Column: Life’s musical mayhem


Commentary by Michael VandenBerg

What do you do when life takes your dreams, puts them in a bag of rocks, shakes them up and shatters them into pieces? What do we learn when we come so close to realizing our dreams, only to have them dashed? Who is our help, how do we survive, when we struggle to know what to do?

With all of the athletic contests vying for our attention this month; the Belmont win of a misspelled horse, the classic showdown of NBA titans, a Stanley Cup playoff series of unlikely opponents and so much more. Each has its winner and loser, just like life. If you are on the winning side you celebrate your mastery, if on the losing, you see how much of what we do is really not in our control.

How do you approach those unscripted, terrifying moments with grace? A story I heard some time back, told to the losing side of a championship college matchup seems to offer perspective.

“Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress in the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down to greet her. Taking the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked No Admittance. The house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin. The mother returned to her seat and discovered the child was missing. Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance and quickly moved to the piano and whispered in the boy’s ear, ‘Don’t quit, keep playing’.

“Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in the bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience and the audience was mesmerized.”

Whatever our situation in life and history, however outrageous, however desperate, whatever dry spell of the spirit, whatever dark night of the soul, God is whispering deep within our being: “Don’t quit, keep playing, you aren’t alone. Together … we will mesmerize the world with a song of peace.” “And I will be with you always, even to the ends of the earth.” It is only in God’s care and love that life goes on in those difficult, confusing and mayhem moments. Harmony of life is achieved by God playing the left hand part, and us playing the right. We are not the master, but the student of life, so learn your lessons well.


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