You can find her there. On the streets of Melbourne, Australia. Natalie sits, hunched over a small keyboard, a bent and broken queen. Her metal walker stands nearby like a body guard. Her twisted and hooked fingers move across the keys as if they are young and slender and light. The swollen joints do what she commands, as if in this moment, on the bustling city street, they don’t bring the ache to her tired hands, the ache that keeps her up at night. Here, they are soft and supple and beautiful.
She plays some songs that she composed herself, at least one written when she was thirteen years old, back when she was a young promising virtuoso, just beginning what was sure to be a brilliant career in music. She plays songs that she learned during her years of classical training. Songs that moved her heart then, when the world lay before her like a dazzling pearl-filled oyster. And now, the songs move her in a different way, in the way that loss and heartache and great struggle move and change a person on the inside.
She was married once. Four children: two girls, two boys. She was surrounded by her brood just like any sweet mama you know today. But, accidents and disease are no respecter of mamas or their sweet loves. Both of her girls died before they had the chance to decide who to be. Her marriage fell apart. A son stepped into the pit of drug and alcohol abuse. And, eventually, she found herself alone, without a home. Living on the streets, glory days of musical accomplishment and precious moments with babies on her knee were far behind her.
For nine years Natalie lived with no place to lay her head, save the dark alleyways that she would’ve been afraid of in her younger, shinier days. But, the music inside her wouldn’t lie quiet. She began playing in a hotel lobby, and won herself a room. Now she plays there regularly and takes her music to the streets as well, aching for people of all walks of life to hear her message–that there is beauty, still, in the middle of the chaos. In the noisy street, where broken-hearted people and cheery people and lost people float past all day long, and they all get a dose of what she has to offer: the music that lived in her heart and never died.
The chaos comes and never seems to go. We read the news and we look at the vast lostness and craziness of the world, and we feel the chaos creeping into our hearts. We feel the overwhelming urge to shut ourselves away, just us and what we know, stubborn world be damned. It would be so easy, to sit back and hoard what is inside us. But, what we carry, what lives inside through the pain and the suffering and the great heartaches of life, it is the beauty in the chaos. It is the stunning tune on a busy street. It is the only hope for humanity.
And, for whatever reason, our God wants to use us, in all our selfishness. He wants us to be like Natalie, shooting little notes of beauty into what seems chaotic. Our song is the love of Jesus Christ, the hope of the gospel, and the only purely beautiful truth that this world will ever know.
How can we hide in the alleyways now? When the world is desperate for a glimpse of that beauty? For a taste of the goodness of God? Surprised on the street, by a lowly woman, a humble man, hitting the notes that sing change.
Natalie plays there today, white hair blowing in an unruly wind, imperfect fingers playing the perfect tune. People pass by and toss change into a box at her feet. They are changed by her notes.