This is not the story I wanted to write. I started to write this while my violins were still in the shop, when I was still overflowing with joy and anticipation at seeing them renovated and made whole. Since moving to the Colorado “desert”, my violin has started to split apart at the seams. Before I spent a lot of money repairing it, I brought in my older violin to see which one needed more work. The repairman thought he could make them both playable for less than I would have to spend on a new instrument. When I went to pick them up, I could tell something was wrong when the owner and the other luthier cleared out of the shop. The man who did repair them seemed a little hesitant and my heart was in my throat when he told me “Well, I had to take the back off the newer one.” When he showed it to me, I had to hold back the tears. It was badly cracked and scratched all the way around. It looked worse than before. There were gaping holes in the seams that he said he fixed with glue. I tried a few haltering tuning notes then put it back in the case and asked the question that was burning in my mind, “And the other one?”
“The other one is ok. You can still play it. I just put a new string on it.” I’m sorry, what was that? I was thinking. “After I took the back off the other one, I didn’t want to mess with it.” In my complete shock and dismay over the new violin, I missed the most important thing he said. “You can still play it.” I had pictured this moment so many times in my head. I would pull out that ancient violin, my old symbol of loss and longing and it would be amazing, better than new. I would pick it up and play the song I been born to play, a triumphant hymn of praise to the God who had redeemed and healed me, just like this broken violin. Instead, thirteen years of thinking my violin was basically dead in the water and all it needed was a D string? Tell me you’re joking! What do you mean I can still play it? It has a broken neck! The end is patched, the sound post is being held up with a piece of string! I am embarrassed to look at it, let alone play it. I quickly paid the man, thanked him for his time and cried all the way home.
It’s been a long journey to get to this point. When I smashed my violin over my knee in Brazil, I thought that was the death break for my instrument. I thought I was liberating myself from a curse that had lead me down this path of mental anguish. I thought a lot of things that were not really true because I was completely out of touch with reality. I remember saying “I broke my violin; I killed my baby” among other nonsensical things. When I got back to the States, it was glued together by a friend to preserve it as an heirloom, but was not (I thought) acoustically sound or playable. My parents bought a replacement violin for me and I moved on. But really I will never move on from that moment. I feel my mind and spirit are permanently scarred by the trauma I suffered both from my own poor choices and the treatment of others while I was mentally ill. There are things about that fateful moment I will never fully understand, but I can no longer keep it locked in the “case” like my violin because I am ashamed of it. It’s time to let go.
In a lot of ways, I am like that broken violin. Redeemed, yet not fully restored; valued, yet not valuable apart from my Owner; beautiful yet scarred; broken, yet able to play a melody of praise. In recent years I have neglected playing at all because I will never be the concert musician I wanted to be in college. I don’t have the time and energy to practice after kids and quite honestly, I was never that good to begin with. I might never get past playing on the music team at church, but the words that are ringing in my mind are “You can still play.” After all these years, after my wounded pride when I wasn’t any where near the level of the other musicians at Moody, my bitterness over children taking up my practice time and my own neglect of the instrument, I can still play.
God has given me a story to share and while it is not the story I wanted to tell, it is the one I am living. It is not about a wonderfully talented musician with a priceless instrument restored to play concerts for thousands. It is about grace. It is about God taking me at my weakest, most helpless moments and teaching me to rely on Him. It is about my parents’ forgiveness after I broke a family heirloom and trashed their family name with my recklessness and poor choices. It is about my husband loving me after all the mistakes of my past and giving me his name. It is about the day to day struggles of living with a serious mental illness that by most statistics would make it impossible for me to be a wife and mother, yet through the power of God I am able to do both. And I can still play.