Blue Like Jazz Chapter 5 – Faith: Penguin Sex
Faith. Now there’s a topic that ALWAYS seems to come up when you are having one of those “religious discussions” with someone. A lot of the answers to the big questions tend to be, “it’s just faith,” “you’ve just got to have faith.” That’s a tough answer to give to someone who is questioning faith in the first place.
I love the conversation Mr. Miller shares in this chapter that he had with his friend Laura. For a little background for those of you who haven’t read the book, this friend Laura was not a Christian; she was struggling with the whole Christianity thing, and she and Donald were having a conversation:
“I think that God is wanting a relationship with you and that starts by confessing directly to Him. He is offering forgiveness.”
“You are not making this easy, Don. I don’t exactly believe I need a God to forgive me of anything.”
“I know. But that is what I believe is happening. Perhaps you can see it as an act of social justice. The entire world is falling apart because nobody will admit they are wrong. But by asking God to forgive you, you are willing to own your own crap.”
I’ve heard it said that one of the biggest factors that can keep an individual from turning to God is pride. I’ve no doubt that is the truth.
Pride is a tough thing. Asking for helping is hard when one wants to sustain his/her pride. To ask God for help and be acknowledging a need for forgiveness can be one of the most humbling experiences one can embark on.
It’s one thing to breakdown and ask a friend for help or to ask a friend to forgive you for a mistake, but to ask one who isn’t there-there, one you can’t physically see, one you don’t necessarily get an immediate response from, that can be an even more difficult and humbling experience. One’s pride can be so hard to breakdown.
I can relate to Laura. I know the feeling of seeming as if I have nothing to seek forgiveness for. Let’s face it, we all fall victim to the justification of rationalizing our actions, therefore leading us to feeling as though we have done nothing wrong. This defense helps our pride from taking a hit.
The pride can keep one from feeling like they need anyone’s help. Pride will justify making it on one’s own. But Mr. Miller makes you think about it in a fun way…
… “you are willing to own your own crap.” Interesting. I guess it is that pride factor that allows us to push our “crap” under the rug, so we don’t have to “own” it. But still, the prideful individual can ask, must one go through God to get the ownership of one’s crap?
In continuing the conversation between Laura and Donald, Laura goes on to say,
“I can’t, Don. It isn’t a decision. It isn’t something you decide…I can’t get there. I can’t just say it without meaning it.” She was getting very frustrated. “I can’t do it. It would be like, say, trying to fall in love with somebody, or trying to convince yourself that your favorite food is pancakes. You don’t decide those things, they just happen to you. If God is real, He needs to happen to me.”
“That is true. But don’t panic. It’s okay. God brought you this far, Laura; He will bring you the rest of the way. It may take time.”
“But this hurts,” she said. “I want to believe, but I can’t. I hate this.”
This reminds me of a saying that many people enjoy sharing with me when we are discussing religion, but I am always quick to respond back to it with my thoughts on the matter. The saying is the one about how it is better to live a life believing there is a God only to find out in the end that there isn’t one, than to live a life believing there is not a God only to find out in the end that there really is one.
My response to that is that you can’t just decide, “well, I’m going to believe there is a God so that just incase there is one in the end, I’ll be safe.” If that is your reasoning, belief based on the best result for in the end, then isn’t your belief all in vain? Is it a true belief then? I don’t think so.
Laura’s right. You can’t just make yourself believe in a God. It isn’t a decision you make. You don’t weigh the consequences for “the end” and see that believing is better off in the end, so you choose to believe. It isn’t like that at all.
Some very well might not understand Laura’s struggle when she says, “I want to believe, but I can’t.” One might think, if you want to believe, then believe. But that isn’t how it is.
Let me explain it in the way I’ve always viewed it. I think our true deep down beliefs come from our heart. If you really truly believe something, you believe it in your heart. However, to get to that level of belief, you very well might have had to go through some serious thought and testing, so to say, to make sure you truly do believe it.
I think the ability to be able to do something (I can) versus the ability to not do something (I can’t) is a brain/mind thing. You mind, so to say, gives you—your body—permission to do or not to do something. It tells you what you can and can’t do. It will say, “You can’t jump off that building,” not because you physically can’t, but because it knows that if you DO jump off it, you won’t make it out on the other end.
In Laura’s case, she wants to believe in her heart. Deep down see feels a sense of wanting to believe. Maybe she has seen how it affects others—the others that have that sense of belief. Maybe she feels a sense of a void and wants to have it filled. Maybe it is for other reasons, but whatever the reason, she wants to believe. But she can’t. He mind won’t let her believe.
Many times our minds work on a scientific or rationality sense. From science, we know that jumping off a 20-story building is bound to kill a person. That’s why a healthy mind will say “you can’t do that.” But with God, we can’t put science on Him. Science can give God a perspective of irrationality. So with the idea of God being so unscientific in many senses, it can leave a mind to say, “you can’t” (believe that is).
I know about the struggle of the heart and the mind being in constant battle. I have related to the “want to believe, but I can’t.”
So Miller agrees. He knows about the struggle of the rational and the irrational thoughts in reference to God…
I think Laura was looking for something rational, because she believed that all things that were true were rational. But that isn’t that case. Love, for example, is a true emotion, but it is not rational. What I mean is, people actually feel it. I have been in love, plenty of people have been in love, yet love cannot be proved scientifically.
It can be hard to grasp…
…especially for the mind.
[Note: All the above text in smaller italic print has been quoted directly from Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz”]