There's more to a relationship with God than eating, praying and loving

August 30, 2010 

My grandmother was nice enough to see "Eat Pray Love" with me while my friends were all at "Salt" and "Inception."

I figured that eating, praying and loving are things we all enjoy, so what could go wrong?

First, I hold to the theory that Julia Roberts could rock an infomercial because -- especially given the pajama-like wardrobe the movie's costume department had her in for the India portion of the film and half of Bali -- it was her smile that carried the scenery.

Second, I was immediately intrigued when Julia began praying at the beginning of the film. The scene where she kneeled in the center of her bathroom, begging God for some guidance -- it was so true. Who hasn't been there, in tears, asking God to step in and show them what life is about?

I was excited to see where it would take her. However, somewhere between pasta in Italy and chanting in India, she missed the point.

I should clarify that I have not read the book, so I don't know if this journey of self-discovery takes a different track in print. While meditating in India, Julia reaches the conclusion that it's all about finding the "god within." This is where my toenails curled.

I'm not saying that all those nice people meditating at the ashram were bad. In fact, it was refreshing to see people attempting to declutter the noise of their lives. It was a good first step, but they were losing sight of what prayer really is.

Billy Graham said, "To follow one's conscience today is a bit like following a wheelbarrow: You generally end up where you want to go." The thing about prayer is that it is the lifting up of our hearts and minds to a God who does dwell in our hearts, but who is also beyond us -- a being who has no beginning or end and who created us for union with him for all eternity.

If you are finding "god within," chances are he looks a lot like you and will lead you exactly where you think you should go. This might not lead you straight to hell, but you might find you're missing something.

As Father Cavanaugh stated in the classic film, "Rudy": "Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard, incontrovertible facts: There is a God, and I'm not Him."

When life is challenging and just plain crummy, I'm grateful prayer isn't about finding the "god within" because frankly, those are the days I need to get over myself and nothing "within" is inspiring. That's when I'm glad that I can look beyond myself for help, inspiration and, ultimately, love.

St. Augustine describes prayer as "the encounter of God's thirst with ours. "God thirsts that we may thirst for him." Prayer places us in union with the God who created us and waits for us to spend eternity in heaven with him.

This, in my opinion, is better than what's going on inside my mind any day.

Alison Griswold is the director of youth ministry at St. Francis By the Sea Catholic Church. Follow her on Twitter @alisongriz.

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