October 5, 2007
“What are we doing here?” “Why are we wasting our time, talents and energy in this place?” “What possible good can come of this?”
We didn’t give voice to such thoughts but I’m certain these questions filled our minds as we placed our music in order, tuned up our instruments, and prepared to play. After all we were under contract and any job, no matter how demeaning, meant another paycheck.
The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, with whom I labored as a cellist for eighteen years, would at times be divided into smaller groups in order to reach different audiences. A small ensemble might be used as a “pit” orchestra to accompany an opera or a ballet, while other groups would be sent into local schools, senior centers, or churches to perform in more intimate settings. On this particular day about 20 string players had gathered in an elementary school to play a children’s concert. Normally such work was a welcomed change from our high-brow, white-tie-and-tails concerts at Symphony Hall. Children comprised our most enthusiastic audiences and it was highly enjoyable and normally very satisfying for us to have the opportunity to expose them to the world of classical music. They are usually easily impressed and eager to learn. But such would not be the case today; this was no ordinary school. This performance took place in an institution for developmentally disabled children.
When the musicians were all tuned, in place, and ready to play, the school’s attendants began to usher in our audience one or two children at a time. Most were in wheelchairs restrained to their seats with padded straps. Many also had various limbs tied down and several even had restraints on their heads, all to limit the constant, uncontrollable motion that plagued these unfortunate children. We watched in silent amazement as these kids shook and convulsed, shrieked and babbled, cried and drooled. The scene was deeply disturbing; the noise, deafening.
Once again the questions flooded our minds. “What are we doing here?” “What possible good can come from this performance?” “Why play to an audience that cannot begin to appreciate or understand what we are doing?”
Our conductor stepped to the front and introduced himself and the orchestra. He had to shout in order to be heard above the din of an inattentive audience lost in their own confused world. A smattering of polite applause rose from some exhausted looking, yet loving, adult caregivers. At least there would be a few people who might appreciate our music; that is, if they were able to hear us.
The conductor announced the first piece, turned to face the orchestra, and gave the downbeat. Instantly the room was filled with the sweet sounds of Mozart. Eager to get our minds off these children, we immersed ourselves in the music. So we didn’t notice it at first. We were not aware of the wondrous transformation taking place in the audience. Only after playing for a few minutes did we begin to realize what was happening. The shrieking and babbling had quieted. The shaking and convulsions had subsided. Peace reigned in the midst of chaos. The uncontrollable was controlled, not by padded restraints, but by the power of rhythm and melody.
When the first piece was finished, noise and confusion once again ruled the day. But during the performance of each successive number the musical miracle recurred. We had come there to perform before a very unique audience, but God had graciously granted us front-row seating for a performance of His own. It is an indescribable blessing to experience your own talents and abilities being used to bring healing to others.
We returned to this school several more times, but not nearly enough to suit us. And never again did we question our purpose in being there. I suspect most of us would have played to that audience even if there were no paycheck involved. How disturbing and frustrating it is that the effects of our music were only temporary! How tragic it is that these children were so seldom able to enjoy this miraculous cure!
I wonder if that’s what we look like to God—lives handicapped by sin, our aimless actions serving no useful purpose, our voices speaking senseless babble, our pitiful souls restrained by worldly desires, troubled and tormented, noisy and confused, unyielding and uncontrollable, spiritually disabled? It would be easy for God to give up on us, to cancel the concert. Why waste time and energy on such useless creatures? Why play to an audience that can’t appreciate or understand what you’re trying to do? But such thoughts never enter His mind. Even the spiritually disabled, even those caught up in their own diseased world, are precious in His sight.
After we are ushered into His presence by loving caregivers, or simply by His private invitation, He takes His place as the Conductor, turns to the “Musician” (the Holy Spirit), and gives the downbeat. Instantly our hearts are filled with the sweet sounds of His Word and the performance of His love, and a wondrous transformation begins to take place. Aimless actions fall in line with His purpose. Senseless babble becomes a testimony to His truth. Troubles subside, disabilities are healed, conflicts are resolved, trials are forgotten, sins are forgiven. Peace reigns in the midst of chaos and the uncontrollable is controlled, not by our own restraints, but by the power of the Holy Spirit and the rhythm and melody of God’s Word in concert with His love.
When we don’t hear such “music,” noise and confusion rule our lives. How often does the Conductor have to shout above the din in our hectic lives? But when we listen, when we are controlled by the “Musician” and His “music,” the amazing miracle recurs.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” – Ro. 8:6.
How disturbing and frustrating it is that the effects of this performance are temporary, relying on our continual presence with the “Musician” and our ability to “hear” the music! How tragic it is that we so seldom avail ourselves of this miraculous cure, especially since the “Musician” is always tuned and ready to perform.
He’s waiting for us between the pages of God’s Word, urging us to read, listen, and allow the “music” to flow into and out of our lives. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16.
He’s waiting for us to open up our ears any time, day or night, and listen to a personal, individual concert He has prepared just for us. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – John 10:27.
He’s waiting for us in the gatherings of our fellow music lovers, whether in small ensembles or large, where hearts are in tune with the Conductor and His music flows freely. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” – Hebrews 10:25.
What an indescribable blessing it is to experience our own talents and abilities being used to bring healing to others! What a thrill it is to hear a concert God has prepared just for us through His Word, through His “still small voice,” or from fellow music lovers! What a joy it is to be granted front-row seating for one of our Conductor’s miraculous performances! How awe-inspiring it is to have our out-of-control lives stilled by His precious music!
“Be still and know that I am God.” – Psalm 46:10.
What blessed “musical therapy!”
Bill, a child of God and fellow music lover