When Itzhak Perlman, a childhood polio victim, hobbled on stage at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City’s Lincoln Center on Nov. 18, 1995, no one knew that, within minutes, he would have to contend with a major crisis.
Slowly he made his way to center stage and sat down. And then, following his standard routine, he placed his crutches on the floor, released the clasps on his legs, and picked up his violin. He was ready to play.
At some point in the concert, however, things went terribly wrong. A loud noise, like gunfire, reverberated across the arena. One of the strings on Perlman’s Stradivarius violin had snapped. The orchestra stopped playing, and in the silence that followed, the audience held its collective breath.
It might well have marked an end to the concert, but not so for Itzhak Perlman. After a moment’s pause, he signaled to the conductor to begin again. Continuing to play from where he left off, he improvised with his three-stringed violin with such passion and power it left the audience in awe.
When he finished, the crowd rose and cheered. No one had ever heard such music played from a three-stringed instrument. But the great violinist, undaunted and determined to make the best of a difficult situation, was still able to give his followers a concert they would never forget.
I make a point of this for I find in Perlman’s experience a picture of our relationship with God. You and I are like the Stradivarius, magnificent creations, the crowning jewel of the Master’s domain. Until, however, we are energized by the Spirit of God, we are little more than inert pieces spruce and maple. The music is there, but we soon discover that without the control and direction of the Master Musician, we are little more than a three-string instrument in a four-string world.
But we are not alone. Few of us find life ideal or without some challenge to our well-being. Not even the Apostle Paul, second only to Jesus Christ in his influence on the Christian faith, was cut a break. He struggled for much of his life with what I believe was an eye-problem that dated back to the days of his conversion. “There was given to me,” he states, “a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. … And [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
The Apostle finally concluded there was only one way to face the future. “Forgetting what is behind,” he wrote, “and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Like the Apostle, we may be haunted by circumstances we cannot change. We may feel ourselves to be a three-string instrument in a four-string world. But if we are willing to respect the authority of the Master Musician, amazing things happen. What He can do with simple people, fully surrendered to His will, borders on the miraculous.
God has chosen to reveal His glory, not through the dramatic or the supernatural, but through the lives of men and women just like you and me. We were created “in His image,” and it is now our privilege to become living models of His goodness and grace. We are an honored people!