This is the story of my violin and how I began to play it. The label inside reads, “Caspar da Salo in Brescia 1595.” Caspar da Salo or Gasparo was an Italian violin maker in the 16th century. He earned the title of a “violin master” for his highly decorated violins with their rich tone and projection. Only about 80 of them are still in existence today. My violin is not one of them. While this doesn’t diminish its value as a family heirloom, it does bring me some comfort to know that it is indeed replaceable.
Mine is probably a German copy from the turn of the century. It was previously owned by my great uncle William Covington, or Billy. My great uncle died relatively young and it was passed on to my grandmother, Florence Mozelle Covington Grimmer. We inherited it sometime in the 1980’s when my sister and I started taking summer violin lessons in Dallas. We started on an 1/8 size violin that I now have for my children, but the large violin sat in its case like a beautiful secret waiting to be let out.
Over the years, my violin has come to resemble my relationship with God. When things are going well and I feel connected and have time to read the Bible, I usually have lots of time to practice too. When I am too busy, too stressed or too sick, it usually stays in its case. I grew into this violin about the time I was twelve and my family moved to Colorado. This was also the beginning of my struggle with depression. At first, it seemed like I was just having a hard time adjusting to the move. I didn’t make friends very quickly and stayed in my room missing Wisconsin. Then it seemed like I was becoming more and more distant from my family. I withdrew from several activities without much explanation. Although much of my emotional imbalance was due to a still undiagnosed mental illness, it by no means excuses the angry, selfish way I treated my parents. I blamed them for my unhappiness and wanted nothing more than to get out of the house.
I recently had the opportunity to tell my story to a young girl, Amy, who is about to move cross country with her family of five kids. I felt like 20 years of my life flashed before my eyes and I was talking to a younger version of myself. I wanted to tell her it was going to all turn out wonderful in the end and God had good plans for her. But I realized I can’t promise her that. God has not promised that we will never go through difficulty, never be lonely or depressed or go through a season of mental anguish. What He has promised is that He will never leave us or forsake us. David Platt put it this way, “God is not only with you in your suffering, God is for you in your suffering.” My move to Colorado ushered in almost a decade of fighting with my parents, rebelling with friends, trying to soothe the pain with drugs and alcohol and eventually lead to several suicide attempts. As I look back, I feel such sorrow over the hurt I caused my parents and the wasted opportunities I had to bring others to Christ. Much of my own pain could have been prevented had I tried to express these feelings to God in prayer instead of holding them inside and growing angry and bitter.
We have just finished studying the life of Joseph in Bible Study Fellowship. One of the best comments the lecturer made was, “God does not always prevent things from happening. Our response to what happens is more important than what happens. . . He doesn’t always satisfy our painful circumstances, He sustains us through them.” And so, Amy, what I can promise is this: It isn’t going to be easy or fun. It may even be downright miserable, but you can choose to sit in your room and feel sorry for yourself or venture out into the Great Adventure God has waiting for you. The reward in the end may not be the life you envisioned, but one day you may be able to sit across from someone in the exact same situation and say, “No matter how bad the facts look, the truth is that God is in control. Ask God what He is trying to teach you through the people or circumstances that you feel are ruining your life.” (Chris Booth, BSF) In other words, hang on to your family, because years from now, they are the ones who will see you through your best and worst times. Use this time when you are not yet involved in a bunch of activities with friends to draw closer to your parents and siblings because you will not all be living in the same house forever.
When I was practicing my violin in the basement in Colorado and dreaming of escape, I had no idea that one day we would both end up broken in the middle of the jungle. I felt like the worst thing imaginable was being in a new town and a new school away from my old friends. At that point, I wanted to be as far away from my family as possible. Eight years later, I was confused and scared and all I wanted to do was come home. And my dad, who I had previously blamed for all my problems, would fly halfway across the world to bring me there.