Philippians 4:12-13- I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
My father was a starving musician for over 60 years. Probably the most gifted violinist I’ve ever known, he gave up fame and fortune to raise his six kids. Sacrifice. I understand what God did for me and would never minimize it in any way, but my father’s forfeit of a lucrative career is a standard for me as well. As the cliché goes, we didn’t have much growing up, but I remember one special Christmas that helped me appreciate the things I did have more than the things I didn’t.
At 13 years-old and the baby of the family, I asked my dad to buy me a guitar for Christmas. You know, something a bit more sophisticated than a dime store version that almost never stayed in tune. Even though I’d asked for it, I knew money was tighter that year because my mom had been in and out of the hospital, so I wasn’t counting on finding it under the tree.
As it turned out, I didn’t. I remember a few pairs of underwear, a flannel shirt or two, and some candy in my stocking but no guitar. Disappointment hounded me most of the day. In fact, for a majority of my Christmas break, I’d sulked around the house.
It seemed to me that Dad had been away a little bit more playing a few extra jobs over the holidays trying to make extra money, so the denial of my request befuddled me. I was the only one who showed any interest in pursuing music and following in his footsteps. I sang in the choir at school and wrote poetry and lyrics all the time. Why wouldn’t God honor my wish?
I think it’s in these moments of doubt that God truly shows up and teaches us what’s really important. My birthday was around the corner in January, and although Christmas had come and gone, my disappointment lingered like a musty basement stench. I stopped writing and even listening to music, and that’s when everything changed.
Dad woke me up early on a Saturday morning with a big grin on his face. He wanted me to go with him to meet one of his musician friend’s; he didn’t want to go alone. So I jammed a couple of pieces of toast in my mouth and ran out the door. I had no idea his friend owned his own music store on the east side of Cleveland. There were several guitars just calling my name, but I picked one labeled Aria (a long accompanied song for a solo voice). My father chose the same guitar for me and had been making payments on it for over a year, but it wasn’t paid off at Christmas.
All in all, what did I learn? “Every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of Light…” My timing and God’s don’t always line up. He knows that sometimes we settle for the mediocre, trying to do things ourselves, when His best gift is yet to come. Now every time I want to force God to respond in my favor, I catch myself. I could have had a bargain store variety guitar, but He wanted me to have something much better.
I taught myself how to play and went on to write many songs to touch other’s lives, including winning a GMA national songwriting competition with a song entitled “Daddy, Where’s the Lamb?” Ironically, a song about Abraham and Isaac. Halfway up Mount Moriah Isaac stopped his father and asked, “Daddy, where’s the lamb?” He was completely unaware that he was the intended sacrifice. But just like He always does, God tested Abraham’s faith as He tested mine.
My dad sacrificed so much to buy me that guitar, and I’ll always remember it. Whatever we perceive to give up when we accept Christ as our Lord and Savior is replaced by what truly matters. Things never satisfy because joy has one eternal source. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I seek more of now. I loved the guitar, but embraced the joy on my father’s face when he heard me sing and play my first original song. And that’s something that neither moth nor rust will ever decay.