By Rev. Everette Chapman
Some time ago, my son, Lee, gifted me with a CD collection containing all works of all the major classical composers – Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Handel, Mozart, Verdi, and others. I immediately began to enjoy them. One day, however, I realized that I had listened to all the CD’s except for the one containing the works of Verdi.
I did not know very much about Verdi and had only heard a handful of his compositions. I experienced those few as quite unimpressive, and it seemed to me that the music was rather heavy and morose, if not downright discordant. For that reason, I had never been in the mood for listening to Verdi again.
A few weeks later, however, being called upon to drive to Winston-Salem and having already listened to all the other CD’s, I reluctantly put the Verdi CD into the player in my car and started to listen to it. What a marvelous surprise! Verdi’s music was bold, heroic, hale, robust, and beautifully moving! I wound up playing the CD through twice. How much poorer I would have been that day and since if I had not given Verdi a second try.
I am not alone in making the kind of error I did in regard to judging someone by a brief experience with him. I am not the first person to ever base a strong opinion on an extremely-limited sampling of an experience, a person, an organization, an enterprise, or even an automobile.
How often do we misjudge a person because of some single distracting quality or some weak factor of her appearance? How often do we pass judgment on a person without knowing his circumstances? Many are the restaurants we always avoid because we had one bad meal there some time ago. Many writers have fallen into our disfavor because we didn’t like the first book of theirs we read.
Christianity, too, has often been given the “Verdi treatment.” Because of a bad church experience when we were growing up, because we knew of a priest or minister who disgraced himself, or because we once sat under a preacher who constantly harangued his congregation about money, we have found it easy to write off the church altogether. What a pity!
Harry Emerson Fosdick once challenged those who have doubts about God, Christ, the Church, and religion in general thusly: “I don’t blame you for having doubts,” he said. “It is by doubting one concept or way of doing things that helps us move on to a better one. I simply urge you that, after you have poured the acids of doubt on the old ways and have come up with new ideas or new methods, to have the integrity to subject your new system to the same penetrating question with which you bored in on the old system. In other words, have the fair-mindedness to ‘doubt your doubts.’”
To me, the Christian faith is a constant wrestling with ourselves and our belief systems in order to arrive at a place where God is bigger and one in which we are more like Christ. Let’s not make my Verdi mistake and etch our opinions and beliefs in stone before all the facts are in. Stay open to new truth and to new growth, even if it involves excruciating growing pains. Have the integrity to keep on doubting your doubts. Be blessed!
Rev. Everette Chapman is pastor of Fairfield Mountains Chapel, Lake Lure. His new book, “Gentle Mountain Breezes”, a collection of articles from his Mountain Breeze column since the late 1980’s to the present time, is available by contacting Fairfield Mountains Chapel.