It is such a relief to be able to read for fun again! I enjoy reading big theology textbooks, which I know is fairly weird, but after the revision and dissertation stuff it is nice to read something a bit more inspirational. I picked up Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz which I think has been out in the States for ages but seems to have only just made it to our Christian bookshop. So far, Don Miller's 'non-religious thoughts on Christian Spirituality' have been refreshingly honest, uplifting and funny and I thought I might blog a bit about them.
The opening chapter describes Don's childhood struggles to relate to God as a Father (he only saw his own father 3 times as he was growing up) and his early forays into "sinning", meaning telling lies, cussing, fighting and looking up girl's skirts. The ensuing feelings of guilt caused him to begin using religion as a means of getting back to normal, so he could have fun without feeling guilty. He describes this view of God as a 'slot-machine God'.
'The slot-machine God provided a relief for the pinging guilt and a sense of hope that my life would get organized toward a purpose. I was too dumb to test the merit of the slot machine idea. I simply began to pray for forgiveness, thinking the cherries might line up and the light atop the machine would flash, spilling shiny tokens of good fate. What I was doing was more in line with superstition than spirituality. But it worked. If something nice happened to me, I thought it was God, and if something didn't, I went back to the slot machine, knelt down in prayer, and pulled the lever a few more times. I liked this God very much because you hardly had to talk to it and it never talked back. But the fun never lasts'
The chapter ends with him buying his mum a cheap and crappy Christmas present so he can spend the rest of his money on fishing equipment. He feels so ashamed of this (perhaps describing himself as Hitler was a tad over the top) that he gets on his knees and really connects with God for the first time.
I was struck by how I blessed I have been to have the parents I have. When I came back to God 8 years ago after a period of walking away from Him I was very aware that they had been praying for me. I also had a strong sense of God as a Father who was personally interested in my life and was there for me as my own dad was . It is mindblowing when you get a glimpse of the Father's love. It is amazing how quick we go back to treating God as a non-personal religious system to deal with our sin and guilt rather than wanting to please Him because we love Him.