I read an article the other day about an experiment done in Washington, D.C. involving one of the worlds best musicians. Those conducting the experiment wanted to know what would happen if one of the greatest violinists in the world performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience. So for nearly 45 minutes, world-renowned violinist Joshua Bell performed six classical pieces in a crowded metro station as over a thousand people passed by. Only a handful stopped to listen.
Sometimes I feel like that violinist. As a stay-at-home mother, there are times when I feel overlooked and under appreciated. Home skills aren’t highly valued by our society and homemakers are rarely, if ever, given public recognition for the work that they do. As I shared this article with my husband, and the feelings it provoked in me, he listened quietly and then asked: “how do you suppose it made that musician feel, to have everyone overlooking him in the station that day?” It was mostly a rhetorical question; an attempt to express empathy for my position. But later that night, God brought the question to my mind again. How did Joshua Bell feel about himself that day?
Did the lack of attention make him feel that perhaps he wasn’t as good as he’d previously thought he was? Did it make him want to reconsider his choice in a profession? Did he begin to wonder if perhaps his Stradivarius violin wasn’t quite as valuable as he’d once imagined it to be, or that the piece of music he was playing wasn’t really a masterpiece, after all? Of course not!
Joshua Bell is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. His status as a musician didn’t come from the streets of Washington, but from the Halls of New York, Boston, and London. The tragedy of this story lies not in the incompetence of Joshua Bell or in his inability to draw a crowd. The tragedy lies in the sadness of a people too preoccupied to “stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written.” It lies in the shame of a people unable to recognize the worth of the music just in front of them. Two weeks after this experiment, at the Music Center at Strathmore, Joshua Bell played to a “standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements.” But in the eyes of those who saw him that Friday in January, he was just another beggar, “competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.”
You see, Joshua Bell’s music was never meant to be appreciated in the middle of a Metro Station during rush hour. It was meant to be appreciated in the opulence of a Symphony Hall. Each one of us has gifts and talents that God has given to us, talents that few in the world will ever recognize or appreciate. God asks us to stand up, take center stage and play for Him the piece that He has written for our lives. There are many who will not understand it. There are those who will not appreciate it. There are some who will even scoff at it. But God would have us play, nonetheless. And as we play, we must remember that our audience is not meant to be the pedestrians of Washington, but the patrons of Carnegie. We are not playing for the masses, we are playing for the Master.
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).