Wednesday, September 01, 2010
Eat Pray Love
"Give us this day our daily bread..." Matt. 6:111
Eat Pray Love is a two-hour-plus travelogue of the real-life author of the book that inspired the film, Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts), a frustrated New York author experiencing a mid-life crisis.
At the beginning of the film, Liz decides, almost on a whim, that she no longer wants to be married to her husband Steven (Billy Crudup); after quickly jumping into the arms of a young actor (James Franco), she grows frustrated with that experience and makes plans to take a year-long retreat around the world. The rest of the movie is a three-part pilgrimage as she explores and then indulges in Rome, India, and Bali, respectively, to eat, pray, and love.
While I have some serious issues with some of Liz's actions (especially her selfish divorce - and the quick extramartial affair she immediately clings to), what is incredibly telling is her desire for a sabbatical - the need to get away from it all.
Liz seems to humbly realize that the problems in her life might just be her own fault. She also knows that continuing along the same path in New York will only add to her angst and slow her progress towards achieving illumination. So, with this in mind, she plunges into an international retreat experience.
In Rome, she learns what family and friendship really means. In India, she learns to face her fears and her failings head on. And in Bali, she learns the value of simple living and good work.
Unfortunately, her on-screen journey is not one that leaves audiences with much hope. Few, if any, moviegoers can abandon their lives for a whole year while they spend excessive amounts of cash on gelato and spaghetti in Rome or a picturesque villa in the beautiful gardens of Bali. In fact, in today's economic climate, even a week-long retreat within their own country can nearly bankrupt a person.
But the fact remains for Liz and for each one of us: we need to humbly admit that we need to take the time to re-center, to re-connect, and to re-treat. So how do we do it - and not have to take twelve months overseas to make it happen?
One suggestion is to find a quiet moment each and every day. In the gospels, we read: "Rising very early before dawn, Jesus left and went of to deserted place, where he prayed." (Mark 1:35) Even the Lord, who seemed to have little time for a sabbatical like Liz, found a few moments each day to re-charge his batteries. Those quite moments, though, are usually short-lived, even for Jesus (see the next verse, 1:36 in Mark's Gospel: "Simon and those who were with him pursued him and finally on finding him said, 'Everyone is looking for you.'")
Another suggestion would be to connect with a spiritual director or coach - who can walk with us on our life's journey. Just as Liz sought out a guru in India and a medicine man in Bali, we might also consider finding someone with whom we can share our story and seek guidance. One of the most frustrating things that Liz and many of us experience is the concern that we will have to solve all of life's problems alone. Having a spiritual guide and coach, however, reminds us that we walk together on the paths God sets out for us.
Still another way to "reboot" ourselves is by making plans to participate in a retreat. This sabbatical can be for a day, a weekend, a week, or more - and should be carefully planned so that it fits into a budget or can be done in concordance with one's job, vacation time, and family. For some, this will be an organized retreat sponsored by a religious organization; for others, a self-guided silent retreat may be just the thing. Regardless, a retreat experience can give us an opportunity to take God up on his offer, "Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. Six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord... That is why the Lord has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy" (Ex. 20:8-10, 11) Find the time to create a sabbath - to pray, to honor, and to reconnect with the God who made us.
Even though Liz's journey may not be the best path to take, it does remind us of three of the things we need to constantly continue to work on in our lives: eat, pray, and love.
We must eat healthy and be grateful for "our daily bread" (Mt. 6:11) and all that God provides us. Too often, we devour our food without thanking God or others for providing it to us - and without remembering the poor and hungry who go without that food in a regular basis.
We must pray without ceasing, as St. Paul puts it. Whether to praise God or to ask his favor, prayer is an essential element to life - and it reminds us to be humble before our creator and to trust in the power of God to save us from our pain and sin.
We must love one another as we love ourselves. We must look beyond our selfish ways and be a servant to all. Love is not just an emotional high, but a way of life. Love means forgiveness, patience, compassion, and generosity towards each and every person we meet.
To remind us to eat, pray, and love to the fullest, Jesus gave us a simple prayer which incorporates these themes: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil."
And if all we have time for in a given day is to silently pray this beautiful prayer, it will be a step along the right path.
Let us pray to the Lord of the Sabbath that we might have even more time to revitalize our souls in the hectic, self-centered, and angst-ridden landscape in which we sit. Let us pray for the rest we so desperately need. And let us pray for one another, that we might all find a way to connect to the God who gives us this life we live.