Saturday, November 24, 2007
I have just finished reading two books at the same time. This is really not so unusual in the sense that I am part way through several books at any given time. But these two have both been commanding my attention to such a degree that I read them both just about every day.
It struck me today that they represent the balance of Christian life:
loving God and loving and serving other people.
The Covenant Disciple Group movement, which I love so much for the sense of authenticity I see in it, is rooted in this very idea....that to live a balanced life involves being intentional about public worship and justice, and personal devotion and compassion.
Eat, Pray, Love is in one of my favorite genres: personal spiritual autobiography. (Not sure that is an actual name of actual genre...but basically it is Gilbert's personal story of her faith journey.) After a difficult divorce, Gilbert spends 4 months in Italy (eating) and enjoying herself, then four months at an Ashram in India, doing yoga and meditating, then four months in Indonesia (Bali to be exact) learning to integrate pleasure and devotion. She ultimately falls in love with a new man. Her descriptions of experiencing transcendence, of meditating and being transported into God's presence left me longing for that type of experience too.
Irresistible Revolution is more of a theology book, written very accessibly, which is really part autobiography and part Bible study, calling the church to some serious action. If we really believe in loving our enemies, and that God's Kingdom is found on the margins and among unlikely (and generally poor) people, then the church should be practicing these things. Claiborne is one of the founding members of the The Simple Way. This is a community in Philadelphia that lives in a poor section of the city, in solidarity with the neighborhood, trying to love people as Jesus does. They live as simply as possible, and do all kinds of things to bless those around them, with things like a community garden, after school tutoring, food assistance, etc. They are a part of a movement called "new monasticism"
It also strikes me that both of these authors are around my age. This did not really strike me until I had completed both books. I think this is part of the reason I really resonated with both of these authors...we are part of the same tribe. (Note: it is an odd feeling to realize that from now on, more and more authors will be my age. I think I am going to enjoy reading even more, if such a thing is possible.)
These books leave me longing for an even deeper faith life. I want it all (Lord, help me, it's true). I want a prayer life that transports me into the presence of God, and a public life that is dedicated to ministry on the margins of society (a.k.a. the heart of God's Kingdom)
My husband and I have been talking about trying (for a month) to live on minimum wage as a way of being in solidarity with people who work hard and end up with far too little. This feels like a good next step. We are looking at January.
I also want to go and visit some of the new monastic communities...and who knows, perhaps someday, an Ashram! (In the meantime, I think some more intentional yoga is in order.)
What I really want is live the most authentic life of faith that I can...these books have opened doors in my imagination of what is possible.