Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 15, 2004
Jesus' light eclipses our sorrow
Personal tragedy, depression often blinds us to faith's healing powers
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
I settled into a darkened room to observe a lunar eclipse through a large picture window. The only light was a faint green glow from the power indicator light on my wheelchair.
As the drama of light and shadows played out in the heavens, my stereo filled the room with Beethoven's immortal Ninth Symphony, then Maurice Ravel's Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand. In my opinion, it was the most appropriate music for an event such as a lunar eclipse.
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was written from the dark internal shadows and isolation of total deafness - a condition that threatened to eclipse Beethoven's life with despair.
Maurice Ravel's Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand was written for an Austrian pianist (Paul Wittgenstein) who lost his right arm in the First World War.
Imagine Wittgenstein's grief! Music was the centre of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: as a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock!
Despite losing his arm, Wittgenstein did not give up and went on to a successful career as a concert pianist. He commissioned various works that he could perform from composers such as Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith and Richard Strauss. Wittgenstein was a wonderful example of the human capacity to triumph over adversity.
Disability or suffering need not eclipse or darken the human spirit. The eclipse that I saw that night eventually passed and the full moon shone again brighter than before the eclipse. Well, of course, that's not true, but my imagination and weakness for romance made it seem that way.
Paul Wittgenstein was probably just as skilled a pianist before he lost his arm as after. Yet the public loved him most as a one-armed pianist. (Everyone loves an over-comer!) Did Paul Wittgenstein play Ravel's Pianoforte for the left hand better than any two-armed pianist. Probably not, but the public wanted it played by someone who had earned the right to play it.
The musician's suffering was as important to a composition for the left hand as the notes themselves; together they made the music more beautiful and compelling - and that was true. It's still true.
Adversity can darken a person's life for a period of time, yet nature itself tells us that shadows will pass. But unlike a lunar eclipse, hurting people usually emerge back into the light of recovery from the shadows of suffering inexorably changed. The sufferer decides how they are changed by suffering. Will they be better or bitter? To remain unchanged would be to render the darkness of suffering without purpose.
Moonlight is actually the sun's light reflected to a darkened world. A lunar eclipse is the result of the earth passing between the sun and the moon. It is the earth's shadow we see in a lunar eclipse. So too, it is our own doubts that obscure or darken the light of Christ.
In a spiritual sense, our sufferings, sorrow and pain can seem to eclipse our ultimate source of light: Christ. Jesus said, "I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." At our deepest point of personal darkness we may lose sight of the light. We must cling desperately to God's promise not to leave us nor abandon us, regardless of appearances or feelings. We must remind ourselves that God's promises are reliable; feelings are not.
Even though our bodies are wasting away, God is working an ultimate glory that will eclipse all our suffering. We walk by faith, not by sight. Shadows and darkness can provide fertile ground for faith to grow.
It is our own doubts that obscure or darken the light of Christ.
The Scriptures tell us that faith is the realization of things hoped for and evidence for things not seen. And what is it we hope for? Our hope is that yet unfathomable reality of standing in the full light of Christ's love and glory of eternity. For now, it seems so faint. We have only inklings and divine promises to steady our pace toward the final goal. St. Paul put it this way:
"At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially, then I shall know fully, as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).
That's what awaits those who are in Christ Jesus. No more reflected light, just the real thing. No more shadows or darkness, just the light of Christ. We will understand just as we are already understood. He leads us by his light through the shadows of a darkened world toward eternity where nothing is dark anymore. Life's present sufferings are nothing compared to the glory that awaits us.
"I consider that the sufferings of this present time are nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that sees for itself is not hope. For who hopes for what one sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait with endurance" (Romans 8:18, 24-25).
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