Imagine with me that you are experiencing some type of chronic pain. The pain is excruciating and without cure. The pain has affected every aspect of your life. You are no longer able to work, except in some very limited capacity and your dream job is gone. The pain has affected every relationship you have, including your marriage and family.
You are unable to embrace your loved ones and feel their touch. Loneliness has become your constant companion. Your loved ones and best friends make every effort to live up to the expectations you have of them, but they have become weary of the challenge and their lives move on. Imagine that everything that used to bring you joy or pleasure has been taken from you. There is no more enjoyment in life except, oddly, music, which allows you to escape momentarily into another reality.
Cash and Nina Simone
You manage the pain by visiting a clinic seven days per week, and in this clinic, you get some reprieve. The staff at the clinic appear caring but distant. The other patients that are experiencing the same pain as you become familiar faces, as they glance at you with an understanding nod. The frequency of visits allows friendships to become a possibility, simply because of the shared experience. The friendships are not normal ones, experiencing very little laughter, joy and communication.
The grimacing expressions are interrupted by the eyes. The eyes tell the story. The eyes moisten with a mixture of the present pain and the memory of shared loss. The dreams have died, and the realization of the new reality is a constant story in one’s head.
Then one day, something is different. A stranger comes to visit the clinic while you and your new friends are receiving your daily treatment. The visitor says nothing as he sets up a place in a corner and proceeds to play the most beautiful and unfamiliar music you have ever heard (think Cash, Aznavour, Streisand and Nina Simone with a little Mozart). The instrument is unfamiliar to you. The music is enjoyed by all.
Something mystical happens as the music is played and the pain seems to abate and then slowly disappear entirely. You imagine, at first, that it’s just your imagination but the eyes of your fellow patients seem to affirm your experience. Are they too experiencing the same thing? The experience continues for what appears to be an eternity as the music continues to be played and the melody fills the room and your imagination. Is the pain going away? Will the music ever stop? Will the pain return when the music stops? You then allow yourself the permission to simply mouth a whisper, “I hope not.”
Where Are the Others?
The music did stop and so did the pain. Medical tests and doctors verified that the pain was forever gone. You received a clean bill of health for the first time in years. Your life now had all the possibility of becoming normal and everything that was lost was being retrieved again. The joy you were experiencing was contagious and that smile was permanently plastered on your face. Oh, by the way, the eyes, they tell a different story now. One sees empathy mixed with joy and hope with every glance.
One day, you hear a familiar sound and as you move closer to it, you recognize not only the music but the musician. The same one that played that melody that changed your life. You, now able to speak, approach him with the greatest expression of gratitude you can imagine. You make a scene with your many thank-yous, hugs, tears, and Travolta-like dance moves. You feel completely inadequate as you try to express your heartfelt thanks.
The musician seems to enjoy your efforts to show your gratitude and grins with a chuckle that quickly matches your expression (dance moves too). The two of you are now making a scene that causes onlookers to assume you have known each other forever and are celebrating a shared victory. Two strangers forever bonded together by a shared experience. The musician then opens his mouth for the first time and asks a simple but sincere question, “where are the others?”
Reject… Deflect… Accept
I had to reflect on the ability that I have to be “grateforgetful.” I’m on the receiving end of many blessings by God. The ultimate gift He’s ever given me is that He healed me from the painful toxicity of my sin, which like the narrative above, isolated and dismantled my life. Therefore, it’s worth noting that I have choices on how to respond to the melody of God’s healing power. I have identified three of many.
I can choose to deflect God’s presence and power by simply seeing it as no big deal, so familiar and perhaps something I deserve. I can also choose to reject it completely; meaning, I don’t believe it, and I would rather accept the status quo. However, I can also simply accept it, acknowledging the mystery and, in doing so, find myself looking for every opportunity to let Him know just how grateful I am, perhaps make a scene and get Him to chuckle and join in.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/