Heather is a worker in a hard-to-reach place.
Last Sunday night the four of us went to see our friend’s daughter perform at a violin concert. Her teacher, who performs with the Hanoi Symphony Orchestra, hosted the event for his students. He introduced each one adding a few words of praise and encouragement.
When the first-year violins screeched on a high note or faltered over a forgotten measure, the teacher was the first to applaud them at the end. One of the students, a seven-year-old, tripped over a few difficult notes and froze in the middle of her piece. Without hesitating, the instructor picked up his own violin and began playing from where she left off. The student followed his lead until he lowered his violin, and she finished the piece on her own.
I’ve been thinking about that moment all afternoon.
Sometimes when we sit down to pen these letters, we feel a pressure to communicate how well we have performed our work. Our minds and hearts are always drawn toward a subtle idolatry of self. We turn life and ministry into a performance, and put ourselves in the spotlight. I was convicted of this as I stared at the blank text box anxiously wondering what to write.
I didn’t want to admit that I’ve been tired these past few months. I took on too many responsibilities this year and have scrambled to keep my commitments. I’m dragging to the end of this school year just glad to finish and trying not to worry whether I’ve finished well. I feel like the poor first-year violin student who stumbled and stalled and needed her teacher.
Thankfully, we do have a gentle teacher who is watchful and who knows exactly how the music should be played. When we make mistakes and lose track of the melody, he leads us forward by playing the familiar but momentarily forgotten tune.
I’ve been reading First and Second Corinthians in recent weeks and came across this today, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). The violin student’s flawed performance unexpectedly revealed her teacher’s kindness and skill.
In the same way, our failures are sometimes the crack through which the blinding light of God’s grace and goodness and perfection shine. In 2 Corinthians, Paul continues, “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
While it seems odd to send newsletters about our insufficiency, I will do so with Paul in hopes that you can hear the sweet, familiar tune of the gospel and catch a glimpse of the One who plays it perfectly. May we be reminded together that the grace of God is sufficient when our own strength fails and that the glory of Christ is revealed in our weakness.