Monday, January 17, 2011

Eat, Pray, Love and Grace

I finally sat down to watch the movie, “Eat, Pray, Love.” It is already available as a seven-day rental, so I know I’ve waited a while to experience the book by movie. I missed watching it in the theater with some girlfriends several months ago…and I’m glad for that intervention.

When the book came out, I remember reading it in a tent along the shores of Lake Mille Lacs. Lying in the heat of July, I completely identified with the lost woman, but not the one who found herself in the end. Her hopelessness in some way justified my own shrunken heart. Meanwhile, I was missing my life. That year I didn’t buy or wrap my children’s Christmas gifts. I felt trapped in my house, my marriage, my choices.

Sometimes now I sit in church and this ocean of warmth washes over me and I feel as though my face is shining. But it’s not just in church. It’s when I bring ibuprofen to my husband with a glass of water. It’s when my daughter sits by me on the couch knitting a hat. It’s when I stir a pot of homemade chili or feel the water hit my face in the shower.

My life may look the same on the outside as it was a few years ago. I didn’t travel around the world to find myself. I didn’t change my house, my religion or my husband. This life of grace is the most extraordinary ordinary. And if I think about it too much or try to hold it, it floats away like smoke.

There are still times when the burdens and regrets of this world sink in and I miss the call. A smiling woman gives me directions as I rush back to the parking garage after an exhausting day, and I am too late to smile and thank her. The frozen foods dealer stands in my front entry and talks briefly of his mother’s recent death, and I’m at a loss for words of comfort. Days go by before I take time to read that bedtime story.

But this, too, is grace. At least I recognize the missed opportunities now. I’m no longer absorbed in petty frustrations and resentments and jealousies. I have nothing to consume, earn or acquire. My heart is growing more spacious, softer and open for business.

I’m struck by how often I want to reach out and touch the shoulder of someone as we speak about our day, our children, our plans. I share their happiness and pain far more acutely than I could have imagined not long ago. That tactile connection to them, a touch however brief, says that they are real and breathing and valuable. Right here. Right now.

Some people I can’t touch. I send them love and light anyway, hoping and knowing that it’s enough. A silent prayer for their health and welfare. For peace. For grace.

After all, this life is no longer mine to control and bend to my will. Whether I see with my eyes or with my heart, it’s all happening in its own time and its own perfect outcomes. So many things have happened in this more spacious heart that I could have never engineered them. So many sad. So many difficult and defeating. So many wondrous and unexplainable. But all necessary and leading to a devotion and faith that only a child would understand. I am becoming that child, not from innocence or foolishness but from love, service and wisdom.

Just the other day, I had the opportunity to be with another who is also growing a more spacious heart. Struggling against the loneliness that sometimes comes from feeling outside of this world, she asked me, “But can God come down and give me a hug when I need one?”

And I said, “Yes. He gives it from me and anyone who loves you. And then you pass it on.”

I try to walk slower now. I try to hug longer. The holy words gathered up like daily bread often leap from the page to greet me. When I sing, it feels like a story that began in anger and desperation, moved through humiliation and shame and is resolving itself in worship…not to a person or things or self but to the One who is and is to come. He is the only one who deserves my song anyway. And it is good.

It is good in the extraordinary ordinary moments, when a deli owner lets me in after closing, makes me the most beautiful turkey sandwich and tells me I can pay him next week. When I play Barbie salon for two hours with a seven-year-old who won't always be seven. When the propane bill is less than expected. When a stranger walks by and gives me the peace sign.

This grace makes so much sense that I can’t make sense of who I used to be. I can only write and sing and smile, feel the warmth and remember that it is always well with my soul.

Psalm 40