Faith Crisis and Blue Like Jazz
I once told a friend of mine who was struggling with the church that if she wasn't struggling with something in the church than she was just lying to herself. I believe that.
I believe that for the simple fact that I believe in faith. That faith is a lack of knowledge, and a hope for things.
A few months ago my faith crisis started. The faith that I once had started to slip. I wasn’t sure how to define it or what to do about it.
During that time I confided in a friend of mine who showed a great deal of empathy for me. In our conversation about having my world view flipped upside down he recommended a book.
Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality by Donald Miller
Within 20 minutes after the recommendation and lunch he showed up at my office with a copy of the book. I don’t know if I would have gone out of my way to read it, but I am glad he bought it for me.
As he handed it to me he said, “Call me when you’re done reading it. I’d love to hear your thoughts."
The great thing about a phrase like that from a friend like that is that I was committed to reading it. Without trying I had an accountability partner. Which was good because I needed something.
If you’ve never gone through a faith crisis, and I’m not talking about having doubts our questions, this is what it feels like:
It’s hard to recognize what’s going on. Everything feels surreal. There are times when I feel like this:
I have had my perception changed by uncomfortable situations before. Like when I kissed a girl that would have been social suicide to kiss, so I lied about it. Or when my Mormon friend asked my non-Mormon friend to borrow a few bucks and my non-Mormon friend said no. Or that time I asked a girl out and she told me no…to my face.
I’m no stranger to discomfort. But a crisis of faith trumps them all. Exponentially.
This is not a post about me finding my faith again. A faith crisis is not easily surmountable.
Instead it’s about the good I found in a book that was given to me by a good friend. Thanks Rhett.
I’ll start with the criticisms first and then move to what I really pulled out of it.
I don’t know if I love his writing style. It’s very conversational and easy to read. Which is nice. At times it felt very juvenile and cliche. But he made enough good points in the book that it kept me interested.
For most of my life, although being a Christian, I don’t know if I ever identified myself as a Christian. When I read Christian writing or listen to Christian music I do a lot of internal eye rolling. Parts of Blue Like Jazz were no exception.
There’s an impractical blind faith that I have hard time getting on board with. The messaging sounds cheesy and unreliable. It is so partisan that it feels closed off and blind to any real possibilities. I have a hard time jumping on board with that, I have seen too many exceptions. This happens in just parts of the book.
Despite all of that there are four major things that have put some peace back in my soul.
1. Religion should be practical. I heard Ryan Holiday once say that philosophy isn’t philosophy unless it’s actionable. Unless it can actually make your life better (or something like that).
That it should make us want to live more fully and appreciate life more. He’s obviously a stoic. But there’s some truth in that. What good is the allegory of the cave if it doesn’t get you to open your eyes and see the world that actually exists instead of the one we’ve created?
Donald Miller talks about the importance of religion being practical. When Christ said we should feed the hungry, take care of the sick, and visit the lonely he wasn’t speaking in parable. He meant that that’s exactly what we should be doing.
Walking the walk.
A door-to-door book salesman from Estonia knocked on my brother’s door. The kid was living off his meager wages, to help out my brother invited him to stay at their house for a week.
Crazy? Yes. Christlike? Absolutely!
I have gotten so wrapped up in the spirituality of religion that I have not actually lived it. If I’m not living it than what’s the point?
2. A deep focus on Christ. As a missionary I used to use this example from the movie Fight Club:
Yes, Fight Club is rated R (Eye roll). Christ is the ultimate example. Who He is is everything that is right about humanity.
When I am more Christlike my life is better. That should translate into me focusing on being more like Christ. It hasn’t.
3. Community is important. One of the things that I agreed with is that spirituality is often presumed to be personal. That it’s the individual’s personal relationship with God. Which is true, sorta. But as a community we strengthen each other.
There is a lot to criticize about elder’s quorum. I had one bishop confess to me how many men leave for the third hour, a lot.
It is disorganized. Men are lazy, and disinterested. Most quorum meetings I have been to have felt like a waste of time.
That being said, some of the most spiritual moments I have had have been in elder’s quorum when I connect with the men. It’s those moments that make it worth while. I can’t get those by myself. We’re social creatures. It’s why Alexander Supertramp wished he had shared more his life with others.
Community makes things better.
4. Awareness of spiritual health. Every time conference comes around I hear people talk about it filling there spiritual canteen. When presenting doubts to believers they will recommend the primary answers:
Prayer & Scripture study
Now there is nothing wrong with that. To a certain extent they’re right.
The aha moment for me came when I thought about my relationship with my health. I have recently decide to be more healthy. The rules for being more healthy are very similar to the primary answers:
Exercise & Diet
That’s the formula for getting more healthy. But it’s not as easy as that. If it were we’d all look like Michael Phelps.
It’s true that I am doing exercise and diet, but I am doing exercise and diet that work for me. I had to learn what I liked to do so that I would keep doing it. One of those things is working out. I lift three days a week. With a workout partner who has been lifting for 20 years.
I relied on someone who knew what he was doing. After two years of working out I am starting to feel what feels right for me. Which is different than it is for him. There’s a good possibility that it may change.
It took me two years of consistent practice to get in tune with my body so that I could listen to it. Before that I could count the amount of time I went to the gym on two hands..
When it comes to spiritual health what works?
I have recently discovered three things that help with my spiritual health.
I am hoping to discover more.
That’s what I got out of it. I am still deep in the throws of faith crisis. The one scripture that I keep thinking about is this:
Every crappy experience I have had has made me a better person. I have faith that I will come out of this better than I am today. I just don’t know what that looks like yet.
If you’re interested in the book. Let me know. I’ll give you my copy.
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