On Faith, and "Blue Like Jazz"

I have a friend named Emily who has one of the most beautiful souls I've ever met. She was also an English major and we went to college together and even had classes together but never really knew each other; even though were meant to, because after I graduated and was visiting Rob almost every weekend in Farmville, Emily and I randomly connected on the internet through our blogs.

Emily was the same year as Rob, and Rob sleeps in, so when I would spend the weekend visiting him, Emily and I would wake up early and meet at the Starbucks at Longwood's Barnes & Noble. We'd drink coffee and sit across from each other at a table and talk about writing, and politics, and being feminist, and love, and our favorite writers and professors and the idiots that we used to date. And we'd talk about God. As I'm writing this, I'm only just now fully realizing how much I miss having those coffee dates. We could sit down, take a sip from our lattes, and look at our watches to realize that two and a half hours had passed in what felt like the blink of an eye. That's a special kind of friend.

I'd like to be more like Emily.

Emily read a lot of good stuff, and she would quote a lot of even better stuff from the good stuff that she read. One time she quoted from a book called Blue Like Jazz, and I didn't even know what the book was about, but I memorized what she quoted instantly and it has stuck with me for more than two years:

"There is something beautiful about a billion stars held steady by a God who knows what He is doing. (They hang there, the stars, like notes on a page of music, free-form verse, silent mysteries swirling in the blue like jazz.)"--Donald Miller

I finally picked up the book last week, and as I held it in my hands I hoped and wished and prayed for something big to come of my reading it. I should mention that I have struggled with a few things in my life, and a more recent one is my faith. I don't mean this in a way that suggests that I can't decide whether or not I believe in God, because it feels much more complicated to me than that. I do believe in God, and I always will. My issues are more religious than spiritual.

The beliefs I held growing up were much different from the ones I hold now, and until recently that bothered me because I grew up in the Catholic church where there is a Hell and it's not hard to get there, and once I got to college I started to realize that I didn't believe most of those things. The person I had to learn to forgive was actually myself, because I had really disappointed the old me. Who the hell is this hippie?, I asked myself. It was me. That is me.

The hardest part of my journey so far has been accepting the fact that I don't think everyone has to believe in God just because I do. It is something that I believe so strongly today, but an idea that I rebelled against furiously in my ridiculous and conservative teenage years (so yeah, now you know--I wasn't really that cool of a teenager.)

I finished Blue Like Jazz and was reminded to be nice, to try to love everybody, and to take some time every day to revel in the awe and wonder of the universe and its possibilities. Donald Miller may have meant to give me something else, but that's what I took away from it. As usual, I managed to remove religious particulars and focus on the general spirituality of the thing.  I guess that's why he calls it "Christian spirituality" and not just "Christianity."  I think I might prefer to take it further and just focus on "spirituality." The biggest thing I took from Blue Like Jazz is a reminder of how important love is. Love, love, love.

I will still go to bed every night and whisper thank you, thank you, thank you, knowing to myself that I'm talking to God but not necessarily wanting to say it because you might not believe that, and I think that's okay. My thoughts still haven't changed. But I feel a lot better about them today than I did yesterday.

I obsess over labels, and I wish I could stop. I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but insist on considering myself to be a Libertarian; and I am growing closer every day to identifying myself as an agnostic even though technically I might just be a confused Christian who is uncomfortable with using the word "Christian." I always wish I could stop applying labels and just be Megan, and thankfully my reading of this text has helped me to slow down and just focus on believing what I believe.

So, it doesn't always have to be some huge epiphany. You can even disagree with the author who teaches you something, which, a lot of the time, I did. Sometimes, all you need is a positive nod from someone or something that reassures you that you're on the right track. Does that even make sense? I think it does.

So thanks, Don. And as always, thanks, Emily--let's get coffee soon.