I went to a church retreat several years ago (like almost 10). I don’t remember much about what the speaker talked about. I think it was something about forgiveness, or tension, or grace or God or something. What I do remember is what book he recommended. It seems strange now that this is what would stick in my mind, but I remember exactly what he said about it, and that he read the author’s note aloud. I was mesmerized by the author’s note and I wanted the retreat to be over so I could find the book.
Donald Miller was not the NY Times bestselling author he now is and I had to go to three bookstores before I finally bought a used copy of Blue Like Jazz online. I started reading the book and I felt like someone turned a light on in a place I didn’t know was dark. The book is organized in a series of essays about the themes from his life and faith like sin, forgiveness, friendship, generosity, and love (for yourself and others). I was in awe at how poignantly and aptly he used his life stories illustrate these concepts. He later said in interviews that he wrote the book thinking that no one would ever read it. Maybe this mentality caused him to be so embarrassingly honest about his struggles, fears, loneliness, hypocrisy, self-hatred, self-centeredness, daydreams, and insecurities. This type of honesty and storytelling touched me deeply and made me feel less alone in this world. It also inspired me to open my eyes to the story that was unfolding in my life and in the lives of those around me. He was expressing things that I felt in my heart but hadn’t put words to at that point in my life. Like any good self-deprecating author his humor could be missed if you read it too fast.
So, all this to say, I liked the book (in case you didn’t catch that).
I learned a few years ago that they were going to make the book into a movie. It seemed a little strange because the book isn’t a linear story, but more of a collage of stories, thoughts and realizations. The screenplay was written, and Donald Miller even wrote a book about writing the movie, but when it came down to it, they couldn’t find funding for the project. When it was announced that the movie was dead, fans of the book banned together and broke some records with how much money raised. The movie was revived, and as a supporter of the film, I got a chance to preview it last month.
My hopes were high and I wasn’t disappointed. It was NOT by any means your usual low budget, highly sentimental, preachy, agenda driven Christian movie. If that’s what you enjoy, do not see the movie. I don’t want to give too much away, but the movie weaves many of the themes of the book into a redemptive, beautiful, coming of age story.
I took a sign language class in college and learned a bit about deaf culture. One thing that I learned is that cochlear implants are highly controversial. While they can help a deaf person hear they can also alienate that person from the deaf world. Once someone gets an implant they are no longer part of the deaf world in the same sense they were before, but they are not fully accepted into the hearing world because their speech is different and their hearing isn’t perfect. I feel like this movie faces a similar dilemma. With PG-13 rating and plenty of “worldly” content it may not be accepted by Christian film types, but with its themes of faith and spirituality it may not be embraced by the general population of movie goers. In my humble opinion, it would be a shame if this movie flops because it is not deaf enough or it is not hearing enough.
Comment below to share about a book that was influential in your life! Also comment below or contact me if you want to come with us to the premier this Friday!