In the end, what I have come to believe about God is simple. Its like thisI used to have this really great dog. She came from the pound. She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, What kind of dog is that? I would always give the same answer: Shes a brown dog. Similarly, when the question is raised, What kind of God do you believe in? my answer is easy: I believe in a magnificent God.
Of course, Ive had a lot of time to formulate my opinions about divinity since that night on the bathroom floor when I spoke to God directly for the first time. In the middle of that dark November crisis, though, I was not interested in formulating my views on theology. I was interested only in saving my life. I had finally noticed that I seemed to have reached a state of hopeless and life-threatening despair, and it occurred to me that sometimes people in this state will approach God for help. I think Id read that in a book somewhere.
What I said to God through my gasping sobs was something like this: Hello, God. How are you? Im Liz. Its nice to meet you.
Thats rightI was speaking to the creator of the universe as though wed just been introduced at a cocktail party. But we work with what we know in this life, and these are the words I always use at the beginning of a relationship. In fact, it was all I could do to stop myself from saying, Ive always been a big fan of your work ...
Im sorry to bother you so late at night, I continued. But Im in serious trouble. And Im sorry I havent ever spoken directly to you before, but I do hope I have always expressed ample gratitude for all the blessings that youve given me in my life.
This thought caused me to sob even harder. God waited me out. I pulled myself together enough to go on: I am not an expert at praying, as you know. But can you please help me? I am in desperate need of help. I dont know what to do. I need an answer. Please tell me what to do. Please tell me what to do. Please tell me what to do ...
And so the prayer narrowed itself down to that simple entreaty Please tell me what to do repeated again and again. I dont know how many times I begged. I only know that I begged like someone who was pleading for her life. And the crying went on forever.
Until quite abruptly it stopped.
Quite abruptly, I found that I was not crying anymore. Id stopped crying, in fact, in mid-sob. My misery had been completely vacuumed out of me. I lifted my forehead off the floor and sat up in surprise, wondering if I would see now some Great Being who had taken my weeping away. But nobody was there. I was just alone. But not really alone, either. I was surrounded by something I can only describe as a little pocket of silence a silence so rare that I didnt want to exhale, for fear of scaring it off. I was seamlessly still. I dont know when Id ever felt such stillness.
Then I heard a voice. Please dont be alarmed it was not an Old Testament Hollywood Charlton Heston voice, nor was it a voice telling me I must build a baseball field in my backyard. It was merely my own voice, speaking from within my own self. But this was my voice as I had never heard it before. This was my voice, but perfectly wise, calm and compassionate. This was what my voice would sound like if Id only ever experienced love and certainty in my life. How can I describe the warmth of affection in that voice, as it gave me the answer that would forever seal my faith in the
The voice said: Go back to bed, Liz.
Excerpted from "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Copyright © 2006 by Elizabeth Gilbert. Published by Viking Books, a division of The Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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