The other day I checked a book out of the church library – Davita’s Harp by Chaim Potak. A character in the story, Jakob, tells the young girl, Davita, a strange story about a little bird who woke up in a beautiful land filled with people who were often cruel.
“A soft haunting music could be heard everywhere…The little bird loved the land, but did not like the people. He wondered why the people…were so cruel. He thought it might be a good idea to try to change them. It occurred to him that in some way it might be the music that was the cause of the cruelties he saw. People hurt each other…and instead of feeling sorrow and regret, went ahead and were soothed by the music. Perhaps if there was no music to soothe the person who did harm, perhaps then the harm itself might come to be felt as intolerable and be brought to an end. And so the bird set out to discover the source of the music…” (pp.48-9)
Intriguing thought. I asked myself what was the source of music in my life that enabled me to avoid feeling the intolerable weight of sin, especially my relational sin?
I have been a global worker in the Philippines for ten years now. I vividly recall our first term. I was full of excitement and ready for the adventure. I plunged myself into the business of setting up a home, offering hospitality and starting a ministry with young professional women. And, I grew lonelier and lonelier and chose to fill the void with reading novels. I prided myself in not reading “trashy romance”, and justified the late night reading apart from my husband and the boys as a well-deserved break. I recall the terrifying moments when I had just finished a long novel at 3:00 A.M. and realized I had nothing to start on the following day! The books I had been reading had become the “music”, enabling me to avoid feeling the weight of my sin.
There were many times that first term when I was very angry with God. I felt He expected far too much from me. And so I would sit in my anger, rehearsing my complaint to God. I felt I had sacrificed a lot for God by leaving family and friends to travel half-way around the world. And, I expected something in return. That “something” wasn’t always the same; at times, I demanded better living conditions or more stable finances or better behaved children or a husband who would love me the way I wanted to be loved. But, one thing never changed: the overwhelming feeling that God wasn’t delivering His end of the bargain.
I believe God has a sense of humor since He used a book I was reading to speak to me, especially since I wasn’t spending any time reading my Bible. Queen Orual, the main character in Till We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis, had been angry about the unfairness of the gods in dealing with her over her lifespan. She finally faces them to make her complaint and in the end she concludes with this statement.
“The complaint was the answer. To have heard myself making it was to be answered. Lightly men talk of saying what they mean. Often when he was teaching me to write in Greek, the Fox (her tutor) would say, ‘Child, to say the very thing you really mean, the whole of it, nothing more or less or other than what you really mean; that’s the art and joy of words.’ A glib saying. When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you’ll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor tell us answers. Till the world can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?” (p.294)
God used this quote and some well-placed words by a friend to eventually open my eyes and ears to begin to “dig the world out of me”. But am I free of the music now? To be honest, no. But, I am more aware of the music. These days it seems to be my busyness in ministry which “justifies” my absence from sitting at Jesus’ feet. Sometimes I think it would be far easier for me to go back to my familiar patterns of living life and pretend God is pleased with me. But, I know too much to go back. And so I continue to struggle with God and with myself.
Strange, isn’t it, how Jesus always seemed to put His finger on the source of the music as He encountered people during His brief walk on this earth?
Consider the rich young ruler and the irresistible melody of his wealth.
Or, consider the Pharisees and the entrapping lyrics of the law.
But also consider the woman at the well who forsook the music of men in order to quench her thirst with Living Water.
And, consider Peter who, in the face of divine mercy and forgiveness, set aside the deceitful lyrics of pride and received grace, life and meaning.
As I encounter these people and the stories of the Bible, I squirm. The soothing melodies I have built into my life are momentarily stopped. I am reminded that daily feeding on God’s Word provides the opportunity for an encounter with the living Christ who can put a finger on that which soothes and anesthetizes me and keeps me from Him. Pray with me that I would continue to allow God to stop the music in my life.