The room ran so high with violins that I spotted a rolling ladder similar to those used in old libraries. A whimsical-looking woman slid down one of the closest ladders and grinned at me. "Well, you're finally here! You're one of those humans who's always trying to earn God's love," the Master Luthier said. "What a silly concept! God's love exists just like He does. It just is. It always was. Always will be. Nothing can change it. But you've heard all of this before. I guess you need to see it to fully understand."
Her curly hair stuck out sporadically from her head like she'd suffered an electrocution, and the huge apron she wore made her tiny frame look even smaller. "Take your time. Find the violin that calls to you."
"But there must be thousands of violins here," I argued. "How can I possibly—"
"It won't be that hard. Trust me. I've even placed your violin on a bottom row."
I walked down row after row feeling like Indiana Jones searching for the Holy Grail. All of the violins seemed interesting, but how would I find the right one? Finally, I closed my eyes and gingerly turned before grabbing the violin directly in front of me. "It’s beautiful," I squealed after opening my eyes.
"Well, I didn't expect you to find that one," the Master Luthier said. "I guess it actually makes sense though. Why don't you go ahead and play it."
I took both the violin and bow from a hanger, and as I played, a wind swept through the place. It was perfectly in tune, so rich and full. This instrument had an impeccable range, but especially resonated on the lower D and G strings. My fingers wandered over each section growing with curiosity and passion until I finally stopped and held it at my side. "I've never, ever experienced something like that. It felt…alive."
"Every violin in here represents a soul. I'd hoped you'd find your own, but you found the violin that represents…your husband."
I sighed in disbelief! "You're kidding!" I wanted to play again, just to feel his passion and love for life. I had felt existence through his eyes—and it was breathtaking, empowering. I suddenly sensed other violins around me. Some felt sad and depleted. Others felt old and wise or young and innocent, free and kind, angry and vengeful.
"Maybe it worked out best this way. Instead of playing Mike's violin again, I want you to play this one." She pointed to a cherry fiddle next to it. That one looked worse for wear. It had dents and scratches. Scars in all the same places where I would imagine my scars from surgeries and even bad decisions from adventures in my youth. The bridge looked a bit skewed, and the bow seriously needed to be rehaired.
"But that violin looks terrible." I scrunched my nose in disgust. "Please don't tell me that violin is me."
"Who else! Would you mind playing it?"
I picked up the pathetic excuse for an instrument. It wouldn't stay in tune. And I couldn't even play two strings at the same time because one would go flat while the other stayed in perfect pitch. "This is chaos," I finally said, defeated.
"You wanted to learn about God's love," she said. If you made both of these violins, would you think that one is better than the other?"
"Absolutely!" I said.
"And that's where you're wrong. Experiences don't ruin people—these scratches and scars; God can use things to make people better. Imperfections can simply give violins a different sound." She brought the fiddle over to a fading workbench and began making minor adjustments. "Most people would have no idea what would need to be altered on this violin, but I do because I'm the Master Luthier. I've created stringed instruments for centuries! I love each violin, putting a part of myself into every instrument. Yes, some appear to have been through more than others; they've suffered terrible situations that have led to even more terrible decisions, but I can't help loving each violin. I know their current capabilities and their true potential. I know what they were meant for and what they could've been if life were fair."
"You don't think life is fair?"
She continued "fixing" the violin.
"A rabbi once said that 'we must spend our time judging ourselves, rather than others,'" I said. "Would that make life fair?"
"But, what if you judge even yourself too harshly?" She handed me the violin that represented my soul. "Your idea of perfection is unattainable."
"I don't want to play it again. You've made minor adjustments, nothing can fix this violin—or who I am."
"Just try it, Elisa."
I held the violin at the ready, and the thing took control. I played, and as I did, I remembered some of the most beautiful moments from my life: the day I married Mike, the days each of my children were born, all of the love I've felt from family and friends… And in that moment, I saw how God must see me, just how I suddenly saw this violin. It felt much different than playing Mike's violin. This one was part of me—and although just a dream, it seemed one of the most magical moments of my life.
Tears streamed down my face. "Oh… Thank you. Thank you for this. I wish I could come back here always and play the violins. Just feeling the love God has for each of us."
"And you thought you were broken. Often, all we need are some improvements, and we'll be perfectly in tune with who we're supposed to be, so we can reach our true potential."
I stared at my violin before hanging it up. The thing with instruments is that after you've played one for so long, it becomes somehow seasoned. The violin I own has grooves from my exact fingers and grip. That makes it easy to shift to various positions became my hand automatically stops at the grooves I've made, like water washing over rock for decades. This violin seemed the same; it wasn't perfect in the usual sense, but it did suddenly feel perfect to me. "Will I ever get to see you again? I'd love to come back here over and over." I didn't mean to be a voyeur but feeling other people's souls was quite incredible.
"Maybe, when your time on earth is done," she said. And that was the last time I saw the Master Luthier.
I think this dream was inspired by the poem "The Touch of the Master's Hand." If you haven't read that, it's definitely worth finding.
For more of my writing, please check out my latest book here: https://www.amazon.com/Two-More-Years-EC-Stilson-ebook/dp/B09Z2ZG269