Eat, Pray, Love. Have you heard of this best-selling book from several years ago? Elizabeth Gilbert is the author. Ms. Gilbert has been transparent with her background. She grew up in a New England Protestant household where church was regarded mostly as a social outlet. Liz was the youngest child in her family and was instilled, at an early age, with mental angst about her mortality. So, she grew up frantically searching for God and hoped, in so doing, she could be assured to get immortal life and not be afraid anymore. She tried to live life “all at once.” She travelled on quests all over the country, had many jobs, got married and divorced early in life and found herself depressed and alone at the age of thirty. So, she went on the BIG quest. By her own admission, she went to, “Look for God like a man with his head on fire looks for water.”
As she journeyed, she continued to have, “the disturbing destructiveness of repeating sentences” in her brain about her mortality. These sentences repeated that she was missing out and would soon die. She was desperate to cleanse herself and work closer to God.
On her journey, Ms. Gilbert went to;
- Italy and found that eating is cleansing, to
- India and found that praying was cleansing, to
- Indonesia and found that love was cleansing.
It’s interesting that all these countries begin with the letter “I,” and the majority of their people don’t have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, just social, works oriented religions. What they have is a complex process of seeking after God, working with all their might to find and hold salvation. You may have read the book or seen the movie about the “me” journey.
Now, I want to be clear, I believe that Elizabeth Gilbert is an honest seeker. She has said in an interview that, if there were a fourth word in her book title it would be “repeat.” Eat, Pray, Love, Repeat. Sounds like instructions to washing your hair, doesn’t it? What she seems to be saying is that you cleanse, cleanse, cleanse and repeat. Cleanse yourself in Italy by eating fabulous, Italian cuisine and drinking in the beautiful countryside and appreciating the beautiful people. You cleanse yourself in India by praying to all of nature and the gods who surround you; and worship everything you see to cover all your bases. You cleanse yourself in Indonesia by studying relational love in all its forms, with the chance that all your memories will remain in your heart as a pure experience.
But, if I may, I would like to introduce Elizabeth to Mary. In the Gospel of John, Mary Magdalene is left alone on a fateful morning in the cemetery where they laid the body of Jesus and where the disciples found the stone rolled away; the body gone. In John, Chapter 20, Verse 10, the Scripture says;
“Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” which means teacher. Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, “I am returning to my Father, and your Father, to my God and your God.”
What “cleansing” happened during this scene? Mary Magdalene wasn’t “working through the scene for truth;” she knew the truth. It was that she was devastated without her Lord, but wanted, at least, to care for his body out of love for Him. She also knew the truth that she was totally powerless in life. She was the least and the lowest. But, that was the secret! It was the combination of love for the Lord and admitting the truth of her utter helplessness that allowed the angels to come to her aid. It was the humility of her breaking heart that prompted Jesus to appear and help her.
We, like Liz and Mary, are all looking for our Savior. But, unlike Liz, there was no “I” in Mary’s speech. She is not seeking her salvation out of fear. She is seeking her Lord out of love. It is when this happens that He reveals the ultimate truth of the resurrection. He reveals that He is eternal and is returning to God His Father and HER Father. Mary is saved, not because of any cleansing that she has done. Mary is eternal because of her relationship with her Savior. She need not travel the world eating, praying and loving in order to cleanse herself. She is clean because of her heart.
So, what are we, Rustics, to learn from this? Jon Ortberg answers in part;
“One day the end will come, and we can’t control that. But, the good news is, in light of eternity, each day that we live, each act of love, moves from potential good to realized good and will never be lost, not for all eternity.” (Jon Ortberg, It All Goes Back In The Box)
And Malcolm Muggeridge writes;
“When I look back at my life nowadays, what strikes me most forcible about it is that what seemed at the time most significant and seductive seems now most futile and absurd. For instance, success in all of its various guises; being known and being praised; ostensible pleasures, like acquiring money or seducing women. In retrospect, all these exercises in self-gratification seem pure fantasy, what Pascal called “licking the earth.”
Do we know anyone who might be “Licking the earth” until they go “into the box” at the end of life with little realized good from their potential good because of no true relationship to God, our Father? Will we go like Liz, searching for cleansing and, perhaps, just “licking the earth?” Or, will we cling to love for the Master of all the earth, like Mary. If we do our Rustic task, help others to see their eternal place in God’s plan for His people, “Like a man with his head on fire looks for water,” our quest will be a resounding success.
Stay Rustic, my friend!