Blue Like Jazz

Posted Thursday, May 3rd 2012 at 3:56pm

By Arley Hoskin

There are some books I like to read over and over. Each time feels as though I’m having coffee with a good friend who I haven’t seen in a while. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller is one of those books. The memoir tells Miller’s spiritual journey as he transforms from a Texas-born-and-bread Southern Baptist to a progressive Christian entering adulthood in Portland, Ore.
When I heard the book was going to be made into a movie, I was skeptical. But this week when I watched the movie on the big screen, my skepticism melted faster than the butter on my popcorn.
Watching the movie felt nostalgic for me. As I watched a college-aged Miller try to figure out what he believes about God, I thought of myself in college. I read Blue Like Jazz my senior year.
I read the book during a time of depression and loneliness. I spent the year before in Philadelphia, where situations challenged my conservative ideals and black-and-white world view. Miller experiences this same question and doubt at Reed College in Portland.
During a scene in the movie, Miller asks his friend Penny if he looks stupid wearing an astronaut costume during a protest against big-box bookstores.
“You don’t look stupid,” she says. “You look like you don’t belong.”
I can relate to feeling that I just don’t belong. And I’m not the only one. Blue Like Jazz resonates with so many people, because there is a part of us all that feels like we just don’t belong. And there times that we all question the idea of loving God in the face of such a messed-up world.
I read Blue Like Jazz at a time in my life when I questioned whether I believed in God. And I could not wrap my hands around the idea of God becoming flesh, dwelling among us, offering the hope of peace and salvation.
Like Miller, in many ways, I tried to escape God. I tried to distance myself from a God I didn’t understand. But just like Miller, I could not escape God’s irresistible grace.
Blue Like Jazz describes human longing for “beauty, justice, love and transcendence.” I can distance myself from the idea of God, but I can never escape those innate human longings. And I cannot dismiss the moments of spiritual connectedness that I experience when I read an inspiring book, or take time to pray and meditate, or have a quality conversation with a friend. I believe those connections are God weaving her thread throughout the stories of our lives, connecting us to one another through her grace.
In Blue Like Jazz you see Miller’s life connect with his classmates at Reed College to create a unique spiritual tapestry. Whether you believe in God, I promise you will love this coming-of-age film. As someone who usually waits until movies come out on Red Box, I can honestly say I do not regret the $8.50 I spent to see the film.

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