Mastering Grief

It was as if he had made them. He was… their master, but he was the most unassuming one in the room. He didn’t need to prove anything to anyone because he didn’t NEED to. He was the master.

From the moment we arrived, his name stood out. His name will always stand out, but I’ll be honest – we had never heard of him before that day. Yo-Yo Ma – yes. Ricky Skaggs – yes. Sting? Ok, I confess, but the gentle man in the plaid shirt… he was considered an authority though his name – his greatness, were unknown to us.

When he sat among his peers, considered to be some of the most accomplished, they deferred to him. If the instrument he held in his lap had legs and a will to get up and move, it wouldn’t. If his instruments had faces, they would possess a sublime look of ultimate contentment; as if they were home.

The entire music festival felt as though it was holding its breath, and the hour was late whenTim O’Brien finally took the stage; but no one was leaving. When he began to play, nobody moved.

On the drive home, my husband and I tried to come up with words to describe what we had just witnessed. Neither of us are accomplished musicians, but we knew there was an obvious chasm between the gifted and the gift itself; if that makes sense? The gift that night was embodied in a mere human – no cape, no red carpet, no drama, no parade. He fulfilled his calling by knowing. Yes, he knew how to woo the song from each of his hewn proteges, but the difference was that somehow he seemed to “know” them… almost like they were people and he was their creator.


He knew them as if he had made them.


Inside and out, every fiber, vibration and vibrato; wood, metal and veneer… he MORE than played them. He joined them – as if they were one. The patriarch of the evening knew what his beneficiaries were created for, and He knew their potential. The end result was effortless; just… effortless. One did not end where the other began, but were each the extension of the other. Neither resisted the other, even when the master began to play notes and chords that were unfamiliar to the instrument’s usual and familiar calling. I’ll even say that the two seemed to enjoy one another though the instrument was inanimate and without feeling; or so I thought. It was as if one reflected the brightness and best in the other, though one was clearly the master of his companion’s expression and fate.

Tim O’Brien brought melodies out of his instruments that we didn’t expect; sounds we didn’t know they could make, and sounds that only come from walking down a few long, hard, winding roads of friendship together. That’s when the real music begins to play.


That’s when the pains of this life transcend hopelessness and turn to beauty.


Even the instruments seemed pleasantly surprised.

The greater the complexity of the song, the more astounding was the master’s ease of effort. The music extended past what the instrument was normally expected to play, and with it grew the magnitude and beauty of its expression. The instrument told a story that would never have been uttered on its own, and if questioned beforehand about the likelihood of its ability to perform such a complex musical selection, it would have denied the possibility.

Believer… do you know how I know? It turns out, Tim O’Brien is naturally left-handed, but he plays his instruments right-handed. What seemed an unnatural impossibility became his glory. It is the same with your grief. Your life before your loss played a certain melody that now seems as though continuing on in the same manner as before is an unnatural impossibility, and there aren’t any options in sight. But God is ambidextrous, and because He is your Master and Creator, He knows you. Every fiber, vibration and vibrato; He knows you. You reflect the brightness and best of Him when you rest your grief in the care of His expertise. He will accomplish what you don’t expect and orchestrate your future into a type of music you didn’t know was possible, even though the notes and chords are unfamiliar to you now. Grief has up-ended you and turned you on your side and you’re facing the other direction now, but remember, the greater the complexity of the song, the more astounding the Master’s ease of effort. What seems unnatural will declare His glory and the magnitude of your pain will transcend your hopelessness and turn to beauty.

Defer to him. He is The Master and He knows you. He made you. The new song will come.

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