Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Achievement (03/08/12)
By Beth Muehlhausen
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Isaac was born to Wayne and Edna, forty-five-year-old professional musicians who lived on a financial shoestring in a suburb of a large city in California. After waiting for a child for twenty years, they eagerly welcomed their son into their modest home as well as their deepest hearts: a divinely sent child of promise destined to become a challenging agent of their own sanctification.
Little Isaac’s earliest memories were of music, and always more music. At his mother’s breast he heard Beethoven. On his father’ s knee he listened to Bach. Isaac accompanied his parents to their musical practices – intimate gatherings of men comprising Wayne’s brass quartet, and large, formal rehearsals of various musicians defining Edna’s local symphony – as well as their actual performances.
Of course it was assumed Isaac would also play an instrument. Wayne and Edna idolized the idea that Isaac could become a child prodigy, although such hope was rarely spoken out loud. Still, soon after his third birthday, inquiring family and friends began peering into Isaac’s clear blue eyes to ask different versions of the same question: “And what would you like to play, Isaac? The violin, like your mother, or the trumpet, like your father? Or perhaps the cello, like your Aunt Elaine, or the French Horn, like your Uncle Ralph? Hmmmmmmm?”
However, rhythm was not intuitive for Isaac. He was simply not drawn to music, and could not keep a beat when asked to clap his hands in accompaniment to a simple song.
By the time he was seven, Isaac knew he was terribly, tragically different. He was not musically gifted, and would never excel in the way that mattered to his family. Edna gently insisted he take piano lessons “in order to start somewhere,” but he hated daily practice and progressed very slowly. However, he obediently continued until his teacher threw up her hands saying he’d reached his maximum potential – a gentle hint that enough was enough.
Years passed. Isaac desperately wanted to fit in with his musical family, and after much encouragement from his parents, he tried trombone lessons. In high school he became a member of the marching band, although he faked playing most of the time on the football field – it was too difficult to simultaneously keep track of both his feet and his fingers. He would so much rather have spent time in the chemistry lab by himself, dabbling with various elements while lost in a mental world of experimentation.
Isaac saw himself as a square, scientific peg unable to fit in a round, artistic hole – and yet deep down, he knew his most pressing personal accomplishment would be to break from familial expectation in order to expose and develop his own innate aptitudes. To be authentic.
In college Isaac declared a major in chemistry, realized a passion for research, and went on to become a renowned chemist in his field. These decisions guided Wayne and Edna out of their own musical subculture into a different world entirely. They released their personal expectations and dreams to celebrate the uniqueness of this child who taught them to pray and believe differently; this child who directed them to seek the one true God of hope and compassion, the God who enabled them to see beyond themselves with patience and a depth of love and understanding that far surpassed their own. In this regard, they achieved a critical goal on earth: dying to self in order to embrace what is more true than the limits of personal desire.
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