A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; Isaiah 42:3
She’s playing a clarinet—not my favorite instrument—and I hear her before I see her. Clarinets in my high school band never sounded like that. I remember terrible squeaking and no music at all. Maybe the reeds had not been properly broken in.
Reeds needed to be—no, not broken—adjusted, seasoned, tested.
I suspect many students chose a clarinet because it could be carried in a small case. A wise choice on their part, as I learned lugging around a trombone.
I’d left Cafe DuMonde a few minutes ago and, fingers still sticky from powdered sugar on a warm beignet, I sit down to listen and instantly fall under her spell. How can so much love and sorrow flow in exquisite beauty from a mere clarinet?
It doesn’t matter what she plays—a sprightly “When the saints go marching in,” or a mournful old slave song like “Let my people go,” I hear it all. I hear grief and joy, heartache and gladness, bitterness and resignation.
Mellow notes soothe for a few measures, then transform and howl into the echoing emptiness of unanswered why.
Why does there seem to be no help for mental illness?
Why does someone who seems to have it all take his own life?
Why do little children die?
Why does my flesh war against what is best for me?
Her music quiets the savage beast in me that rises up and rages against injustice, disappointment and betrayal. Her songs stir up memories of ancient injuries and appreciation for the deliverance I walk in now. The low notes tell again that underneath it all, carrying me, holding me, are the everlasting arms. In spite of myself, joy bubbles up like the warbling trills of her flying fingers.
Her tone is mellow and rich, deep and sure, proof that her reed had been carefully selected and seasoned skillfully so that her heart can flow unimpeded through her chosen instrument.
A chorus from years ago floats through my mind: “Lord make me an instrument, an instrument of worship…” Oh, wait—much better—“Make me an instrument of thy peace…”
I can’t help wondering why God chose me. Did He create qualities in me that He could use? Now that I have been long-seasoned and tested over and over, can I be an instrument in His hands?
Season after season I have been tested and experienced the Lord’s presence through every trial. The Lord has proven faithful, season after season.
Father, thank you for forgiving me when I have failed you, for healing me when I was broken and soothing me when I was bruised. Thank you for defending me in the face of injustice and accepting me when I was rejected. You filled me up when I was empty.
My desire is to be found faithful, pleasing to you. Lord, make me an instrument of peace, and an instrument of worship.
May the music of my life be a balm to heal the bruised, and a gentle breath to bring a smoldering wick back to full flame.