Saturday, March 04, 2006

Chin Rests, Quarter Rests, and Perfect Rest

The silence is interrupted, stillness invaded. Behind the closed door, a dialogue of sounds emerges in balanced contrast. The first is a replica of beauty—honest, sure, and confident. The second is beauty in the making—determined, confused, and hesitant. The two voices blend in the inseparable dance of master and apprentice. And for a moment there is only the teacher and the pupil and the music that passes between them.

The younger clutches a violin in her arms, the instrument slightly large for her. A look of determination is deeply etched in her young brow, and with each concentrated effort, the child raises the violin slightly higher. Despite sincere attempts, her fingers will not produce the sounds that her instructor has demonstrated.

Young eyes squint to see the music buried beneath the black notes of the page. A small hand grips the fingerboard tightly, the effort holding back the sound, preventing its release.

She stands at the threshold of quitting, the desire to give it up arguing the determination to make it happen.

And with experienced wisdom, her instructor observes the battle in her mind.

With quiet knowing, he plays a few measures, and her mind is transported by the music. His song captivates, and though his technique she cannot comprehend, she holds her breath as the music pours from his soul through the wood and strings. As ribbons of rosin rise above the strings, her eyes are transfixed; her attention is riveted to his hands.

Graceful hands that have danced with music, caressing each note. Strong hands, molded in perfection, that have felt the very breath of angels’ songs. Aged hands, creased with time, marked with scars of past pain, hardened by labor.

The music stops, the final note still hanging suspended in the air.

The lesson continues. The instruction of his voice, which a moment ago was not understood, is replaced by the instruction of his hands.

With a patient touch, the master takes the child’s novice hand in his accomplished hand. With delicate precision, large fingers press small fingers against the strings.

“This is what it feels like child.
This is how your hand should feel.
This is what the position feels like.
This is what vibrato feels like.”

Tightened fingers relax in his grasp as she submits to the control of the master. It’s an active surrender.

How many times in determined frustration have my eyes gazed upon the black words—His Words, searching out the song that will fill my heart with understanding?

How many times have I gripped my Bible tightly, the tears flowing freely, or in anger not falling at all, not understanding how to pour out my soul in the music of the Christian life?

How many times, by concentrated effort, have I attempted to control my circumstances, my attitude, my future, my comprehension, not finding the balance between active resting and passivity?

And then the Master, the Virtuoso, the Divine Maestro, who knew every song before it had ever been sung, takes my novice hand in His accomplished hand, and presses my fingers against the strings, saying:

“This is what it feels like, child.
This is what is feels like to follow Me.
This is what it feels like to live the Christian life.
This is what it feels like to rest.”

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