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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What’s Your Story?

Last night I watched the sun set, and it was a beautiful thing, but I was tired and needed rest.

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Then this morning, by pure coincidence, I had to get up early, meaning I got to watch the sun rise. It was also beautiful, but this one was filled with much more hope.

Darkness is a funny thing. It can be deceivingly light, like a dawn that seems to makes sense, but is only a fog trapping you in. It entices me too often and leaves me feeling lost. It is only by the grace of God that the sun always rises again to remind me that the night was only meant for a time of restful sleep, a necessary moment to bring us through to a new dawn.

I want to say thank you to those people who encouraged me after my last melancholy post; that’s what I get for thinking no one would read it anyways ha. But I should’ve known that I have much better friends than that, and I am truly greatful to be told I’m wrong.

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The other day a friend of mine told me about how he was reading the latest Donald Miller book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. He told me he had just finished chapter 9, and it was one of the best stories he had ever heard. So I picked up the book and read chapter 9.

Don’t worry, I plan to finish the whole book from the start later, but for now chapter 9 was just the thing I needed. Donald Miller knows a lot about stories, and he knows about how those stories show up in our lives. I won’t spoil what was in chapter 9 for you (go get a copy and read it, it will be worth it), but I will tell you the main premise – if we are making poor choices in life it is probably just because we are living a bad story.

I read this and knew that after a childhood of reading fairy tales, histories, and other stories of make-believe I had learned his myself – I just didn’t realize it. I wanted to live a good story, one worthy of retelling, one that would make a difference in one world or another. Somewhere in middle or high school I lost the essence of what made for a good story because I was busy wanting to live a romantic comedy movie. Ironically, it was probably love itself that toppled that dream, exposing its superficial setting and shallow characters. Love itself showed me God’s story again and told me I needed to be in a whole different genre of life, one that centered on Jesus.

I think we all want to live a good story, we want to have something to share with the world and our children. The encouraging part is that almost every hero must rise out of darkness, so we all have a chance as long as we start living like the hero. Even better is that we have an archetype in Jesus – after all he is the ultimate hero in all of our stories.

So I’ve been feeling this yearning to live a good story, now I just need to climb out of the darkness and know that all stories take time to develop, but by letting God be my editor I will get there eventually.

The other good news is that I get to spend today at Disneyland, and that always brings me out of any kind of darkness :)

Thanks for reading, hope you all have a wonderful weekend – think about the question “What’s Your story about?”