He’s being called “the new Susan Boyle,” and you only have to watch the video to see why (two profanities edited out). The media are again making much of the “ugly duckling” angle, but there are two other lessons from this “parable.”

The power of partnership
When you first see this so-called “Beauty and the Beast” pairing, you wonder how they ever got together…then you hear their moving story unfold. When Jonathan Antoine’s painful shyness and weight problems made him an obvious and easy target for bullies, Charlotte stuck up for him and protected him. Jonathan admitted: ”I would not be going on stage today without Charlotte at my side.”

“Do you think you can win?” asked a skeptical Simon Cowell as they stepped on stage.

“Yeah…together,” they replied in unison.

But when Cowell later suggested to Jonathan that he was unbelievably great, whereas Charlotte was just good; that Charlotte might be a drag on his certain future stardom; and even that he should “dump her” to get ahead, the audience held its breath.

Will he throw her under the bus? Will he take the gold and leave the gal?

“NO!’ he responded. We came on here as a duo and we’ll stay here as a duo.” And all the ladies wept (OK and not a few guys teared up too – this one included!).

There’s no question of Jonathan’s superior singing talent, but he knows that without her by his side he couldn’t sing a note on stage.

“Two are better than one,” said Solomon (Eccl. 4:9). True in Britain’s Got Talent. True in marriage. True in disciple-making.

The power of pain
There’s something about suffering that gives a unique power to singing. You only have to look at Susan Boyle or Jonathan Antoine to know that they must have had a really tough time growing up in our cruel world.

And you can hear it in their singing. You can’t help but feel that, just as with Susan Boyle, Jonathan poured 17 years of agonizing suffering into those powerful three minutes on stage. It’s in his posture, it’s in his expression, it’s in his gestures, it’s especially in the deep pathos of his voice.

And we connect. We resonate. We empathize. 100 other singers, possibly even better singers, could sing the same song and it would do nothing for us. But there’s something mysterious, something indefinable, in the voice of a genuine sufferer that lasers our hearts and stirs our deepest emotions.

And it’s the same in preaching, counseling, and even witnessing. Suffering brings a unique, powerful dimension to all human communication. We can tell the difference between a preacher who’s just preaching the commentaries and one who’s preaching out of his own deep experience.

Suffering is not just the best singing school. It’s also the best Seminary.

  • http://www.graceandtruthcc.com Bob Schilling

    Well said David. The mixture of multi-faceted experience brings more out of the soul. And as each of our experiences are as different as our DNA, our fingerprints and our unique gifts and talents – so God shapes each of us for peculiar usefulness. Bryan Chapell items that three elements make for a persuasive message: “logos (content), pathos (passion) and ethos (character)” (“Christ-Centered Preaching, 34). So the man of God needs to study and prayerfully labor hard to gather his content (and lots of skill and gift go into packaging that) and then you see how our suffering and trials particularly have molded our passion and our character. The uniqueness with preaching is that though the sincere passion/fervor/emotive features of a message (Chapell’s language) are crucial (and too often absent in the pulpit even when there is excellent content), the pulpit takes us to a necessary place far beyond the requisites for effectiveness in the world – as Chapell later notes while evaluating the many homiletical models: “The most powerful means of addressing the mind and the heart remains the ‘ethos’ of the preacher” (pg. 171). Deep conviction with solid truth – excellent; combined with a holy life – eminently useful for the purposes God calls him to. Let our trials have their perfecting/maturing work – to make us empathetic and passionate, but especially to make us faithful and Christlike. Reality is, as the story you point to also illustrates, perceived virtue enhances any endeavor and is the only quality that will give it lasting value and permanence. Great piece, a thought fueler.

    • http://headhearthand.org/blog/ David Murray

      Love that: ” Perceived virtue enhances any endeavor and is the only quality that will give it lasting value and permanence”

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