Blue Like Jazz

Last night, on my way home from work I stopped at Kroger’s to pick up the ingredients for my husband’s favorite gourmet dinner. It was a special day, and I wanted to demonstrate my affections by cooking for him with the freshest ingredients. As I pulled into the lot, I winced in dismay at how crowded the place was. Maybe all the other wives were doing the same thing. Oh, no, thought I, they might be sold out of chicken wings and fries.

I needn’t have worried. The owners of all the cars were in the floral section. The place was teeming with men sporting pensive expressions and purchasing bouquets of roses. I smiled sympathetically at the poor souls who weren’t as savvy as my own guy. He picked up his bouquet from Kroger the night before.

Jeff truly appreciated his dinner of buffalo chicken wings and Ore Ida (extra crispy-I know what my man likes) fries. We say “I love you” in so many different ways, don’t we?

I’ve been listening to these amazing talks by Donald Miller. For those of you who don’t recognize the name, he is the author of Blue Like Jazz and other brilliant works in Christian literature. One of my Pastors gave me the CDs of these talks because she knows I love Don, as his friends and rabid fans (that’s what I am) call him, almost as much as she. Okay, not quite as much, since she says she is going to drive to Portland and stalk him until he agrees to marry her. I told her I would drive her and support her in this quest, so I could then invite them over for dinner and coffee and listen to him talk more intimately. (Don, if by some miracle you are reading this, she is a beautiful lady, inside and out—check her out here; and for heaven’s sake, come over for dinner!).

Anyway, one of the talks that he delivers is called Thirteen Shifts on a Paradigm, and it’s all about changing the way we think about our faith in order to reach people. One shift that Don talks about is realizing that people will not listen to God unless they believe that God loves them. He states, “One of the dominant questions of the human heart is, ‘Am I loveable, or am I likeable?’” He goes on to illustrate some of the ways that we, as Christians, have failed to communicate this valuable message to the world.

Don delivered a brilliant message. I love him. He always makes me want to do something crazy with my faith (if you don’t believe me, read this). But his question resounded true in my heart. I think he’s on to something. Without ever being fully cognizant of it, this is the question I have been asking all of my life. Aren’t we all asking this question? We’ve sought to resolve it in the world. We’ve filled our question with all the wrong answers; we’ve turned to chaff to secure our identity.

For so many years, I’ve walked around professing my faith. But these last couple weeks, as I turn to the past to find the answers to the future, I have run into some potholes in that image I’ve put forth. God has been dropping the bread crumbs, leading me gently one step at a time, always holding my hand.

He spoke to me through my father-in-law’s words the other night. I was railing on about a disappointment I had suffered in my eldest son.

“He needs to know there are consequences for these kinds of behaviors,” I blew on and on.

My father-in-law smiled softly and replied, “I don’t know, Laura. I had a lot of those consequences when I was a boy.”

“And it built your character! He needs some character-building,” I proceeded, walking right into it.

“Well, sometimes I’d rather not have had the building. It left a lot of emotional scars on me that I’d rather not have.”

That shut me up. My dad-in-law rarely speaks about his childhood. I know that there were a lot of painful circumstances that he overcame to become the man he is now. When he said those things to me, God flipped on a light switch.

I’ve been holding on to my emotional scars. I’ve been wearing them like a badge. Not before others, mind you, but in my own mind and heart. And most importantly, before God.

God wants to answer my question, Beloved. I hear Him proclaiming a resounding, “Yes!” Yes! I am loveable! You are loveable! And what’s more, you are loved. You are loved by a God so great that this world cannot contain Him. I cry as I write this, because, even though I have known this fact for many years…I never really knew how badly I needed to know it. My soul has longed for this answer; my heart has ached for it. I feel like I am holding up a sheet riddled with holes before my Lord, asking, “How can you love this? How can you love this damaged thing?” And He takes those hands of His, those hands that can do anything; and He fills my holes. He doesn’t just cover them over, Dear Ones. He makes them beautiful. For in those empty places He has weaved the lines of a story that will glorify Him.

You are loved. You are lovely. Thank you, Lord.