Some of my clearest childhood memories are around my father’s extensive vinyl record collection. Most of them were classical recordings, but he did have a variety of others.
There was something about watching Dad put on a record that was mesmerising to my young eyes. I can still see his hands gently removing the vinyl from the plastic sleeve. I can see the monotonous movement of the turntable. I can hear the familiar crackles before the track started. It's just not the same with compact discs—let alone iTunes.
I wasn’t allowed to use Dad’s record player until I was in my teens, and I was envious of my older brother who reached that milestone much sooner than I did. However, we weren’t short of examples of why such a rule was in place.
Vinyl may not be as common any more, but the expression ‘broken record’ is still in use today, and for good reason. A scratch in the wrong spot, usually due to poor handling, and the whole meandering journey of that tiny stylus was halted. Instead of moving on through the track list, it retraced the same one second or so, repeating itself over and over again and not moving forward.
People can be lot like vinyl records. There is music in the way a person moves through life, making choices and achieving their goals, scaling high points and negotiating low points. There is a beginning and an ending. And at the end there is another side yet to be played—though thanks to God that one does not have an ending.
Unfortunately, like records, people can be broken as well. The result can end up a mirror of what we see with a vinyl record, leaving us repeating the same situation over and over again, and running over the same worn path without moving forward. Broken records see lots of action, but little progress.
I can see the scratches in my life, if not always how they were made. They become obvious when I notice that I seem to be in the same place I was several years ago. When I look back I realise I have been repeating the same behaviours, making the same choices, and ending up with the same results. Lots of noise, the appearance of busyness—but no progress, just covering the same ground over and over again.
I see the results of scratches in other people’s lives as well. Sometimes they seem to have been running in circles for longer than I have, but it is probably easier to see scratches in other people's lives than in your own. The music of your life can become so familiar that after hearing it a few times you don’t notice that you haven’t moved on.
My dad still has all his records, and most of them are still in pretty good nick. A few have scratches, but that’s fine because when you get past those points there is plenty of good music to come.
Maybe, like those records, you have a few scratches in your life; perhaps they are bad enough to make you feel like a broken record. But sometimes the record isn’t really broken, just paused, and there is plenty of good music still to come. Maybe it will take a bump to get you past them, or a good hard look at yourself and a firm decision or two, or even just a helping hand.
God never intended for us to keep going in circles, repeating the same music over and over. As the Bible says, he has plans to give us “a hope and a future”. He wants us to learn and to grow, to move forward with new experiences and bigger adventures. He wants us to experience all there is to experience of this life, before we get to the other side.