Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Life as a quest

Just got back from Eat, Pray, Love the movie. It was very long but I have to admit that I like Julia Roberts and the sumptuous scenery and cinematography drew me into the stories beauty and pathos. Hard to see why it was an 'M'.  The censor must be toughening up or more likely did not like the spiritual content.  Now to be certain it was not Christian spiritual content and for that some will be unsettled but it was about the search for truth, love and authenticity and it set off resonances in me.  I have been to Italy and loved it.  I have never been to India or Indonesia but Bali reminded me of Malaysia and Singapore which I have visited and India bought to mind the World Youth Day pilgrims who stayed in our parish and set us all alive with their music, exuberant spontaneity, joy and vibrancy.  I also have a dearly loved nephew who just delights in India and it helped me understand a little of what is so appealing to him.

I have not been to all those places or experienced the exact things Liz did in the movie...some would say thank God lol.  But I have experienced deep loss, a scarred and wounded heart, grief that sucks the life and breath out of you and leaves you as empty as a discarded cicada shell unable to feel anything. I have experienced fear of loving and trusting again, the terror of growing up and facing the truth about myself and I have experienced love and joy and deep human kindness that restored my soul and let me live and dream again.  I have experienced the freedom of knowing myself to be loved by God just as I am.  All those things I am reminded of tonight because of resonances in that simple quirky little too long movie.

At the end Liz talks about life as a quest and that whether we travel to far off lands or simply journey in our heads and hearts we all must seek after what is true and we must all search out love within ourselves and for others.   It also dealt very honestly with the pain, grief and tragedy of divorce, broken relationships and damaged families and our need to forgive ourselves and face with honesty the things in ourselves which are ugly and which we prefer to ignore or avoid. She talked about setting out to find God and discovering the truth that God lives in my heart. I found the movie quite captivating.

It bought to mind a theology paper I started and initially hated called 'knowledge of God'  It was following Aquinas' five ways of knowing God from reason and felt like dissecting a frog.  I remember telling my lecturer that I thought I would withdraw because I needed my faith and it was possible that I could lose it if I did this horrid paper.  He wisely said that having recognised the  risk in the question I would now never find rest till I resolved the tension and the question.  Then he said the most astonishing thing to me at the time and the thing for which I am profoundly grateful.  He may not even recall, I have never asked him.  He said, "If doing this paper results in you losing your faith then that will be where God is calling you and in conscience you must follow...even if it is out of the church and far away into unknown territory because you must seek out the truth and not run from it and if that is where God calls you I promise to be a companion for you on your journey.  If you lose your faith over this paper you never had it and losing a false faith will be the best thing that happens because it will empty out the space for the truth." 

Well to be honest I paraphrase because those are now my words and understanding that I am projecting back.  But you get the gist of it.  It was one of the most enlightening and significant moments in my life.  I remember being struck not so much by the words, but by the incredibly attractive sense of freedom, openness and complete trust of the man that somehow God was bigger than all our questions and all our needs.  He knew a God far bigger than mine! One who was no mere crutch for the timid or placebo anaesthetic for the wounded.  He never doubted for a second that God would be with me whether I lost what I thought was my faith or not.

For those who do not know, I completed the paper and at the end experienced a touch of that freedom.  I recall writing bravely and probably foolishly in my journal that if they threw me in prison, took away all the trappings of faith including all the books and teachings and Bible, if they kept me in solitarty confinement and never let me share another prayer with anyone, they could never take away from me the truth about the knowledge of God who just 'IS'.  It was a marvellous freedom that began an ongoing growth in freedom that I am still journeying into and will follow all the days of my life till I see him face to face.  I don't always live it and in the struggle of this past year much of it has felt obscured and crusted over with grief and worry but it is still there when I touch deep into it.  That kind of truth never completely leaves you, it becomes who you are.

So quite deep stuff but what a treasure to recall it. The movie has bought back to me that special experience and for that tonight I am grateful. Nectar can be found in the oddest looking flowers!

p.s.This is not a movie review, just my personal ramble about its affect in me which isn't the same thing at all.

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