Before investing in our own instrument, we decided that I should begin with a school-owned violin—kind of like giving that old beater car to your overly confident sixteen year old. Serious violinists purchase a shoulder rest to keep their violin in place under their chin. But at the beginning, I used a cheap sponge anchored by a rubber band.
At that time we owned a Dalmatian named “Rahab.” Strange name, great dog…for awhile, and she didn’t last long because she chewed everything in the house. My mom insisted I put my violin away after I was done practicing because of Rahab’s incessant search and destroy missions.
One evening in the middle of practicing, I ran down the stairs to say something to my parents. To be honest, I was probably looking for an excuse to avoid playing while the clock was ticking. Anyway, as I was walking up the stairs, I met Rahab prancing down the stairs with the sponge from my violin in her mouth—attached to the violin. Step by stop, the violin had bounced, face down, on the stairs. And laying beneath her spotted paws was the bridge from my violin, broken. If you’re unacquainted with the violin, the bridge supports the strings above the violin so the strings can be played and heard.
I was devastated. Yet I was also confident that God could do anything. So, I placed my instrument with the broken bridge back in my violin case, closed it, and placed it in the corner of my bedroom. Then I jumped on my bed and interceded to God on behalf of my violin. Never before had a fourth grader prayed so fervently.
“God, please heal my violin,” I pleaded. “In the name of Jesus, make my bridge new!”
Ten minutes later I jumped off my bed, opened the case and looked for a new instrument. But to my dismay, everything remained the same. That night, I went to bed, continuing in prayer. And the next morning, the bridge remained broken.
So, I resorted to Plan B. I grabbed the Elmer’s Glue from the kitchen ( I have no idea why we kept it there!) and I glued the two pieces together. Amazingly enough it held for the next two years.
My violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole.
We’re all Like That Broken Bridge
All of us are like that bridge from my old violin. Broken, and at times, barely holding it together.
Throughout Scripture, we read God’s command to “Be holy, because I am holy” (see Leviticus 11:44, 45; 19:2).
The Hebrew word for “holiness” (qodesh) means separate, sacred, or set apart. In my spiritual background, I listened to numerous sermons about the meaning of holiness, which could easily be defined by the words “I don’t smoke, I don’t chew, and I don’t go with girls who do.” Actually, the list of don’ts was much longer and included drinking, dancing, and listening to rock and roll.
The command to be holy was usually defined by our behavior. Forget about what’s going on inside, just get it right on the outside.
In recent years, though, certain biblical scholars have begun offering a different definition of holiness. They believe that the word really means “wholeness.” “Be whole as I am whole,” as God might be telling us.
My “healed” violin bridge wasn’t perfect, but it was whole—blemishes and all.
In my understanding of God, that seems to align with his character. The nature of God is to renew. In Jesus’ ministry, he called the Pharisees “white-washed tombs” (the old definition of holiness) while focusing his ministry on healing the broken. At the end of the age, we read in Revelation 21 a loud voice bellowing “I am making everything new!”
When he calls us to live holy lives, God calls us to be whole. This understanding brings an entirely new perspective to my behavior. It begins with the inside and works its way out. The emphasis is on healing, not perfection.
All of us share elements of brokenness in our lives that affect the way we live: Anger and unforgiveness that spring from past offenses. Abuses that prompt unhealthy or even addictive behavior.
God’s nature is to heal and restore.
What does wholeness look like in your life?
Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’s thankful that God still heals.