This is a story about woundedness, about loss and about music. (Names and details have been changed or omitted.)
A sister of a close friend died last month. From an overdose of heroin. In a field behind a Walmart in California. Her drug-addicted son, who introduced her to drugs, did not tell the rest of the family for more than three weeks.
Her obituary, written by her brother, describes her early life, growing up on the family farm and being raised in the Baptist church. It tells how, in high school, she won many music performance awards, and after graduating from the same college I attended, taught school.
Quoting from the obituary:
Her mastery of classical and jazz piano led to her playing in many … restaurants. While performing at one venue she met her debonair husband. They lived [on the west coast] for 30 years, raising their two sons and running a shipping company. [Her husband died in 2012.]
Jackie’s artistry and musicianship brought joy to children, friends, family, Japanese ship-owners and churches. Her laugh was infectious and unforgettable.
The family wants to thank all who prayed and gave and supported when the music faded.
Yes, the music faded. She died homeless and addicted.
But that is not the Jackie I remember.
Jackie knew and lived music better than anyone I have ever known. She knew the score, the notes, the dynamics, the tempo, the variations, the signatures, the flow…
But what she did not know—or what she once knew but lost track of—was her place in the musical score. Sadly, she could no longer follow the notes in life. She lost track of the melody.
At times in my life, I have also lost track of the melody.
Just last week I was having trouble remembering my notes. Then I heard the words, “follow the musical score!” Follow the notes. Find your place on the score. Keep the flow going.
This is a challenge in our Christian lives. We look off the page inward, away from the score, and forget where the notes are going. We have difficulties. The music starts to fade.
When I first came for prayer at this very clinic, I came nervous, broken, dedicated, and devout. Really a very earnest Christian, but I came with a lack of internal identity. I couldn’t hear the music.
A friend or family member could say nice things about me—about me being a serving Christian, a selfless individual, caring, bold even in my faith. But what they could not know was the ongoing internal struggle – well-disguised – that I had with envy, jealousy, pride, comparing, control. And a sense of never, ever measuring up.
It was as if I could keep the score, follow the notes but I never really knew the true melody—God’s melody being sung over me. I could only hear the bad tempo, a wrong note, a pace too fast or slow. That was all I could hear in my life and from those around me.
I could easily criticize and take offense. When I kept the beat and heard the melody, I was good. But threaten me or any of what was mine, including my kids or how I was doing at my job, and I would judge and strike out at you.
But then something happened. I found myself here, just as you are, and Jesus broke through the musical, self-obsessed, protective score I was living in. He literally interrupted a false way of perceiving reality, of following the wrong melody.
As he did with the Psalmist, Jesus gave me a new song. He drew near to me as I drew near to Him. As I became aware of the unforgiveness I harbored, the lack of trust I had in God and most people, I cracked.
Jesus said to His disciples that he must go away so the Holy Comforter can come. This is what happened to me. There was a brain transformation as the Holy Spirit gave me a brand-new score to follow. A new identity—of being unconditionally loved. The effects of the toxic nurture I had been raised in—the distorted music—was cauterized.
Our dearest God in His mercy began to heal and transform me… And the journey continues.
What beautiful Jackie could no longer hear was that there is a compassionate, Almighty God who takes all our diseases, our sins, our addictions, our pathetic junk to the Cross—and gives us a brand-new score.
We can begin to hear the melody that He sings over us—that He has always been singing over us, all our lives—from the beginning of time. We really sense His love and mercy. We sense a belonging.
But last week, when I was weary and looking inward and could not hear clearly His melody. I forgot, as the Israelites often forgot, God’s power. His rescuing power. His presence. His indwelling majestic love.
Yet, then in His mercy He heard my feeble prayers and the prayers of another. And once again I found myself in His presence. I heard His music for my life.
“Come now all of you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28), Jesus says. He is here today to give us rest for our weary souls and to remind us once again of His loving melody that He sings over us.
Praise be to God!