This piece was also featured as a nationally syndicated column with the USA Today Network
The Coronavirus has changed everything about our world, including our language. Words that were unimaginable just a year ago are now everyday vernacular. For example, “blursday” is a term describing the inability to remember what day it is due to the disorientating effect of lockdown, and a “covidiot” is someone ignoring public health advice. My favorite, however, is “covexit,” which refers to how we exit lockdown.
Covexiting has become a national pastime at this point. What will we do when we are vaccinated? Where will we go? What trip will we take first? While we ponder these questions and wait our turns for Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, we can expand our horizons, even while on lockdown.
I tend to use the wisdom found in one of my favorite books, Eat, Pray, Love. Written by Elizabeth Gilbert about her extraordinary trip during a difficult time in her life, the book offers three simple lessons for healing. While it’d be great to apply those lessons during a luxurious trip around the world, we can find the same healing simply by doing a version of eat, pray, love . . . at home.
In the book, Elizabeth Gilbert eats her way through Italy, reclaiming a fresh, new affection for food. I think the pandemic has encouraged all of us to reclaim an affection for food. (Perhaps, too much of an affection?) So, maybe we should consider digesting something else. How about the food of new ideas, stories, wisdom, and dreams? One of the best ways to digest new ideas is to read.
Consider one of the great readers: Jesus. Luke 4:17 presents the story of Jesus reading the scroll of Isaiah in the Temple. He’s not talking about the scroll, not repeating it from memory, but reading it. Considering that the literacy rate in ancient Rome was at best 10%, it is a powerful statement about Jesus’ priorities that he, an itinerant preacher from a rural area, would be able to read.
Every day, we should take time to read something new. You don’t have to consume all 1,200 pages of War and Peace. It could be just one page a day of a book of your choosing. This practice is about digesting new ideas. As the old saying goes, every book is an adventure waiting to happen.
Gilbert also visits India, where she learns about the power of prayer. You don’t have to visit a guru in India to find that union with God, though. In fact, a quiet place in one’s home may provide the most powerful connection.
Jesus offers the best suggestion in Matthew 6:6: “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to God in private.” Praying amidst the noise of the world is like being on Zoom and seeing the warning, “Your connection is unstable.” Prayer requires a secure connection which is often best found in a quiet corner of home.
Finally, Elizabeth Gilbert visits Indonesia, where she finds love. While it sounds romantic, the truth is that you don’t have to travel thousands of miles to find love. The singer Stephen Stills had it right: “Love the One You’re With.”
The truly rich gifts of life are the things right in front of us, like the love seen in a crayon drawing from our three-year-old, the beauty in a morning run with the sun coming up, or the joy of finding a $5 bill while doing laundry. Some of us don’t see those gifts because we have stopped looking. In the words of a Jewish prayer, “Days pass and years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles.”
Travel is great. No doubt about it. However, as the vaccines progress and we plan our covexit strategies, just keep in mind that the answers aren’t all “out there.” The ability to experience new things, to enrich our spiritual life, and to find love is right in front of us. All we have to do is eat, pray, love . . . at home.