Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Are You Devoted?

People always say things like, "Things happen for a reason" or "God doesn't give you more than you can handle." When I hear things like that, I know those phrases are supposed to comfort me. But it usually throws me into a pity party, followed by tears and the question, "Why me?"

I have never been a very religious person. I do believe in God. I try to pray when I don't need something. Really. I have completely giving up on asking God to make the little lottery balls match my ticket - clearly, he has other things on his mind.

Then, I received this book.
The day after I started reading it, something happened - perhaps for a reason.

This silly story about a beauty queen, stripped of her crown, was all over the news. The young lady won  her title in court. Then, this happened:
Immediately after the trial, Ramirez went to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church to place the crown on its altar as a gift to the patroness."She's the queen of all queens, the keeper of all crowns. I wanted to give my crown to her," Ramirez said, adding that she could buy a replacement crown for the upcoming Fiesta and Miss Texas appearances that go with the title. "I just wanted to send a message I'm very grateful and she has answered my prayers."
Here's why that made me a bit ragey: we have civil wars - where people are being massacred while fighting for their freedoms - and people in Japan are bravely battling radiation in their homeland. Don't you think God and his helpers would be a little busy with the prayers of the people who have ACTUAL problems than some beauty queen who lost her title with just a few months left in her reign? Doesn't this teenager know she's not a real queen?

When I opened Devotion, I was skeptical and a bit afraid that it would turn out to be an Eat Pray Love kind of experience (not a good thing for me) until I came across chapter 36. Dani Shapiro shares a story about a friend who had a scare when she lost the brakes in her car. Her friend was OK and credited God for saving lives, but Dani had a good point.
Oh, so God singled you out for good fortune? For being on the right side of near misses? For specialness? To distract myself, I clicked on the New York Times Web site. Six Iraqis were killed by a roadside bomb hours earlier. A fire truck had blazed through a Brooklyn building, killing an entire family. A child had been abducted in the Midwest. I didn't believe that God had a hand in that day's tragic events -- any more than I believed that he had steered my friend's rig to safety.
This made me take pause. I couldn't believe I was reading those words while I was trying to settle my own issues (the ones I'm mentioning here - not my other issues). I have never picked up a book like this. I always thought there was something a bit hokey about these books by ladies who have had some sort of spiritual awakening. But this felt different. Dani was dealing with anxiety (among other issues) and looking to faith of any kind to soothe her. She was raised in a Jewish household, identified herself as Jewish, but wasn't practicing the faith. Finding calm in yoga and Buddhism, she eventually resolves her issues - not just with her religion, but with her family.

Could I find inner peace by following the same steps as Dani? Maybe. It's nice to know I'm not the only one who doesn't have all the answers. I was also happy to read this book and not feel like it was a whiny, "Woe is me," sad lady kind of book. I won't carry it around like it's a Bible (because it's not, that would be weird and I don't actually carry around a Bible). But if anyone I know - or those of you who have stumbled upon this - has these questions, I'll suggest this book. It doesn't have all the answers, but any book that has me asking the same questions and not getting all ragey gets my stamp of approval.

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