I'm re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love," mostly because I feel like a different woman coming at it today than I was four years ago when I first picked it up.
If you're not familiar with Gilbert's memoir, it's an account of the year that she spent in Italy, India, and Indonesia finding balance between her passion for the worldly, her investigation into the spiritual and the perfect blend she strikes between the two.
Since I studied briefly in Greece and Turkey in undergrad, I've dreamed (for what seems like an eternity) about living in Tuscany. Italy symbolizes indulging in the guiltiest and most beautiful of pleasures...food, wine, gondola riding under the moonlight and dancing in villas far into the hills.
Post undergraduate school and a really bad break up, I came face to face with my own personal relationship with God. Lost, abandoned, stranded in a life that didn't look like what I crafted on paper, I became intimately and forever gratefully acquainted with the sacred.
And since that time in my mid-twenties, I've always struggled with how to marry the two.
We are both human and divine. We desire the flesh, but we also are called to sacrifice our desires. We yearn to indulge, but we're also taught to repent.
Gilbert's forging of her own personal relationship with God and coming into the divine is beautiful for it gives the reader hope that faith is personal. And it isn't righteous. God knows us. He knows our desires. And He doesn't love us in spite of them. He loves us because of them. He made us.
Indulging in the worldly...the flesh, the food, the blood, the tears, the passion that is before us seems wholly natural. But recognizing that we're from the divine gives us room for grace, for forgiveness, for starting anew, for unconditional love.
Maybe someday, I'll find myself on the streets of Italy and if I do, I'll be saying a prayer of thanks.