't mind being in Italy more often.....)