Grace, God’s Love and Jazz

I’m reading Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz. It’s been so long since I’ve wanted this book and when I spied it on the shelf of our local bookstore yesterday, I immediately bought it. (Little to no guilt)

Came out of the bookstore with these two.

Came out of the bookstore with these two.

So far I’ve been so engrossed that after service, as my friends and I sat down for a meal, I shared to them the hard hitting stuff the seven chapters (so far) had brought me. I love falling in love with a book, and a book that challenges the way I think is always up on that category.

Sometimes I worry that I place my faith on a high shelf, never to be seen or accessed by people around me. People know that I’m a Christian, they acknowledge that I am, but I wonder if the Christianity people see is the cookie-cutter view of Christians as boring, straight as a ruler type of life that is as colorful as our freshman monochromatic painting exercise on light to dark; or the type that sees picket fences and “God hates ____” and a myriad of things that ‘God’ and ‘God’s people’ hate. Sometimes people have this careful, wide-eyed, curious-but-should-I-ask look on their faces when they find out about my faith. Sometimes I beat them to it and ask them if they’re uncomfortable. (They usually laugh uncomfortably then settle now that that’s out in the open.)

There are many things that are true for me about Christianity – mostly, how God doesn’t make sense sometimes and He does anyway. The fact that He loves all of His creation, and me included, even when I didn’t read my Bible out of a fit. The fact that His love isn’t performance-based, yet I still catch myself trying to ‘just do it’. The fact that I’m no better than any human yet spend the majority of my ride to work fuming at how people can’t respect the simple hierarchy of a queue.

On good days, when I feel joyful about my faith, I spew out Bible passages like they’re embedded in my soul and people in need of encouragement can access it well enough like an open tap. On bad days, when I don’t feel so great about myself, it goes down to a trickle, which makes me fuss about it more. When I’ve settled into my ‘Christianity’, I feel like I should be the strong one, the brave one, the good one. It’s never comforted me once.

I like how Donald Miller asked himself how he could ever have thought of himself as above God’s grace. I think for the most part, when pride enters, I think of myself as somebody who’s all around capable – this narcissistic view that looks like independence, that is cognizant of a God but no, thanks, I’m still good and I don’t need You. Pride disguises itself as self-reliance, when in fact, nobody is above grace that he doesn’t need God’s help, or love, or God Himself. When I was younger, I used to not pray about some of the things I want because I thought God couldn’t possibly entertain mundane requests from me, a kid living a middle class B life who just wants a Playstation 2, when kids in Africa couldn’t even eat. When I grew older, I sometimes thought my prayers were silly because now I want a Note 2, when there are children armies or slave trades. That doesn’t make me more socially concerned, and as Donald Miller pointed out, it didn’t make him any more loving either. It just made me feel like I held God in contempt because I viewed His grace as something that should score really big in His books, when really, God’s grace is something I didn’t deserve and still He gave it anyway.

Today in preaching, our pastor noted that God loved us as children in a way that there isn’t a first child to youngest, or an adopted child, but He loves us all equally like each of us were Kid Number One, through Jesus who is the Kid Number One Alpha. It’s promising because it helps to just step back and look again at where it started, all of this Christianity business, to a God who loved so much, Man on the Cross. And after that, pride has nothing on it. We like being on the position of giver, but truthfully? When I faced God today, I’m in the position of receiver – and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to pay it back, and just accept it with humility. The only thing, I think, that God tasks me with what He gives is that I share. It’s difficult to love people – especially of different backgrounds, cultures, upbringing – yet His very heart was that right after putting Him as first in our lives, He wants us to put others second to Him. It’s not that my needs are insignificant to Him – it’s just that His love already covers that completely. It’s comforting that love is all-encompassing, crazy, will-do-anything-and-everything love that brought Jesus down to earth to be frail human JUST so that we don’t have to experience eternity in pain. But how many people actually know this? How many people actually understand what it means? If pride was never an issue, wouldn’t we see the far-reaching effects of such a love to a broken humanity? And I do want to see.

Faith is not meant to be placed on a high shelf. God’s love is not on a pay-per-view TV. “Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.” I realize that’s right.

…And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

– Ephesians 3:17-19

*quoted from Blue Like Jazz