Friday night lights are glowing just one block away, and I hear the marching band on their way to the field. As the cadence floats through my living room, my heart starts to pound as well. It’s a rhythm of remembrance, a pattern of pain, a beat of brokenness. Every boom of the bass drives my resolve to its knees. The music unexpectedly ushers in a flood of emotions I do not welcome but must learn to sit with.
We are broken.
Our daughter is a talented musician. Like her siblings before her, she couldn’t wait to be a part of the marching band. This would have been her first year on the field. Would have been, should have been. Instead, while the crowd is cheering in the distance, I talk to my girl on the phone during her scheduled phone time at the psychiatric treatment facility.
We are stunned.
For a full year now, our world has revolved around the chaos and crises mental illness brings. It has been wrought with devastation and discouragement I never thought possible. She was the victim of another’s sin as her forming brain was pickled in a cocktail of alcohol and drugs. She is the victim of bad genetics known to humankind since the fall. She is the victim of an illness that will be a lifelong sentence.
We are grieving.
There are moments, such as when we hear the band, when the gravity of our loss sinks us. We don’t have to have similar stories for us to have similar experiences, right? Our lives on this decaying earth are wrought with pain, disappointment, despair, and the undoing of all semblance, and sometimes that sits hard on us. We can be found on our knees, gasping for our last emotional breath with uninvited tears pouring down hot, red cheeks. The severity of the pain screams as we struggle to crawl from the quicksand which we, alone, are sinking in.
I cry out, “Lord, what am I to do?”
“March to the beat of a different drum.”
And there it is. The director of my ways lifts his baton and tells me to march, differently, decidedly. The maestro is composing an astounding lullaby of love, right here, right now in this present pain. Every tear we cry falls on his staff paper, becoming the notes that will be our songs of praise.
“You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your book?” (Psalm 56:8 NASB).
Our minutes of mourning crescendo until, at once, a melody of mending bursts forth, unable to be contained by the constraints of our grief.
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3:17–19 NLT).
The master puts his bow to our heartstrings and he plays us in ways that make our spirits soar, in ways that draw others to the sound of our song. As long as we stay in his hands, not one note is wasted. Not one.
And as we sight-read the piece of music laid before us, we stumble through the strains of staccatos, we run through rests, we replace minor notes for major ones, but we know our song has already been mastered by the one who wrote it. He knows every measure by heart. He harmonizes heartache with healing. He has perfected it, and it is a beautiful thing.
“Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13 ESV).
Dance, dear woman, dance. Sing, sweet sister, sing. Waltz with the lover of your soul. March to the beat of the Master’s heart for you.
“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38–39 ESV).
Cyndi Thelen likes to write and blog about life lived and lessons learned on her journey as a Christ-follower. She has been greatly blessed with five children, two in-love kids, and seven grandchildren. Her family represents a beautiful tapestry of skin colors. Cyndi lives in Michigan with her husband, Jim, and the only birdie left in the nest. She blogs at soultracings.com.
Photograph © Jordan Mixson, used with permission