Context: While I read this my father-in-law was losing his struggle for life. It turned out to be the last book I finished in his lifetime.
I don’t think I’m the only person who, upon opening this and preparing to read a book, finds out instead that they are reading a letter from a friend. Miller reads like my alter ego, a man I keep locked inside somewhere. It seems no coincidence that we were born in the same year.
You can often tell how much I appreciate non-fiction in particular by the ratio of quotes to pages. Blue Like Jazz is up there. I so very much appreciated what Miller had to say. He isn’t afraid to ask hard questions and make honest confessions about what his faith is. This is so refreshing. I live in a culture where being weak and broken is somehow seen as being less than Christian. The people who are hailed as heroes are those who don’t fail but endure over decades of remarkable achievement. For those of us who struggle just to exist in their faith day by day, this is anathema. In fact, I probably scared some people off by saying day by day. I should have said moment by moment.
It’s books like these that bring me back to the fundamentals of my faith. And the fact that there is a world apart between fundamental faith in Christ and fundamentalism shows how far we have strayed. One of the things I rediscovered I loved about my faith was mysticism. I went from 8 years of intellectual Christianity to being a mystic after one phenomenal encounter with the living Christ in my bedroom at university. And Miller reminded me that up until that point
[Christianity] didn’t do anything for me at all. It felt like math, like a system of rights and wrongs and political beliefs, but it wasn’t mysterious, it wasn’t God reaching out of heaven to do wonderful things in my life.
But then I met Him and everything changed. At that point, it suddenly didn’t matter that I didn’t understand Him. So, I gave up trying. At this point, it seemed reasonable to me that it wouldn’t and I was content. As he says
I can no more understand the totality of God than the pancake I made for breakfast understands the complexity of me.
[God] doesn’t [make sense]. He will make no more sense to me than I will make sense to an ant.
Recently, this line of thinking has been challenged by people whose blogs I follow and who have in fact, I now realise, literally abandoned their faith and replaced it with reason. So, Miller’s message was timely and reinvigorated my faith.
I’ve also been finding that, the less routine I have in my time with God, the more my life with Him seems natural. I don’t meet with my wife for 30 minutes each morning. In fact, I meet absolutely no one for 30 minutes each morning. I suppose if I did, they’d be some sort of PA or advisor. But God is not my PA and neither am I His. And although he advises me, he does so as a friend, over coffee so to speak or in those brief exchanges you might have over the photocopier. He doesn’t make an appointment. Thus phrases like
If [the Devil] can sink a man’s mind into habit, he will prevent his heart from engaging with God.
really encouraged me to relax in my life with Him.
Pretty much every page I turned brought up some aspect of our life as little Christs that I ended up filling the back of the envelope I’d started to write quotes down on. This is a very good thing. My only fear as I come away from this book is that I will need to read it again in the future. If you understand what I mean, this book is for you. If you don’t, you’re not ready for it yet.