Jesus Take the Wheel
Finding a better path
I am intrigued by the popular response to a recent book (and movie) called Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. Many have found inspiration and perhaps a role model in its author, Elizabeth Gilbert. Who doesn’t want to be led to places where romance, insight, and a door opening to everything might be found? Gilbert, like Nicodemus, knows the dark night of the soul. She touches us where our instincts are: in our worries, predicaments, and hopes. Her message draws us because it knows what our heart wants.
An earlier generation of seekers read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Robert Pirsig worked with the notion that the “motorcycle” each of us is working on is our self. We respond to journey metaphors. Pirsig traveled with his son. His story included powerful motifs about mentoring, communicating between generations, and finding genuine wisdom in our lives while on our spiritual path.
Real spiritual maturity often seems to require leaving behind a form of life, maybe forms of religious practices that are tired or irrelevant. Authentic nourishment must be available somewhere. I bet it’s in an out-of-the-way restaurant! Or maybe it’s in a dusty roadside diner stocked with intriguing fellow travelers.
While these journey metaphors may assist us on our path toward God, they often leave us with lingering questions. How do we enhance our faith journey? To meet God, must we take physical excursions to far-off exotic places or the open road? Here is the deeper challenge: Could God be looking for us in the familiar, the close to home, the often frustrating or dull place we already know? Might God transform the familiar so it is anything but boring—so that it becomes what it was created to be?
A classic insight from another searcher centuries ago evokes a glint of recognition. In a hard-won realization after years of traveling, after feasting and fasting, after meditation and prayer, and after loving and losing loved ones, Saint Augustine wrote, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions 1.1).
It is sometimes hardest to see what is most familiar. Does Christian tradition offer us a better, surer way to spiritual maturity? For Christians, our spiritual compass doesn’t always lead us to far-off lands, exotic encounters, and the open highway (though it might!). Our compass is a person.