We’ve had our share of strange blog posts here. But this one will take the cake for one simple reason. It’s not written to you.
Instead, I’m writing to a person who is very unlikely to ever read it. And even if he does, I’d be shocked if he responded. So why do I post this? Simple. I want this to be a public confession. But if you happen to know Donald Miller, would you ask him to take a look at this?
Donald Miller is the author of Blue Like Jazz and the main character in the movie we’ve been discussing. If you haven’t seen the film, you won’t understand much of today’s post. So go see the movie and save this for later. Or at least watch the trailer.
For those of you who were expecting a movie review from me, I apologize. As you will see, I am in no position to be a critic . . .
I’m picturing myself in the confession booth with you. You’re sitting there with your Pope Hat. I’m wearing my Blue Like Jazz Movie tee shirt—the one your promo department sent me for investing ten bucks in the film.
You start confessing. You’re trying to tell me how you’ve misrepresented God. But I butt in.
“No,” I say, “I’m going first.”
What follows is not just a confession. It’s a cascade of confessions. But first let me set up my story for you.
I have been a professing Christian for more than forty years. But in 1996 I had an adulterous affair after being married to Rita for sixteen years. Our children, Dave and Lauren, were nine and ten at the time. I soon realized I had set off a 500-megaton cluster bomb. And it is still doing damage.
In 1996 if you said the word grace, I would have thought it meant we were getting ready to eat dinner. But in the years that followed the deeper meaning of the word began to be revealed. Before long I found myself under a waterfall of grace and the sheer force of it made me delirious. And serious.
Let me explain. The Savior who said, “Before Abraham was, I am” later added,
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
When I think of what it cost Him to make an ass like me His friend, I shudder and gush and blush with gratitude. I think of the cross and words like precious and essential and vital start flowing. Because apart from it I am Don Astronaut, forever floating alone in space, separated from everything good.
I think of the highly-religious Saul of Tarsus. After misrepresenting God by killing and imprisoning Christians, he had a confrontation with Jesus. And grace. He later confessed,
I decided to know nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified.
Anyway, as I read your book, a conflict started brewing deep inside me. Not because of what I read, but because of what I didn’t read. When I finished I asked myself,
What would Blue Like Jazz have looked like if Donald Miller had used his stories to lead his readers to the cross?
This leads to my first confession. Our book was written to answer that question. And that’s why each and every chapter has a climax that resolves red, like blood.
That confession didn’t come out quite right. It sounds too honorable. What I mean to say is that in Red Like Blood we attempted to mimic your style. Your use of story. Your brutal honesty and transparency. Your caffeinated sentence structure. We used your book as a template and then substituted our own “stuff.” Besides being an adulterer and failure as a father, I’ve been a porn addict and a pompous ass. So all of that is in our book. Undiluted. Thanks to your example.
That confession was not blunt enough. I’ll try again. We copycatted you, that’s what we did. Hoping to piggyback on your momentum. On your success. This probably ticks you off and I wouldn’t blame you if it did.
I saw your movie twice so far. And I was one of the first grassroots investors at the ten-dollar level. But I confess my motives were not pure ones. I invested so I could have access to the inside scoop. And I confess that when the credits rolled I wished I had invested at the hundred-dollar level so that my name would have been up there on the screen. I confess my heart is a pride machine.
While I’m at it, I might as well confess that I, too, have misrepresented God. But manipulated is a more accurate word. I present Him as a God of justice when it suits my agenda. And I present Him as a God of love when I want mercy and grace for others and myself.
I also confess that I have misrepresented myself. I go to church every week and call myself a Christian, and yet I do not love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. And I hardly ever love my neighbor as myself. I worship and adore and lay my life down for Jesus by degrees, but never as much as He deserves. Not even close.
For example, I am well aware that Jesus “loves the Church and laid down His life for her” (Ephesians 5:25). I confess that I love what He loves, but not enough.
So you’d be right to lump me in with the other hypocrites you refer to in your movie and book. I don’t consider myself a “Fundie” but I am a hypocrite nevertheless.
Here’s where it gets more personal between you and I, Don.
I confess my lack of compassion toward you. Your movie hit me in the face. I understand my own stuff, but I’ve failed to understand yours. I’m sorry about your pain and my lack of kindness, Don. Will you forgive me for that?
I also confess that most of the time when I convey my conflict with your book, I fail to reveal the one very wonderful sentence you wrote about the cross on page 124:
God says the wages of sin is death, and Jesus died so that none of us would have to. If we have faith in that then we are Christians.
Well, thank God, I do have faith in that. And so do you. So we are brothers. Christian brothers. Right? So I hope you will take all my confessions to heart and forgive me.
At times like this when my sin is exposed, I’m glad . . . no, I’m ecstatic to know Jesus is there for me, scarred hands open Bob-ward. Don-ward, too.
So I run to the cross with all my might. It’s the one place in the universe where I really belong.
I’d love to have coffee with you, Don, and make these and other more private confessions face-to-face. And to thank you for inspiring me to be brutally honest and ultra-transparent for the sake of the gospel. And to ask for your suggestions about where Joe and I should go from here with Red Like Blood. We’ve heard many stories about people being helped, so we can’t just shut it down.
I will fly anywhere anytime to meet you. Let me know if you’re available to meet with me.
Bob Bevington, co-author, Red Like Blood