A couple of days of days ago a friend posted this video of composer Arvo Pärt receiving an honorary degree from St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York in 2014. I found it compelling when I watched it for the first time, and moreso as I rewatched it just now.
I've just come from breakfast with a long time friend were we spoke openly about how we're both in places of brokenness that we can't fix; at the end of ourselves, at the end of our capacities to work things out. We talked about how how humbling this place is.
Then we wondered how God was seeing it all.
Could it be that what we're experiencing as the most difficult time of our lives is in fact the most fruitful from God's perspective? If humility is the best place from which we can see God, then are we not now in the best place before him? If God's biggest and best goal for our lives is preparing us for eternity, then could these hard times be just right in terms of that ultimate preparation?
Ten years ago my friend and I were both in a different place in life - all was well, things were heading in the right direction, life was good.
But what if it really wasn't?
What if, from God's perspective, we were sorely lacking back then, as we we fooled ourselves via the illusion of control we had extended over our lives? What if things appeared to be running smoothly because we were running them? Sure, we included God in our plans. We even confessed that everything was in his hands. But then life veered off course... off of the course we had set for ourselves... begging a larger question about who was really running the show.
So we talked about these things over breakfast, and held each other in our helpless states, and, in the context of all of our existential questions, I brought up Avro Pärt's deeply unsettling question, "Have you thanked God for this failure already?"
As now, sitting at home by myself, listening to Avro Pärt for a third time, it's as though I'm standing before God as I listen to the composer's words;
"I am trying to write music but it's not turning out well..."
"Have you thanked God for this failure already?"
"One must purify the soul until it begins to sound..."
"The instrument has to be in order to produce sound..."
[To create art, music, life is to] "be like a beggar... whatever, however and whenever God gives"
"The criterion must be... everywhere and only... humility."