The pen really is mightier than the sword. At least, it is for me.
But when I was young, before I had learned my letters or read a word…it was music.
I can remember from the earliest age going to the piano every time that pain would rise up. The self-loathing. The instinct that made me unable to even look in the mirror. The feeling like I was draining away into some hole nothing could plug up. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to look up at the sky. I couldn’t bear for anyone to see me. I wanted to cringe from every human touch, and hide away under my covers from every eye.
The only thing that could provide release was the old upright piano my aunt gave us when I was three. It sat in the corner of the living room of our mobile home, keys gleaming and white. Later they would yellow with the repeated passing of my oiled fingertips. My very own paintbrush of the passage of time. I remember thinking it was almost glowing, like a magical hideaway, a secret place only I could go. When I sat down at its waiting wooden arms, a little thrill would go through me. I’d lift the cover, and put skin to key as soon as I could, like it was a magnet drawing me.
It was a place where the poison could be drawn from the wound I couldn’t touch. The wound that was just there. I had no idea why it was there, how it had gotten there or when, and I had no power to soothe it.
Save for that old piano.
I had no idea what I was playing in those days. Notes, pitches, time signatures, clefs, the wide, beautiful yawn of the past filled with compositions from masters that came long before me. Those for whom the pen was also mightier than the sword.
Later, at the age of six, piano lessons began. I remember feeling constrained immediately. Like a wild stallion might feel at the first touch of the bridle. It felt wrong in a way. I was a wild thing, and I needed my forest.
(Where the Wild Things Are was my favorite book as a child. Max understood me and I understood him. And I longed for that place, but it was the dark parts, the raging parts, the deeper instincts that yearned for it. In the years to come I would learn it was dangerous, and like a moth should do to flame, I should run from it.)
But in my aunt’s house, the bridle and saddle of written music, of correct posture, of taming the flow from me, to conform to the notes on the page, became a chore and sucked the joy from me. I snorted and pulled and pawed at it.
My lessons lasted a year.
With great relief, I quit piano and moved on to soccer (another place where the wild things in me could rage, but in a socially accepted and healthier way) and viola lessons could enter into my life, and leave that old piano in my home as the bastion it remains today.
You see, that old piano still resides in my parent’s home. Though they live in a house today; the mobile home a bittersweet but abandoned thing of the past.
And now I’m living under their roof again.
A 35-year-old moving back in with her parents.
But that old piano beckons me again. Especially on days like today where the forest calls to me, and I dare not go there.
Now, that place, where the wildness in me can drain the poison at those lovingly, painfully yellowed keys is where I meet God. Or rather, He meets me. He enters into that pain with me. Allows me to be the wild passionate person He created me to be. That same thing that cries out, Let there be light!, but I am speaking in a human way only. It is my own impersonation, a reflection only, as the moon has no light of its own, only reflects the light of the sun. I don’t create things from nothing–ex nihilo–I am not God! But I am made to create. A child who crayons “masterpieces” next to their parent as they paint landscapes. The little one who stirs the batter their parent mixed and will cook for them after. “Look what I colored, Mommy!” Up on the fridge is goes. “Look what I cooked, Daddy!” Served on the table with places already set by hands larger and surer than my own.
Thank You, God. Not only for allowing me to be me, wild and passionate, but for meeting me in that place of darkness, for meeting me and feeling my pain, as you did on that day when Lazarus died–“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible.
But one of the most important ones to me.
And now as I write, this place, a perhaps less romantic one than my piano–my laptop–is where You meet me too. (As You long to meet me wherever I am, romanticized or not.) The pen You’ve placed in my hand IS mighty, for Your hand is around mine, guiding me from that dark wood, but taking joy in seeing what I create by Your gift that You gave me. You don’t bridle me. You don’t saddle me.
You don’t break me.
Not as a man might dominate an animal (where we get the word domesticated from), but invite me to come to You. “Let the little children come to Me.” You don’t control me, You dance with me. You don’t force my fingers on the keys–whether on a piano or on a keyboard–You provide a protective fence where I can run in freedom because Your fences are a protection from that forest where the wild things are, where the monsters are.
The monster in me.
You are my house, my home, my bastion, my stronghold.
And here, now, with You the wind threads my mane, and I fly.