Elizabeth Reardon recalls a moment of kindness that allowed her the opportunity for a new beginning.
Ever have a day where you focus on one mistake and in its place you made several more? Where you can’t seem to get back on track, or even see the track because for whatever reason you can’t get out of the weeds? Couple a stellar combination of exhaustion and perfectionist tendencies and you have a perfect storm. Teamed with emotion and a desire to stop the purge, each task strung together seems but a unending comedy of errors.
At an early age, I discovered a love for almost anything musical. From children’s and adult choir to a capella, and from recorder to tenor saxophone, I relished the opportunity to encounter the world around me musically. That is not to say that I would distinguish myself as a virtuoso by any means, but more that I enjoyed embracing the troubadour identity within. For everything encountered could be made more bearable when set to a lively tune. I even put study materials to music and sung my way to remembering the most obscure facts for exams. So it was, that I not only learned about the world around me, but music taught me about the inner workings of who I truly am.
As a sophomore in high school, having worked for months to prepare a difficult piece for a solo competition, I felt ready. With all of the practice behind me, I told myself all that was left was to breathe. Surely, I could do that. Yet, what began with flawless fluidity soon began to unravel with just one inarticulate note in the second movement. The more I tried to focus on the note in front of me the more obvious each previous mistake became. Now, my only hope I thought was to merely finish the piece and bow out gracefully to end the day. This is when I came face to face with an unexpected act of kindness.
I had never met her before in my years of competition. A small thin woman, she had given no indication of a merciful disposition other than her initial smile when I had entered the room. “Elizabeth, is it? Can you stop for a moment?” This was quite unusual, and I wasn’t sure what was coming next. Was I being stopped because she couldn’t tolerate any more, or because there was just no use in continuing?
“I would like for you to take a minute, close your eyes, and breathe. Feel the notes inside, the sadness, the joy of each measure and when you are ready … open your eyes and begin again.”
Doing as she said, I remembered all of the hours of practice and the reason why I had chosen this piece in the first place. And forgetting the past few minutes, I began again. This time, the result was a nearly unblemished performance and a satisfied pause.
“Thank you,” I said, “Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to try again. I know that there are many other students awaiting their turn.”
“Elizabeth, at this minute you are the only student I have before me. Sometimes, we look back at the small mistakes we make and are unable to face the rest of the music ahead of us. I had a feeling all that was needed was a break—not to recall the mistakes but the joy. If you can remember this, beyond today, then you can be more patient with yourself as a musician.”
Her words and the mercy that I was shown that day are reminiscent of the grace found in reconciliation. For, our patient heavenly Father, knowing that we are far from perfect, always sees our trying. He wants us to know the joy and love that following His lead can provide. And rather than staying focused on the past mistakes, and allowing that to create new ones, He is the Author of new beginnings.
“It is I, I, who wipe out, for my own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more.” (Isaiah 43:25)
Where do I need a new beginning today? How can I show mercy to those most in need of it in my daily walk?
Copyright 2023 Elizabeth Reardon
About the Author
Elizabeth Reardon is Director of Parish Ministries and Pastoral Associate for the Collaborative Parishes of Resurrection & St. Paul in Hingham, Massachusetts; a wife and mother of three; certified spiritual director; and writer at TheologyIsAVerb.com. Her writing is an invitation to seek and create space for God in the midst of the busyness of everyday life.