I read somewhere that the older you get, the fewer brain cells you have. I’d give you the source, but I’m older now, so I don’t remember. To prove the theory, I recently started my kids in their own family band. In my stage-mother fantasy world, I was designing adorable costumes and purchasing a Partridge Family bus to tour the country. Then I discovered that the purpose of the elementary school band is to make nails on the chalkboard actually sound soothing.
I should have known better, since I am an elementary and middle school band survivor. I don’t have the t-shirt to prove it, but I’m sure an inner ear scan would reveal scars on my cochlea. As a former clarinetist, I look back on my screeching and squawking days with confusion. 1. How did my parents survive my clarinet practice without locking me in the basement? 2. Why aren’t school band conductors eligible for a Medal of Honor?
For most of adulthood, I have regretted my choice of instrument. Certain instruments are just not cool, unless your first name is Kenny and your last name is G. This is a serious matter, for if you do not play the clarinet well, you risk damaging people’s nervous systems. And angering large flocks of animals.
When King Saul was tormented, he asked David to play music to soothe his soul. I can only imagine his reaction when David lugged his harp into the room. The harp? I was hoping for some smooth jazz.
I don’t think David was embarrassed by being a harpist. He did, however, have some standards. When the Israelites returned the ark of God to Jerusalem with a procession of music and dancing, David wore only a linen ephod as he danced before the Lord. Perhaps a creative way of protesting the geeky marching band uniforms.
Since David could make the harp look cool, I chose to start my kids on the tin whistle. The first thing I noticed was that the last few Psalms request just about everything in the universe to praise the Lord, with a few noticeable exceptions.
Notice what was omitted:
Praise him, ye fourth grade strings section.
Praise him, ye six-year-olds practicing the tuba.
Praise him, ye squeaking clarinets and other annoying woodwinds.
I soon learned that the only way to get three children to play in unison was to get rid of two. Putting them in separate rooms, I worked with them individually before “band practice.” Eventually, all three kids actually played a couple of the same notes together at the same time. I daresay it sounded good. At least good enough for the angels to remove their earplugs.
The band practice helped me understand why God reminds us so many times about harmony in the church. The discord of His family grates on His ears like an elementary school band woodwind section. We squeak and squawk at each other, failing to produce the beautiful music He deserves to hear.
In the meantime, He endures our rudimentary performances like only a patient and loving parent could. Rather than rewarding our cacophonous concerts with an ice cream sundae or empty praise, Our Conductor gently reminds us that maybe we need some more practice.
And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is [the marching band uniform] love. Love is what binds us all together in harmony.
1 Corinthians 1:10
Let there be real harmony so there won’t be divisions in the church. I plead with you to be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
All it takes to ruin a good piece of music is one poorly played instrument. I didn’t expect my kids to headline a Broadway show, but at the very least I wanted their music to avoid being mistaken for the hyena mating call.
Is that so much to ask? God wonders. Can you at least manage to play a recognizable tune together…and avoid the sudden keeling over of small, furry animals?
The only way I could help my kids produce decent music together was by having each of them work out their own problems. Those few notes of harmony that they were able to play were not perfect. But for a brief moment, a pleasing sound popped the bubbles of dissonance, and hope floated into my ears. A hope for a new song, an opus for the Master. And a chance for the angels to remove their earplugs.