Yeah, ain’t it just amazing
how a god can tend a broken man
Yeah, let him find a fortune
and then ruin it with his own two hands
Oh, isn’t it amazing
how a man can find himself alone
Calling through the darkness
for an answer that is never known
He walks on up the hill
the rock on which he stands
Looks back at the crowd
looks down at his hands and he says
I am a difference maker
Oh, I am a difference maker
Oh, I am the only one who speaks to him
And I am the friendliest of friends of God.
Spotify has not counted how many times I’ve listened to this song today, but I do believe every other song I’ve listened to has been sandwiched by a repetition of this one: “Difference Maker” by NEEDTOBREATHE.
Brothers Bear and Bo Rinehart of NEEDTOBREAHTE promised a stripped-down album, and this song definitely matches this description, with Bear’s raw voice uniting with a stepping-block cadence on an acoustic guitar. The more I listened, the more the walls around me became noticeably uneven in plaster application, the denim blue of my shirt felt softer around the collar, and the sun filtering through the dusty window that touched the rough, plastic desk I sat hunkered over made everything inside of me feel simplistically wonderful.
There was nothing flashy or colorful about the feeling it gave me. The words, after all, are straightforward, and the lack of noisy, needless, supplemental instruments got the job done. It’s just that all of a sudden, I remembered that I was loved. And that the students wearily fulfilling their weekly math requirements outside the private study table I had isolated myself in were loved as well.
And I can say that without knowing any of them.
The beginning of the song was comforting to me, because it addressed an issue I have long wondered about. Why are we allowed to stumble upon beautiful things we aren’t allowed to keep?
And then as the rest of the lyrics rolled out before me like the hills beyond the classroom, I found that this question didn’t matter so much, because I am—just like the man in the song—a difference maker.
We all are. We all have options, choices we can make to better our own lives and the lives of others. And I think we forget this nearly as much as daily self-deprecation makes us forget we are loved.
In finger-pointing rage we blame fate, destiny, karma, God, the people around us, and the mysteriously mighty, wielding forces of the universe for things gone wrong. We are often surprised—and pleased—when things play out like we hoped or imagined. We avoid disappointment by expecting the worst. And all the time we are playing an unwinnable game with ourselves, because the opponent we try to beat or bargain with never rolled dice in the first place.
But the fact that we are given freedom and flexibility in this life to make of it what we can, and to cultivate a fuller experience for friends and strangers alike, puts an end to the complexity of it all. There are things we’ll understand, and then there are things we’ll be “calling through the darkness for an answer that is never known,” because we weren’t created to be omniscient or omnipotent. With relief, we can let that expectation of ourselves fly from the line, into the sky, far away.
And we can revel in awe over miracles of all sizes, because despite our deserving or undeserving nature, we are given sunrises, accidental aversion from danger, $20 found in our pockets, and protection from the could’ve-should’ve-would’ve’s. The beautiful things we don’t get to keep usually turn out to be stumble-upons that are special, but meant for something else. And that’s okay.
Trust me. It’s okay.
Because that means we’re meant for something else as well, something as equally special and beautiful as what we thought our fingers simply couldn’t hold onto.
So when I look down at my hands, I don’t see failure. I see the ability to make a difference, to change things. And maybe within that lies purpose.