Blue Like Jazz: the movie, the story, and the truth

This weekend I finally got to see the movie version of the book Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller. I must say that this is one of the best book made into a movie transitions I’ve ever seen, which is funny because the essential story and plot was completely different. However I think the filmmakers captured the essence of the book and the central meaning it was trying to convey; to me that is the most important element of making books into movies.

Besides all that though, the movie inspired me in a whole new way than from when I read the book. I saw things differently and got new things out of it, which was entirely refreshing.  The best thing about this story is that it has the one quality any good book or movie really needs: relevance. The audience can see themselves in the story, understand the emotions, and be connected by the words and characters in a way that lets them know they aren’t the only ones out there feeling a certain way. Donald Miller speaks to so many dilemmas our world faces — messed up families, dealing with hypocrisy in the church, feeling abandoned by God, the shame of misrepresenting Jesus, and searching for overall meaning in our lives — that anyone can find something that speaks to them, pulling the heartstrings with a camaraderie of truth.

For me, I saw a young man who is lost in the brokenness of our world, feeling uncertain and alone. Don questions the world he grew up in by literally rebelling against it in every way, which is a familiar case to many college students these days. I too have felt this urge, but it has manifested in a different way, a way that looks to many people as if I am simply saying no to everything around me (read the last two posts to hear that story).

I have been questioning everything and seeking answers, which means I do have to say no to many things in order to better understand what I’m saying yes to. As Blue Like Jazz illustrated so well, college is the time of life that most people do this. Not to say that others don’t encounter it earlier or later, but for many of us it occurs when we are forced out of the world we grew up in and into the harsh reality of somewhere new.

However, I realized that although I technically grew up in a Christian family, that wasn’t the world I let influence me. Instead I lived in a world of superficiality, of material need, of popularity contests and tainted self-image. Then when I came to college at North Park, I was blessed to enter into a real Christian world. Thus, in a sense, I experienced the exact reverse of the Blue Like Jazz story by rebelling against the cultural world to enter into the Christian one. So questioning things has turned into my rebellion, but somehow I have been surrounded by God’s grace enough to see that it isn’t Him, or Jesus, or the church, that I have a problem with – it is the rest of the world and our culture that brought me down.

Although that seems like a nice way to do it, I know that the experiences I had to deal with in high school and before were not easy things. I certainly rebelled in different ways then, but God’s grace has allowed me to see the value of the pain in bringing me back to Him. The hard part is for us to remember not to define God by our circumstances then, but to let God define our circumstances. By doing so I have learned that God never lets our rebellions, whatever form they take, go wasted. Simply because we are broken, does not mean God isn’t taking care of us – instead he uses every hurt to bring us closer to Him.

We are all broken in different ways, and Blue Like Jazz is one of those stories that brings such brokenness to light in our lives. Understanding that we are not alone is often the first step in realizing God’s grace and love for us.

I’ve spent the last few posts wandering through my up and down emotions of where I’m at in life right now. Thank you for bearing through it with me, reminding me that I am not alone. I feel better being honest with my writing and where I’m at then trying to pretend as if everything is ok. Hopefully the truth of these ponderings is something that you too can find relevance in. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of me, of yourself, and everything around you – asking questions is the only way to find answers.

Tomorrow I return to Chicago for another semester of school. Although I am in the midst of a lot of hurt and uncertainty, I am trusting God that those are not unnecessary pains. He will make all things new, and I know that I am not alone on the journey of discovering what those answers will be. Stay tuned :)

“Jazz is like life because it doesn’t resolve. But what if we’re not alone? What if all these stars are notes on a page of music, swirling in the blue like jazz?” – Donald Miller, Blue LIke Jazz

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