“You intend to harm me, but God intended it for good . . .” – Genesis 50:20
Those of us who remember the late Dizzy Gillespie, one of the greatest jazz musician and trumpeters of the twentieth century, also recall he had two distinctive characteristics, one being the way he puffed out his cheeks like two inflated balloons when he was playing his horn. The other, and my favorite, was the oddly shaped trumpet he played with its 45-degree up-tilted bell. It was not until I came across an article about him that I learned the origin of his bent trumpet. “A bandmate fell on his horn,” according to the article, “bending it, and Gillespie found that he liked the sound projection. From then on, each of his trumpets was custom-made with an up-tilted bell.”
When I read about that, the first thing to cross my mind was how furious I would have been with that clumsy musician, had it been me, for damaging the instrument of my livelihood, accident or not. Apparently not so with Dizzy Gillespie, who instead discovered a whole new unique sound from the bent trumpet, which eventually became his trademark. Then it occurred to me, isn’t that the nature of jazz as a musical artform? For unlike rote musical scores intended to be performed exactly as written, jazz is improvisational, being modified, or even made up as it is played. So, where a wrong note or missed beat in a written score is considered a blunder in traditional music, a jazz musician might turn it into a whole new sound – exactly the way Dizzy Gillespie reacted to his bent horn.
So, from that perspective it made me think about God, imagining how He must be the consummate jazz musician, improvising as we humans clumsily blunder through life, bending creation and one another into all sorts of misshaped forms, sometimes accidentally and other times intentionally. Yet, regardless how bad we bend things out of shape, God finds ways to improvise and redeem our blunders, to transform wrong notes and missed beats into new sounds, damaged instruments into distinctive trademarks. Look, for example, at the redemptive work of Alcoholics Anonymous, based on the concept of one addict helping another addict find sobriety. Such are the “grace notes” God includes in the music of life.