And bring Me all your doubts and fears,
The hurt you haven’t faced in years,
The wounded heart you’ve stuffed inside,
The tears you’ve tried so hard to hide. …
So come to Me just the way you are,
Though you’ve fallen hard and wandered far.
Stop trying to be so brave, so strong.
It’s okay to cry, child, tears aren’t wrong!
But in the end I did ask for Roisín back. About a month after family camp I took her home, and some time went by, and in November I stopped by to borrow something and one of the kids enquired whether “Dad had asked you yet about playing for the Christmas program”. I hadn’t heard of any such conspiracy, but thanks to the tipoff from the kids, I was not surprised shortly thereafter to receive the following email regarding the 2012 Christmas program:
“…we would like to have Kylie and M. play a flute rendition of ‘O Come Emmanuel’. I think that one would be beautiful with harp accompaniment. What combination of bribes, flattery, inducements, cheap psychological tricks….er….uh…. Let me start again. Please play with us on this? -Jim.”
I had given a lot of thought around that time to the harp—I wanted her back with me, after all! I responded with my usual hesitation and prickly resistance but promised to consider it.
One night we went to their house so I could run through it with Kylie and try a few things and see how it sounded. Since I was still hesitant, Jim asked me again why I did not want to play and I told him, “I don’t play right. Fear of criticism. I don’t want people to criticise me for not playing right.”
“Well,” he said, “if anyone says anything bad to you, you send them to me, and I will BEAT THEM UP.”
By that time I was having all I could do to simply not have a complete meltdown, from the intensity of the emotions, from the heady experience of actually attempting to play something that was fit to do in front of peopl, and we went home soon after. But before I went to bed, I had written him and Frances an email explaining the whole story as I have already related on previous pages. This is the close of my email:
“The solitude socially combined with the silence [in Kentucky] had left me increasingly fragile, lonely, unstable, socially inept, vulnerable. I looked around me [in my new non-Mennonite life] and felt that nobody else I became friends with could relate, so I began to bottle up my past the way we had boxed up the music. The more time passed, the less inclined I was to reveal the chunk of my past that had been so tied up with drama and emotional upheaval. Where once I had prominently displayed the harp for all to see, now she stayed out of sight. I was reluctant to let anyone know about either her or my Mennopast. They seemed so tied up one with another that I could not reconcile.
“And this is why I have held back. Fear of criticism, prying questions, and the works. You’re absolutely right; I love playing and I would give a lot to do better at it. The desire is there; perhaps some day I’ll have time to make it pay off. I just can’t allow myself (still) to think about all this without melting into a puddle of tears, therefore I flip the emotional switch that came in handy as a Mennonite where you just don’t display emotion because it’s easier to stuff it all in the closet than face things. Not that this has been the best course of action; I completely realise that ignoring issues solves absolutely nothing… tonight, I flipped the switch because I knew if I opened up and shared what I really think I would have to deal with emotions and panic that I feel like I’m not in control of myself and it would have been absolutely ridiculous, even if normal. Fear of criticism is a lame excuse but it was all I could come up with in the moment, and it isn’t really a lie because that is a facet of my insecurity, even if it is lame.
“At any rate. I will play the song for church. I do want to do it (though I do so wish I could not have to run the gauntlet of well-meaning but inquisitive individuals afterwards). Sooner or later I have to stop hiding, so now is as good a time as any, I suppose.”
The next morning I had a response.
“As I write this, tears come to my own eyes. We are musicians because we feel things. Your story touched me in so many ways. I can’t even begin to address everything you have said here. But I am praying that God will help me say some things that will give some encouragement. I want to assure you that Jesus desires to give you healing from your past experience. He knows every twist and turn, every thread in the fabric of your life. … I want you to know that you can be vulnerable with Frances and I. If you were to break down, we would not think you are nuts. And it is not healthy to keep all those things bottled up.
“…I can tell just from what you have shared that there are layers upon layers here that you have not even shared, and perhaps have not dealt with. But I am certain you can be healed from this and actually thrive. You have a powerful testimony in the making. It is complicated and fascinating to me because on the one hand you have a very restrictive religion imposing non-biblical demand on its members. You have the innocence of childhood, and you have your own sinful human nature. And it is hard to see where the legitimate cry of the oppressed for freedom ends and rebellion begins. But the word of God is is able to pierce and discern where that line is (see Heb 4:12) What I feel impressed to write is that as you work through this with God, and that you seek to maintain a balance. … You can say, “This is where the Mennofolk had it right. This was of value to me, and this I will retain, and here is where they crossed the line and went beyond what scripture says we are to do, and this I will let go.” You remember that sermon by Ty Gibson a few years ago about the Advent Movement, and William Miller’s dream about the jewel box, and how all those jewels represented truth, how people came in and scattered all the jewels and there was dust and filth and spurious jewels everywhere….Then the man with the brush came, and everything was swept up and the jewels where placed in an even more beautiful setting then before. … I would suggest that you with much prayer do the same thing with your past experience. Retain the jewels and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit and the word of God, dispense with the spurious jewels.
“And what about the aspect of injustice that was done to you? The only way I know you can move past that, is to forgive…everyone…Mom, Dad, sis, the Mennonite Church. …
“So if I may offer some advice one musician to another, one friend to another, do two things.
1. Forgive: Everyone including yourself
2. Embrace who God created you to be.
… Because of sin and life on a sinful planet the development and expression of some of these gifts has been delayed, repressed, but you can move on. You can say, ‘This happened to me with the harp, and when I play the harp I have memories, some very painful, of what happened, but… I have found freedom and release in Christ, I am a new creature in him, and I have a new song to play for him both on my harp and with my life.’ Don’t let anyone rob you of this freedom and blessing you can have in Christ. Please don’t let the fear of criticism by others cause you to repress again the gifts that God gave you to glorify him with. Don’t hide your light under a basket, Shine!”
So that was that. Fifteen years after Roisín had come to me, and after enduring a month’s worth of agonizing, gut-wrenching pre-performance anxiety, I played her in public for the first time. Strong-armed by the common sense and persistence of my brother, I made it through the gauntlet. And nobody had anything bad to say. Some expressed surprise, saying they had no idea I played the harp. Nobody had to be sent to Jim to be beat up. I was almost disappointed. I have to confess I was immensely interested in watching him beat somebody up. Alas.
Afterwards as we were leaving the church, Jim asked, “How do you feel?”
“I’m alive,” I heard myself say. I’m still not sure what exactly I meant by that. It could mean simply I survived. Or it could mean I am no longer dead.
Both meanings would be true.
Continue Reading: V – Finale
Return to III – Bridge