Ambiguity: interpreting conflict or hardship

I’ve been corresponding a bit with Jerry Read Smith, who made my hammered dulcimer. Among other things, we’ve been talking about my difficulties tuning.

Last year, when I was working on What Child Is This?, I had a particularly bad tuning day — so bad that I had to give up in hysterical tears after attempting to tune just a handful of strings — so bad I was almost ready to throw the dulcimer away. I rarely call anyone, but that day I called Jerry, needing a physical ear to hear my complaint, and a voice to soothe me.

He wondered if perhaps it was time for me to move on from dulcimer, if that was the direction God wanted me to go. Terrifying thought. But since I’m committed first to God, and theoretically willing to obey him even if it means giving up dulcimer or anything else that I love, I spent some time thinking and reflecting and praying about that possibility.

Hardship can often mean a closed door, a stop sign, a redirection.

But sometimes it can mean a challenge to press on, to be courageous, to accept suffering for the sake of joy that lies beyond it, or for its sanctifying efficacy.

I remember facing that possibility when I was dating my husband. The idea that conflict is a natural part of relationship, and not always a sign that I should give up the relationship.

Same thing with church. Churches are supposed to be communities — relationships — and so conflict is natural there, too. Sometimes the conflict is best resolved by leaving, but sometimes it’s better to stay and face it and work through it.

This tuning thing seems to be the same way; it may be some suffering that I have to accept for the sake of the joy of playing dulcimer, a weakness that is good for my ego, an opportunity to be courageous without being willful, a crucible for my sanctification.