Author: Charles Martin
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
While I was on vacation, I had time to read through several of the books that had been sitting on my shelf for a while, gathering dust, remaining unopened. One of these books was Long Way Gone by Charles Martin. I had purchased this book based off the recommendation of a friend, but resisted reading it because the back described it as a “radical retelling of the prodigal son story,” (Luke 15:11-32), and I didn’t want to read that. I didn’t think that a) a parable needed any radical retelling, and b) there shouldn’t be retelling of Scripture.
But I read it on a plane when I had finished all the other books I had brought. I was easily able to disassociate myself from the so-called retelling and instead focus on the piece of fiction it was.
This is a story about Cooper. Cooper’s father was a “tent preacher.” He pitched a tent wherever they traveled to and preached in that tent for a few hours. When Cooper was ten, there was a huge storm during one of these services. Cooper’s dad looked at him, pulled him up, set him on the piano bench, and said, “Let it out.” So, Cooper did. He played what he had inside him. And the storm ceased.
Fast forward eight years, and Cooper is growing musically. He’s been approached by agents offering him contracts, and his father has turned them all down, and Cooper is tired of it. They have a fight, and Cooper runs, stealing his father’s truck, all his money, and the precious guitar his mother gave his father on their wedding night.
The first year in Nashville goes about as poorly as you could imagine. First, someone steals all of Cooper’s money. Then they steal his truck. Then his father’s guitar. But of course, through several crazy events, he finds his way climbing to the top. Until disaster strikes: a fire almost kills Cooper, completely destroying his hand and his throat. He is told he’ll never sing or play again. So, he heads home, pain and shame in his heart.
That’s the short version (I encourage you to read it; it’s a really beautiful story with a lot more that I can’t/won’t get into now). I’m not going to focus on the connection with the prodigal son. Instead, I’m going to focus on a quote left on the book by another author:
“Cooper and Daley’s story will make you believe that even broken instruments have songs to offer when they’re in the right hands.”
(Lisa Wingate, National Bestselling Author of The Story Keeper and The Sea Keeper’s Daughter on Long Way Gone.)
That’s all we are. We are instruments that cannot be played. We try to sing our songs regardless of the broken keys, the out-of-tune, the dents and bruises, but we can’t. We can’t because we are broken instruments.
We have been broken by sin. Because of the fall, we are not the instruments God created us to be in the beginning. We are damaged and broken. Because of this, we sin. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second, we are sinning, further breaking our instruments.
Thankfully, we’re not the ones playing these instruments because we can’t. In the right hands, we can do what we are meant to do—make beautiful music. In God’s hands, and God’s hands only, can we do what He is calling us to do. Without Him, we are just broken instruments. With Him, we are instruments He uses to fulfill His plan. God is our right hand.
Thank God for Jesus, whose death on the cross put us broken instruments in the hands of the God who created us and know how to play us perfectly.
“But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.”