Back in seminary we read a book called The Wounded Healer. The essential message was that painful experiences are life’s best teachers. They teach us, as one famous politician put it, “to feel your pain.”
But we may not understand another's pain. Someone who has not had cancer cannot understand another person’s diagnosis. But the wounded healer can relate by recalling experiences of feeling powerless and out of control
I didn’t appreciate the book at first. I had lived a fairly charmed life and thought I was already a pretty good pastor. But the more I grew, the more I saw its wisdom.
Ernest Hemingway once said, “Life breaks everyone, and some are strong in the broken places.”
The Broken String
Are you familiar with Yitzhak Perlman? He is one of the most famous violinists in the world. He also contracted polio at age 4 and has had to wear metal braces on his legs ever since.
One night he was in Houston playing a concert to a packed auditorium. A few minutes into the piece, one of the violin strings broke. The cracking sound was audible.
Everyone gasped. They expected him to pause and send for another string or violin.
Instead, he motioned the conductor to go on. He played the rest of concerto on three strings.
At the end of the performance, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and called on him to speak. He leaned into the microphone and said,
“Our task is to make music with what remains.”
That’s not only a comment about the broken string. It’s a comment on life. Like Yitzhak Perlman, each of us makes music with what remains.
What remains is the beauty that is inside of us. Some people have a hard time letting that beauty out.
There is no magic cure. But there are proven tools and guides. You can find a few of them in Shalom for the Heart: 50 Torah-Inspired Devotions for a Sacred Life.