This morning I find myself cozying up to the movie, “Eat Pray Love” and a cup of coffee, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
But first I have a confession. When the book/movie first came out,I didn’t really like either of them. I didn’t get them. Or worse, actually, I really thought that I did get them. From the vantage point of my mid 20s, I assessed both of these things as the musings of a wealthy suburban woman who had skipped out on her life and skipped out on her responsibilities.
Sifting through the vestiges of a fairly conservative mainline Protestant upbringing, I did not yet appreciate the fruits of wisdom falling from foreign faiths and foreign trees. I did not yet appreciate the journey of women coming into their own. Their own voice. Their own power. Their own calling. I was young. I did not yet know my own voice.
At best, at best, I could sometimes make the hard long stretch to find a place where Christianity might meet or align with these foreign traditions as I encountered them. I could filter foreign religious concepts through my own Christian language and lens. Christianity was my soul’s deep well. The root system of my faith. My native language. And it still is.
I hold this knowledge of my past self close. I hold it close so that I will be reminded to be gentle and humble with other people who are on a journey. I hold it close so that I will remember to walk with people as an anam cara–spiritual friend–and guide as they find their own way in this world.
I’ve learned to speak so many beautiful languages as I age. I’ve also learned that things get lost in translation and they are best when they are held, appreciated, enjoyed in their unvarnished natural state. Now my world is an orchard full of tall trees. To climb. To explore. To take joy as we move through seasons together. So much deep wisdom. So much fruit waiting to ripen and bring sweetness to your life. Sampling and savoring and letting myself be overcome by luscious new fruit is as powerful to me as the continual act of homecoming. Of returning home. Of setting my table with the abundance of Christian fruit that has been a mainstay in my diet, my lifelong staple. Tradition and change are not at odds. They travel together. Much like other paradoxes in this life: joy & grief/laughter& tears, longing for that which is predictable & a restlessness to explore.
As a woman in my mid 20s, I also couldn’t truly appreciate the journey the Julia Roberts character was taking for herself. So full of the moral/emotional/spiritual development that punctuates and exemplifies the cross over from the first half to the second half of our lives. The half of life when we start taking off all the masks that we’ve accumulated over time and shedding our false selves in search of our one true self. Where do we search for that? How do we find that? How do we live from an authentic, and bold, and beautiful deep center. Our core.
Now, as a woman who has done a little bit more living, and growing, and learning in my own life— I adore this movie. Eat. Pray. Love. So full of themes of awakening, and growth, and quest. As we move towards Thanksgiving, I can think of no better summation of the important things in our lives than—eating, praying, and loving. Does it really get any better than those three things?
In fact, if the author of Ecclesiastes were to get his hands on this Liz Gilbert book turned Julia Roberts blockbuster and translate it into Biblical wisdom for our time, and if I were talking to that 25 year old version of me, I might sit her down for a cup of coffee and say this–
Eat– There really isn’t anything better than for people to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of us may find deep contentment. That we may eat and drink, and that we might find satisfaction in our life’s work– this is God’s gift to you, for you, alongside you. Nourish yourself in a myriad of ways. Let food and drink pour in so that you may engage your life and pour yourself out into your sacred work.
Pray—God has made everything so beautiful in its time. God has set eternity in the human heart. No one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. It’s a mystery. We pray for things we want and need. We pray for things we do not understand. We pray for those we love. We pray in gratitude of our abundance. We pray with foolhearty abandon and stubborn hope. We pray as form of self discovery. We pray as a form of intimate dialogue. We pray to know God. We pray to be known by God. We pray.
Love–Let your garments be white, and do not let oil be lacking on your head. Enjoy life with the spouse whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun. Translation, life can be awful and meaningless but also beautiful and hopeful at the same time. If Life is awful and meaningless–Love anyway. There’s your meaning. If life is beautiful and hopeful—Love from the source of your abundance. Love.
As each of you approach the Thanksgiving table–may you eat, may you pray, and may you be surrounded by love.
When a person endeavors to make art: a poem, a song, a novel, a film—you have no control of where it goes and how it moves and how others respond. You can’t manipulate or control or get people to respond or behave in any particular way. Your first duty as an artist then is to be faithful to the wild calling inside of you to create. To take stock of what is rising up inside you and give it permission to come into being. You are a host for creativity. You are a waystation for creativity allowing something to pass through you and out into the world. You are a shepherd caring for and nurturing your creative ideas. You are an investigator plumbing the depths of your inner world. You are a midwife coaxing and calling forth that which is crying to be born.
You are the gracious recipient of other people’s response. The waves and echoes and impressions that your work makes in the life of others. You will receive as people tell you through new eyes what your art is about.
Special thank you to Liz Gilbert for her prescience in making a piece of art that met me in my mid twenties when I wasn’t ready to receive it, but that would be patient, and that would meet me in this time and in this place when I was ready to receive it with an open hand. Thank you to the dynamic flow and flexibility of art for being multi faceted, for carrying multiple truths that let us hold something we’ve held so many times before, but to see it again with new eyes.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you. And as for those of you who read my words, I am so exceedingly grateful to you. The act of creation in itself is a spiritual practice for me. Truly, I would write even if no one else ever read a single word. I would write because I can’t imagine a version of the world where I don’t allow myself the privilege to write. But the ability to forge community and share in words together is so precious to me. To have other people engage with me, or be moved to create their own words, to grow/change, and harvest beautiful things in their own lives—I can’t tell you all how amazing that really is. It’s beyond words—except maybe two words–Thank you. This thanksgiving, I am thankful for a lot of things, but I am most thankful for all of you.
If I were to recite my whole long list of my gratitudes, I would light a candle and recite each of your names with intention. I would hold space with a pause. I would let your name flex, and change, and resound, and echo. I would honor your name and its holy, beautiful, precious space in this world.