I just finished a great book called Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller. I have had it on my Amazon list for a while as one that I wanted to read, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. When I arrived at my mom’s house, she had it set out for me to read. She said that she knew I would love it and she was right. She said that as she read it, she often would think to herself “Kelly is going to love this.” Going into the book with that knowledge was kind of intriguing…I often thought about which parts “reminded” her of me! Anyway, my mom knows me pretty well and I absolutely loved it.
His writing is, first of all, very honest. One of the things that I really related it to was his struggle with what he called our “self-addiction.” I think if we are honest, we all suffer from self-addiction to one degree or another. He suggests that it is our addiction to self that is at the root of our brokenness and that we are unable to cure ourselves by ourselves. I thought this passage was particularly poignant:
For a moment, sitting there above the city, I imagined life outside of narcissism. I wondered how beautiful it might be to think of others as more important than myself. I wondered at how peaceful it might be not to be pestered by that childish voice that wants for pleasure and attention. I wondered what it would be like not to live in a house of mirrors, everywhere I go being reminded of myself.
This passage was found near the beginning of the book, as he is explaining the beginnings of his journey towards a deeper love for Jesus and his confusion about the Christianity that he witnessed around him. I could quote a hundred more wonderful passages along the way, but I really loved this part near the end of the book when he talks about his deepening understanding of Jesus.
I think I realized that if I walked up to His campfire, He would ask me to sit down, and He would ask me my story. He would take the time to listen to my ramblings or my anger until I could calm down, and then He would look me directly in the eye, and He would speak to me; He would tell me the truth, and I would sense in His voice and in the lines of His face that He liked me. He would rebuke me, too, and He would tell me that I have prejudice against very religious people and that I need to deal with that; He would tell me that there are poor people in the world and I need to feed them and that somehow this will make me more happy. I think He would tell me what my gifts are and why I have them, and He would give me ideas on how to use them. I think He would explain to me why my father left, and He would point out very clearly all the ways God has taken care of me throughout the years, all the stuff God protected me from.
I have found that I enjoy books that remind me of truths that I already know but that I may have forgotten temporarily. Miller’s musings give voice to doubts that I have had and confirms answers that feel like truth to me. He gets to the heart of our struggle to be “good” and the beauty and simplicity of the answer that is Jesus. He also expresses frustrations that I have also experienced with “religiousity” and those who wound with tools meant to heal. I also appreciate his humility in knowing that none of us have even a fraction of the answers. Here’s one last quote on the beauty of the mystery of God:
At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is the feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. I don’t think there is any better worship than wonder.
Since you seemed to enjoy Blue Like Jazz so much you’ll have to read his book Searching For God Knows What. I’m certain you’ll resonate with it. Oh, and Steve if you read these comments, you’d really enjoy Miller as well, though start with Searching For God Knows What.
OK Kelly1 I have to get this book before I leave on vacation. When the quotes stir me to tears, I know it’s a “must read!” Thanks for sharing!