Roughly three years ago, a book came out and seemed to (at least temporarily) revolutionize our static American culture. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert was a gutsy self-help-esque book centered around the idea of “doing what you need to do to be happy”. (You know, standard “Oprah’s Book Club” stuff…)
On her journey to “finding herself” Elizabeth exposes her darkest secrets to her audience, and after ripping her own heart out and allowing it to bleed all over the pages for a while, she eats a lot of Italian food, takes a trip to India, and is suddenly able to sew herself back up, and viola! After a divorce, a family feud, and a few bad relationships, she is magically fixed!
Now, if you’re thinking that I sound skeptical, you would be 1,000% correct.
During the time that this book was all the rage, my life had essentially caught on fire and everything (and everyone) that I valued had either disappeared or had been removed for one reason or another. Everyone except the gentleman (hardly…) that I was dating at the time.
I was desperately seeking happiness and figured that if Elizabeth Gilbert was able to find happiness in her journey, that I might be able to get some happiness by proxy if I read her book.
I bought it, kept it in my purse, and struggled to enjoy the first third of the book. But there was simply nothing about her journey that seemed to bring me any joy; In fact, I only seemed to be slipping further down the rabbit hole of “blah”.
In an effort to speed up the process of rediscovering my happiness and myself, I decided to buy the movie when it came out on DVD (I’m an American, what can I say? Instant gratification is what we’re all about, right?). But even the movie put me to sleep– literally. I’ve tried to watch it on several occasions and have never made it past the second section when she’s in India.
For months and months, I continued to struggle to find some source of happiness. It wasn’t until I was given no other choice than to give up my comfortable lifestyle with my then-boy-toy and try to stand alone that I completely shattered.
If I was unhappy before the split, I was barely human after it. When my life had crumbled around me for the previous year, I had poured myself into making my relationship work. His friends became my friends. His interests became my interests. Heck, I even began reading the same books as him, simply so we would have some common ground amid our dysfunction.
After the break-up, I did the logical thing: I looked where society said that I would find happiness and I went after that. To my dismay, Eat, Pray, Love was still what the world was telling me would “fix me”. So I gave it another shot.
Pathetic and broken, I sat on my back patio and forced myself to re-read the book when this nifty quote jumped out at me for the first time:
“Moreover, I have boundary issues with men. Or maybe that’s not fair to say. To have issues with boundaries, one must have boundaries in the first place, right? But I disappear into the person I love. I am the permeable membrane. If I love you, you can have everything. You can have my time, my devotion, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money, my dog’s time—everything. If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself and I will buy Christmas presents for your entire family. I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else. I do not relay these facts about myself with pride, but this is how it’s always been.
Some time after I’d left my husband, I was at a party and a guy I barely knew said to me, “You know, you seem like a completely different person, now that you’re with this new boyfriend. You used to look like your husband, but now you look like David. You even dress like him and talk like him. You know how some people look like their dogs? I think maybe you always look like your men.”
It was like Elizabeth Gilbert was reading my mail!
I had become so much like all of the people around me that I literally lost “me”. Sitting in my backyard that day, I began to wonder who “I was” before I had gotten invested in all of the people in my life.
The first thought that came to my mind was “I was a follower of Christ” and the second thought almost made me sick to my stomach– “I was…”
I had been so busy following other people, tending to other people, trying to love other people (many against their will), that I had stopped following, loving, and pursuing Christ.
The years since that revelation have been rocky, but now as I sit here and think about my life, I can see that I have lost myself in someone once again… People think I’m crazy, but I am in love.
I am head over heels for my Creator and I am working everyday to give him everything that I have. My time, my devotion, my money, my family, my dog, my dog’s money [Sorry, Charlie], my dog’s time… I am working hard to ensure that all of it goes to furthering His Kingdom.
My previously non-existent boundaries still don’t really exist, but I care less about that now. I have a peace that passes all understanding. I have the joy that I was so desperately seeking in other people. I have a wonderful, flourishing relationship with Christ and through Him, I have found my worth and my joy again.
I’ve still never read, or seen Eat, Pray, Love all the way through (and I likely never will) but I’m grateful for the bizarre way that God used it to pull me back into my relationship with himself.
All of this to ask my question of the week:
When people look at you today, who do they see? Are you reflecting your spouse? Do you look like your dog? Or are you a mirror of your Father in Heaven?
Who have you lost yourself in? And are you happy with that decision?
“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.” (~Elizabeth Gilbert)
Maybe Elizabeth Gilbert was onto something there… It all sounds so familiar…
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~Romans 8:38
“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:8
Need I go on?