The Blessing of Negativity

Our perspective is often mistaken. Things we see as negative may be the very tool God uses to accomplish great good in and for us. Christian musician Fernando Ortega writes:

“I experienced a dramatic stifling as a musician when I was 21 years old. I flew out to the east coast to audition for graduate schools in piano performance. I had worked hard for several years and knew my pieces well. I was practicing Chopin Ballade #3 one night at The Juilliard School (a friend let me in), nervous about my audition at Stony Brook the next day. Suddenly I heard the same piece coming out of a practice room down the hall. The person playing was a fantastic pianist – technique to burn – gorgeous, mature tone – deep, thoughtful musicianship. I recognized instantly that at my very best, I would never be capable of playing the Ballade as well as this person. Thoroughly intimidated, I walked down the hall and peeked into the practice room from where the incredible sound was coming. Seated at the piano was a young girl, maybe 13 or 14 years old.

“The lesson for me was huge and devastating. In an instant, I became acutely and painfully aware of the limitations of my gifts as a pianist. I was not a world-class pianist (as I had secretly entertained in my mind). I was merely a good pianist – better than average, but by no means gifted enough to compete in the classical world I longed to be part of. I fell into a depression that lasted two years as I began to sort out more honestly what musical talents I had been given, and which talents I had not been given. I look back on the whole experience and recognize God’s hand of mercy on my life.

“It was also Providence that brought me a few years later as a young song writer to the classrooms of Elaine Rubenstein and Peter Morrison – two poets who taught writing workshops at Irvine Valley College in the late 80s and through the 90s. The workshop was, for me, at first, a fairly brutal weekly event. Each student wrote a poem within the framework of whatever-it-was we were studying that week – a catalogue poem, the Art of Tea, the Navajo creation story, a psalm, or a beatitude. At the following session, we read our poem aloud in front of the class. Critique was provided by the students and the teacher. You weren’t allowed to defend yourself or argue back – just to take it all in. I was often discouraged to realize that a weeks worth of writing had rendered perhaps only one “keeper” line, or worse, a rhythmless poem riddled with cliches and sentimentality.

“As I write these two stories down, I’m reminded of the important, sometimes predominant role negativity has played in the creation of my songs – so much stripping away, so much tearing apart before I can get to the heart of what I’m trying to communicate.”


This experience resonates with me. Many bad events in my life have ultimately proven to produce the greatest good. I still don’t enjoy the negative, but I am learning (emphasis on the “ing”) to be less rash in my assessment of what happens to me. Positive and negative aren’t always down different paths.

How about you? Have you ever had an experience that seemed negative at first, yet later proved positive?

5 thoughts on “The Blessing of Negativity

  1. Paul Myers says:

    Thanks for the reminder. Intimate fellowship with our Lord would seem to begin with the painful process of “dying to self”.

  2. Robert Chamberlain says:

    I love this. I find so much of the christianish “think positively” posts to be painfully trite. So much of life is negative, but God can turn a negative into a positive- see for example the cross and the empty tomb! We don’t have to pretend to be positive about suffering, but we can have faith that it’s refining us for ultimate glorification (of God, not so much us!)… Thanks for sharing. After all, the world sees the beatitudes as negative things, but Christ turns them into positives 🙂

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