It’s the day I hear about my friend’s murder. I’m on my way to the airport, after a long week of grieving the completely unexpected suicide of one of the most influential friendships I’ve ever had. I receive a phone call. It’s Becca’s dad.
“Are you standing?” he asks.
“No. Sitting.” This doesn’t sound good.
“Someone turned himself into the police. He says he killed Becca. He says there were a lot of disturbing things going on in the community she was living in, and they wanted to cover it all up. So they killed her.”
“What?” I can barely comprehend this new development. “What?”
“You can read the articles.”
That’s all he’ll say. I spend the entire flight home thinking. Thinking.
My world is about to change. Everything I thought was true isn’t true. Everything. Will I face it? I ask myself again and again. Can I face this new nightmare?
I get home, I feel sick inside. But I go online and read articles. My friend’s “Christian” community was actually a cult. Her husband was the leader. Her husband and some of the other guys were doing things they shouldn’t be doing (to put it bluntly). She had no idea of any of this until she moved into the house after she married. She was going to counseling, and they killed her because they didn’t want her to tell anyone anything.
The guy who killed her was a good friend from college.
He said her husband told him to do it.
My mind reels. I have never felt so disoriented. My friend, my dear friend, was in a cult? But they were such a good Christian community. They seemed so great. Yet there were things going on behind closed doors. Things my friend (and many in the group) had no idea about. Until it all came out because of murder.
Murder. My friend is murdered. Becca was murdered??
I feel sick. I feel like I want to scream. I’m shaking a little, even. I’m so angry. I’m so confused. My fists clench and unclench. I have no idea what to do with them. I want to curse, to curse, to curse.
I am supposed to go to a symphony concert with one of roommates that afternoon. I don’t want to go. But I know I have to. For some reason, I know I have to go.
So I go. The symphony orchestra is playing the Firebird Suite by Stravinsky. As well as various other pieces.
I sit in the darkness as the concert begins. My mind is reeling.
Murdered. She was murdered. My friend was killed. Her community betrayed her. Everything I thought was right is wrong. How can I ever, ever process this? How can I ever, ever recover?
And the music plays. The violinists’ fingers fly. The cellos and basses surge. The trumpets blow.
It’s beautiful. My heart has always been very touched by music. It calls to me.
“Listen. Listen to the music.”
But I sit in the darkness. Murder, murder, betrayal. My mind screams.
“Listen to the music.” The music whispers.
How can I ever recover? My dearest friend is dead.
“Focus on the notes,” the music sings. “The swaying rhythms. The lilting melodies.”
Images rush through my mind. What would it have been like to die in such a way?
“FOCUS.” The music shouts. “Focus on the beauty.”
I close my eyes. I concentrate on the sounds of the orchestra. The oboe with its watery smoothness. The trombone and its gruffy snark.
All the parts combine together to create a flowing, unified piece of music.
And I wonder.
How can some people be so cruel, and yet some can be so creative?
And I ponder.
The world is dark, yes. But there is so much beauty in it, too.
I must focus on the beauty.
I cannot let myself be overwhelmed by the darkness.
I must focus on the beauty. Focus on the good. Focus on the right.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. [Romans 12:21]
This is what God is trying to tell me through the music.
So I shut my eyes tighter. And I listen. I listen hard. Each note resonates in my soul. Each stanza throbs in my heart. Oh, there is beauty. Oh, there is good in this world.
The music plays. The murky thoughts dissipate.
The orchestra continues on with the Firebird Suite. The last piece they play. It is a gorgeous work. Stravinsky wrote it to accompany a ballet. It’s about a prince who must rescue princesses from an evil king. Along the way, a magical firebird helps him defeat the evil king.
I have always loved movements IV (Berceuse) and V (Finale) because they build upon one another. The Berceuse starts out dismal, dead, sad, tense. Then the Finale picks up that hopelessness and breathes hope and light into. The crescendo builds and builds until the final few moments of the piece simply grip your heart with utter exaltation and joy.
It has always reminded me of hope. In fact, I played these two parts of the Suite my freshman year in symphonic band (I play the violin). And even then, it filled me with great joy to play this piece. Even then, I felt a hope and a beauty there.
Now, as I sit in the darkness, the crescendo builds. The light of the music pierces through. It pierces through no matter how the darkness tries to stifle it.
Oh, the beauty.
Tears form in my eyes.
My friend is gone. Yes, she was murdered.
But she is.
She is free, healed, and whole again.
She rose from ashes. She rose up even in death and exposed darkness.
And in her death, she defeated evil.
People are free because of her.
Lies are uncovered.
Tyrants are overthrown.
Evil is overcome by good.
Now, I must do the same.
I have a choice, as do we all.
I will not let the evil overcome me.
I will focus on the beauty.
Do not be overcome, my heart.
Do not be overcome.