Did you catch the story that resurfaced on FB last week about Joshua Bell, the world-famous violinist? Joshua Bell, in 2007, played an incognito concert in a crowded subway station. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes, one of the pieces was one of the most difficult pieces of music to play on a violin. You can read more about the story here, but basically, this world-famous concert violinist, playing on a violin worth 3.5 million dollars, who earlier that week had sold out an opera house venue with tickets averaging $100 a seat, played to an empty train station. In 45 minutes, it was calculated that 1,100 people went through the station walking right past the master musician. Only 6 people stopped. He collected $32 in tips. His longest observer? A 3-year-old boy.
Sounds like a hoax right? Or an urban legend? If we’re too busy to slow down and notice beauty, what does it say about us as a society? What does it say about me as a person?
When I was travelling the country in my van as a 22-year-old kid, I had a similar situation in a subway station in New York City. I was in the underbelly of the NY Subway in the midst of rush hour and I was stressed and panicked and utterly lost. People pushed back and forth and everyone else seemed to know exactly where they were going. In the midst of the rush and bustle and chaos a violinist had set up against a wall and suddenly hit a long and beautiful note. As the violinist played, it was the most amazing thing: the entire crowd paused. The note of beauty hung in the air like an anthem and people were stunned by its utter beauty in a place of ugliness. People looked up to the tiled roof of the station trying to make sense of the beautiful sound so utterly out of context. It only lasted a quick moment, for as soon as people could categorize the music, then bam! Everyone was off again. But in that small moment, as the world paused as it heard the music, I was shaken awake. That note of music was the most beautiful sound in the world at that moment- and the presence of beauty made people pause and listen.
We can miss life if we are rushing through it. We can walk right by the artistic genius on our appointment to something more “important.” How much more can it be said that we can miss seeing God in the blinders and bustle of daily life? We can utterly miss out on the most beautiful life has to offer and the fullest life God created for us in our “rush hour” mindsets. I’ll confess, this has been my story the last week. But God longs for us to stop, connect with Him, and be filled up to be a blessing to His world.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the traditional Lent season that the church uses to prepare for Easter. Our church is having a service tonight at 7pm if you are in Seattle, but wherever you are, today marks the preparation for Easter. These are solemn days to reflect back on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and how our lives might serve as markers to this great Love. These are also great days to pause, to pray for clarity, and work on slowing down and listening for the music in lives.
Where have you been rushing through the train station when you might have stopped for a while and enjoyed beauty? What will you do to remind yourself that God loves, you, that Jesus came for you, and that your life is a response? Paul writes in Ephesians 3:
14-19”My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
May you have some time today, or this week, to pause. To listen for God. To live full lives…full in the fullness of God. The Maker of music awaits!