Lightning Strikes
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“Lightning Strikes,” Friend, Feb. 2008, 10–12

Lightning Strikes

In the night his song shall be with me (Psalm 42:8).

Black clouds piled up in the west as I fastened my seat belt and Mom started the car. My mood was as dark as those clouds. Why did Mom always tell people I would play a musical number on the piano whenever anyone asked me? I was only 12, but I was often asked to play for church programs and in other wards. Bishop Bowen had asked me to play a musical number in his ward’s sacrament meeting this evening. We used to live in his ward.

“Why do I have to play?” I asked Mom. “I like to practice at home, but I don’t like to play in public. Some of my friends will be there and they’ll make fun of me. They all know I play the piano and they tease me about it.”

“You have a special gift for music, Kent,” Mom said. “You need to share your talent.”

I dug my hands deeper into my pockets and didn’t say anything else.

When we got to the church, Mom parked the car. The wind was blowing hard as we hurried into the building.

Sitting in the chapel, I flattened my hands over my shaky knees to quiet them. Mom patted my shoulder and smiled at me. I pulled away and swallowed hard.

After the sacrament, Bishop Bowen announced the rest of the meeting. He said who would be the first speaker, and then he said, “We’re so happy to have Kent back with us this evening. He will play a musical number for us.”

A lady sitting behind us leaned forward and patted my shoulder and smiled. “Why do my friends tease me so much, but the adults always like to hear me play?” I wondered.

I heard the wind howling outside. My throat was dry. Too bad I couldn’t get a drink of water. My fingers were stiff so I rubbed them.

The first speaker finished his talk. Ready or not, it was my turn. My stomach churned as I stared at the keys. I felt like striking them with all my strength. Too bad I wasn’t playing my favorite song, “The Storm.” A storm raged inside me as well as outside.

A minute passed as I sat there trying to compose myself, but it felt like an eternity. Finally, I raised my hands and let them fall gently on the keys. The soft chords dropped from my fingertips and quieted the storm inside me. I pictured a bright moon in the sky making a stream of light on ripples across a lake. My fingers rippled over the keys like the moonlight over the water. I felt like I was playing at home. I loved every minute of it.

When I finished, I slipped into the pew beside Mom. She put her arm around my shoulders, and I heard rain spattering against the windows. A sudden flash of lightning jarred the quiet congregation.

The second speaker stood up to give his talk, but I could only hear the rumbling thunder and the pounding rain outside. A sudden blinding flash seemed to almost come right into the building, followed by a loud crash. All the lights went out in the chapel! The speaker continued his talk even though it was hard to hear him without the microphone. Babies cried. Kids wiggled. Everybody was whispering.

When the speaker finished, Bishop Bowen stood up and spoke loudly. “Our meeting is finished except for the closing prayer. But we surely can’t go out into this storm. Kent, will you please play your musical number again?”

I was shocked. How could I quiet all that confusion and fear? I felt my way to the piano bench in the darkness and found middle C. Then I knew I would be all right. I had never felt such peace as the memorized notes blended into each other. The nervous confusion in the chapel stopped and everyone seemed to be concentrating on the music.

The congregation was silent as the last tones died away. The storm outside had calmed down. Someone offered the closing prayer, and then everyone began to leave, finding their way carefully in the dark. Some of my friends were waiting for me in the foyer.

“Hey, Kent, how did you do that? Your music took away the scare,” one said.

“I wish I could play like that,” said another.

No one made fun of me. What a relief! A woman touched my elbow and said, “Tonight you used music for a great purpose. You gave us calmness over panic. I’ve never felt more uplifted and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Please don’t ever stop playing.”

Illustrations by Matt Smith