An Unrehearsed Symphony

—Written on November 15, 2013—

Our Conductor has very poor musicians to work with, indeed.1

We are a mixed crowd of secretaries, unemployed hipsters, students, lawyers, teachers, and doctors that know nothing about music. In our concert black we might look at least somewhat presentable on the outside… except, perhaps, for the one wearing suspenders, who has very obviously switched out his slacks for dark skinny jeans. Where is his tie, anyway, and how can he play his instrument with his iPhone glued to his hand?

We have been given one direction: “Watch me,” He says. Yet for some reason our eyes always manage to stray, to stick up our cognitive noses at those members of the symphony that misbehave—if the concert is a disaster, it’s because of them—or to frequently survey the audience for signs of approval or disapproval.

Thank goodness the Director is a much better Teacher than we are students.2

We cannot make music. We are, in fact, incapable of it.3 The standard for pleasant tunes soars far out of our reach. It is with miserable trepidation we gaze at the score, jumbled like a foreign language. Stomachs plummeting, the concert starts, and we expect nothing but disaster to occur.

Yet, miraculously, it does not. The trumpets are not a train wreck and the flutes escape their solo without causing widespread eardrum hemorrhaging. Rather oppositely, the notes that emerge from the trembling instruments are precisely what they had never hoped to be: beautiful. The timpani and the snare drum drive the tempo in complete unity. The melody and harmony are not merely acceptable, but magnificent! Rhythm and tone combine to create wisps of pictures that tell the story of the orchestra itself: crimson torrents, splinters, the rust of nails… and the purest of white.4

And at the end of the score, when the notes in the air fall silent and applause takes their place, we stay rooted to our seats in utter awe rather than stand for the bow. For we know something that perhaps the audience does not: It was not the musicians that created the music.5

This unrehearsed symphony is the unlikely music of the gospel—of even the most left-brained behaving like the musicians we never dreamed we could be. For what is our most prevalent, ongoing excuse as to why the Conductor should not use us for His performance? “Well, we are unqualified, of course. Too this, and not enough of that, you know.” We so-called “musicians” never had that certain set of qualifications that would deem us efficient for the creation of any lovely tune.6

Our rehearsals are tortured by the delusion that, someday, we would be able to muster those abilities. Maybe tomorrow we might be able to accept the Conductor’s urging to stop standing paralyzed backstage, the tips of our toes grazing the stage’s edge.7 It is as if, in our imaginations, we had found Him standing around and tapping His foot anxiously, saying, “Hurry up and be good enough for the show! Time is ticking and you’ve got music to make!” We are so easily deceived by all our practicing that when we approach the stage, the spotlight of our delusion glows upon us.8 Pride follows very closely at the heels of our fear.

However, the very substance of the unrehearsed symphony is that we, the members of the orchestra, were not chosen because we were great musicians, but so that we might be great musicians. We are, in fact, musicians because He named us musicians before we even set foot on the stage. The sound of the wind through our instruments is merely the outworking of those identities. The music echoes: Crimson torrents, splinters and the rust of nails… and the purest of white. The musicians are in such need of the very same music that the Conductor uses them to convey.9

As every moment of the performance passes, and we haphazard musicians find ourselves capable not only of reading the notes but of playing them as well, we are engulfed by the truths of the symphony: The more incapable we are, the more of the applause is directed to our Conductor. If our merit had deemed us great musicians, then our Teacher would not receive all the credit.10

The unrehearsed symphony was never about the musicians or our capabilities. He did not choose us in order to absorb credit for our already-palpable talent, but rather to pluck us off the streets in our melody-absent rags and so revel in our music because He Himself created and enabled it.11

And so, at every rehearsal and every performance, we realize anew that the unrehearsed symphony was not about the audience, or even the members of the orchestra. It was silly of us to be so preoccupied with ourselves, for though we often forget, He did promise not to leave us to our own devices.12 In the end, the earlier prattling of our self-consciousness is always irrelevant in light of this realization: Because the performance is about Him, our mistakes are only part of the splendid music He directs. He even orchestrates them for the beauty of His masterpiece.13 It is so that, at the end of each performance as we sit in awe of the music—while having responded to every wave of his baton we could muster—we only celebrate its Maker, knowing that the great success has nothing to do with our ability, but everything to do with His.

  1. Rom. 3:10-18; Ps. 51:5; Ps. 14; Jer. 17:9
  2. Ps. 73, 34:8, 107:1; Matt. 19:16-17; James 1:17
  3. See footnote 1.
  4. Col. 1:20
  5. Gal. 6:14
  6. See Footnote 1.
  7. Matt. 28:18-20
  8. Gal 2:16, 3:3
  9. Col 1:23
  10. 2 Cor. 12:9
  11. Titus 3:4-7; Eph. 2:1
  12. Matt. 28:20
  13. Rom. 8:28

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