Tonight I saw the film, Blue Like Jazz, which originated from the pen of a brave soul, Donald Miller. I don’t know if brave is the right word exactly. I guess I just say that because it seems as though he has beautifully articulated so much of what so many Christians struggle with: authenticity in the faith and the way we communicate that to the world around us.
I mean let’s be honest, there’s a lot of us who are hesitant to claim the faith sometimes because of the Crown of Chaos the world places on our twisted, ignorant, hypocritical, rotten heads as we curse anyone and everyone who taps on our eggshell of Truth.
I must say that during the film I was quickly locked in to the long-lost adventure of Donald Miller and his social justice, India-loving friend, Penny, and the sarcastic lesbian that told him he better keep quiet about his history with Jesus in order to survive at Reed which led to his pivotal season of questioning all things religious when…
The film is over.
Time to snap back to reality.
But I couldn’t.
That is too much of my own reality. And to just “snap back” into normalcy? Is that an option? Is that possible? Honestly, this film is more of my reality than I will ever wish to admit. No, I did not go to Reed College and live the freshman Don experience with the brownies and the drugs and the… well, you know what I mean.
I lived a very confused college life.
Trying to figure out what or who the hell I belonged to. Trying to figure out how to explain my thoughts on God, my relation to Him, my thoughts on eternity. So often I stood as Peter did denying Christ time after time after time. On many days, you would have never guessed I even knew Him. That I called Him my Savior. My Father.
In fact, I went to school in Colorado my last semester to start over. To start clean.
I didn’t know who I was anymore and that scared me. The only way out was to leave.
I remember going camping with a group of Christian friends I made in Colorado early in the semester and a girl prayed out loud in a group. Out of a deep sense of longing or even out of habit, maybe, this girl began her prayer with one simple word.
It irked me. I don’t remember anything she said after that. My night stopped the moment she said it. My eyes opened immediately. Chills ran up my spine as I entered into a session of flashbacks where I too could call God that very same name. I hadn’t been to that level of depth or intimacy in quite some time.
But for a moment, I let myself go there. I let myself taste the love of our Creator. And Yes. I dared myself to once again call Him Father. It was a scary word. It meant I would acknowledge His presence. I would have to with a name like that.
Notice I said God’s presence, not the youth pastor with the neatly groomed hair and golden smile, the kind of smile that makes you wonder if he is a salesman of some sort, anticipating your yes to push him over the top into a winning commissions lead. Nor am I asking you to consider the Christian extremist who yells, YOU WILL BURN IN HELL to Lady Gaga fans as they wait in line for concert tickets. And not even the Christian who has grown up in the Bible Belt all her life and has never stopped to ask the most horrifying question:
Is this real?
Is this real?
Let me be the first to say, we Christians are quick to create extreme, non-negotiable labels. Labels like, Good/Bad, Holy/Unholy, True/False. Most times, we do this out of fear of excessive exposure, darkness, or “secular influence” on our perfect little angel selves. And it is for this very reason that the conservative, evangelical Christian bubble has missed out on SO much good music. Ohh don’t even get me started…
And with every judgment and assumption about “those people”, we build up more walls than we know what to do with, trying to shoo everyone else away like foolish little flies at a summer day picnic. They are nothing to us. They are the “crazies”, the liberal non-conformists that keep us from getting anything done.
You know, when I started this blog, I initially set very harsh rules for myself. Don’t let this turn Christian, I demanded. Don’t get all God-like on these people. No one will want to read that. Don’t let yourself go there. Keep it light. Keep it in the mind, not the heart.
Yeah… that didn’t happen. God’s doing way too much in my story to silence it. But I was tempted to. Because of a deep desire I have just recently named in my life, a desire to be liked… not necessarily loved. Just liked by people. By everyone. (I know, it’s a bit obnoxious, really.)
But this means I can’t let myself go there. Not everyone digs the whole Jesus thing, Mary Margaret. Let’s be real.
My biggest fear?
People not liking me.
But I am noticing that the more I acknowledge God’s presence, the more I want to cling to Him even more, praying, pleading that He never ever ever leave my sight. I am the terrified mother who ventures out to Wal-Mart with the curious and wandering 5 year-old never daring to let go of the hand I love so outrageously.
So may I bring the focus back on the real presence that we all crave and need? The presence of Jesus. It’s amazing: When we put Jesus in the place where He belongs, “those people” become, well... just like us.
In need of God.
Yall forgive me for my boldness, but God is real. He is real and present and alive in your every hanging thought, your every breath. He knows every single breaking point you own. He knows every internal and external malfunction in your body, the very second someone’s words become too much for you to handle and your throat catches and suddenly your lack of words translates to tears, to pain. He knows that moment like it's His own and He cries with you. For you. Through you. And He doesn’t watch you, binoculars at hand, glaring down from a cloud of thorns with a lightning strike ready to pounce on you at your first sip of alcohol or the second you say shit.
To those who don’t believe in a God, to those who wouldn’t be caught dead in a church or with a Bible at hand:
I am sorry. I am sorry if the Church or the world’s perception of Christianity has hurt you in some way.
But I choose to invite you into the story of Jesus. The story of redemption. The story, if understood, you will never want to forget.
Pull up a chair and rest a while.
May our hearts be in tune to the Gospel.