As I sat down at the piano, I struggled with the notes and timing of a Fugue by Bach. My years of learning to play began with a country teacher who had a hymn book, and it was the only form of “teaching” that she knew. After a year my mom found a teacher who could teach scales and theory–not fun at all! It lasted only a few months before we moved. I was 10, and that was the total of my lessons. Still, music was my love, my passion, and my focus.
At thirteen, a little country church we attended needed a pianist, and somehow they decided I could do it well enough to accompany their singing. It never stopped from that point; every church we attended needed a pianist, and then organ was added, and later a flute, then clarinet, then any woodwind instrument. It was a fun time in my life. In early high school I liked a boy who could play extremely well. It motivated me to push myself to learn even more on my own, and yet when I entered the music store, I was embarrassed to buy what I could actually play, so I would ask for Grade 6, 7, or 8 (not as school grades, but difficulty in ability). Then I would take the piece home, and every afternoon sit down after school and learn to play the classics measure by measure.
Last night, as I watched this video from a Facebook post, I was mesmerized by the life of Derek Paravicini. If you google him on YouTube, you will find hours of videos made of his life, his ability that is beyond measure, and his disabilities. I wanted my husband to see this incredible genius (beyond genius–no computer can do what he does), and we both watched, completely absorbed in the miracle that unfolded before our eyes. When it concluded, my husband remarked, “Wouldn’t most people love to be able to play like that?” Sometimes I answer “off the top of my head,” but in this case I thought my answer through, first. (One of the few times I have thought before I answered, by the way.)
“I think most everyone would like to play like that, but I don’t think they would accept the gift with the disabilities that make that gift possible.” Derek, as you saw from the video, is blind, unable to process much connected thought, and can’t really process a trail of information; he can’t count, dress himself, fix his meals, and is completely dependent on the care given to him by others. He repeats most of what he hears in language, without understanding it. He picks random answers to questions. He is autistic, and walks with the ambling gate of a severely handicapped person. As you may have noticed, he also constantly tosses his head from side to side, probably part of the autism.
As I thought more of what I had seen, I realized the absolute analogy between Derek and my husband’s question, and my answer. If ever there has been a perfect parallel to accepting Jesus Christ as Savior and God as the Creator, it is in the life of this young man. His gift and his handicap go hand in hand–they have made each part able to function. Somehow, what he went through at birth, three months early, made him what he is today. His twin sister, by the way, died.
To put it more plainly, the gift of salvation is available to all of us: God says (John 3:16), “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that WHOEVER believes in Him shall not perish, but has everlasting life.” We can have the gift if we’ll accept it. But with the acceptance comes other things: things that most people do not want to give up, or “handicaps” they do not want to burden themselves with. They see the glass half-empty, not half-full. They see the negatives (in their mind), and not the wonderful relationship that becomes possible.
To be a Christian, they say, you have to follow all sorts of rules! You have to give up so much! You have to do this, and do that, not do this, and not do that. Actually the rules are only two: 1) Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind and strength, and 2) love the people around you more than you love yourself. Only two. But those are each big.
If I love God and love people, I don’t want to hurt Him or them. I don’t want to do something that will bring shame on the Savior who paid for my sin. I shared with someone Monday, my license plate reflects a large Christian University. As I drive, I’m constantly reminded that if I cut people off in traffic, ride their bumper, or drive defensively, it reflects on the university, and the fact that it is “Christian.” So I constantly watch how I drive.
That is how we live our lives. If we love God above all things, we want to please Him. If you had a perfect parent (which God is, as He made us in our mother’s womb), would it delight you to please that parent? Of course! And it would wound you if your actions humiliated them, and brought shame to them. Reading the Bible, which is God’s book left to us directly from Him through chosen men, gives us all the knowledge we need in order to grow in faith, love and the desire to know Him better each day. In return, He adopts us as His child, and He promises never to leave us, to carry our burdens, to have a plan and purpose that is much bigger than we can ever know, and to love us unconditionally.
If we love those with whom we come in contact more than we love ourselves, we will do what is best for them at all times, putting their needs before our own. For example, we don’t sleep with someone outside of marriage, because that is not loving God (He said do not do that), and it is not doing what is best for the other person; it is bringing shame on what Christ did for us on the Cross, and can hurt the other person in many ways. We don’t become drunk because we are told not to in the Bible, but God knows that we might say or do something that could hurt someone else, in action, or provide an excuse for them (if they can drink, and they call themselves a Christian, I can drink, too. But what if they can’t handle it?) We must love people so much that our concern is for their good.
In the parable of the Good Samaritan (which almost everyone knows), a man is robbed and beaten and left for dead. A “preacher” comes by, and walks on the other side; another religious teacher comes by and also hurries past; then a derelict comes by. He gets the man out of the ditch, cleans his wounds, and takes him to a hotel, where he asks them to take care of the man until he returns. He pays for the man’s room, care, and food, and says he will absorb any other cost when he returns. That is our example of treating those with whom we come in contact. If we can help them in some way, through our words or actions, we do so because we love Jesus.
So yes, we might want to play like Derek. We might want the “fire insurance” of not going to hell when we die. But we don’t want the handicaps: we don’t want the Christian restrictions. It is only those who see that the “handicaps” are what makes the gift so perfect that are willing to accept the gift. Not easy–if anyone tells you that following Christ is easy, they are deceived and don’t know the Scripture. “In this life you will have tribulation,” “If anyone desires to follow Me, he must take up his cross daily,” and many more. But it is so worth it. No one can understand the peace you have as you go through the storms, knowing that if (IF) He wills, He can tell the storm to be still; that you can trust Him in the storms because He is watching that you don’t drown. And if you drown, it’s okay. He is going to bring good out of it, for others. That’s where trust comes in.
How would you explain the world to Derek in a manner he can understand? You can’t. He could never understand the complexities that we live with and grapple with every day. How do we explain God? We can’t. “His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts our thoughts.” You trust Him to take care of you, just as Derek trusts his teacher to take care of him. That’s how we view God: that He will take care of us, and we don’t worry about it. Do you think Derek worries about whether Adam will be there for him or not? No. It probably has never occurred to him.
What a beautiful picture of faith. And a sad picture of why those who want nothing to do with Jesus turn away from the gift.