In honor of "Joelle week" (who just turned 13!), here's something I learned from her when she was little, about playing beautiful music in life. I hope it encourages you as it encouraged me.
Making Music With the Master
Small brows furrowed in concentration. Small fingers pressed hard on guitar frets. Small thumbs thrummed the strings.
And music filled the room – awkward, off-key, clashing music. But to my mommy-ears, the sounds were sweet. I smiled.
Bethany and Joelle, my two young daughters, were working so hard to learn how to play real music on their brand new kids’ guitars. They sat on short stools in front of their dad, with their guitars on their laps and their fingers poised over the strings.
Bryan held his own guitar (adult-sized, of course) and strummed the chord again. A perfect C warbled from his instrument. He paused. “See, like that.” The sound died away. “Now you try.” He placed the girls’ fingers on the proper frets one more time.
The girls studied Daddy’s fingers. They glanced at their own, then looked at his again. Then, they took deep breaths, and strummed.
Better. Not good, but at least the sound didn’t leave my hair standing on end.
Bryan adjusted their fingers again. First Joelle’s, then Bethany’s. “Try not to push down the other strings.”
Bethany nodded and grinned. “Okay, Daddy.” She leaned forward.
Joelle stuck out her tongue to focus.
I hurried for the camera.
They tried it yet again – studying the way Daddy did it, checking their own fingers, and playing the note. Studying, checking, playing. Boldly, joyfully, with Daddy’s help.
It wasn’t perfect, but each time, the sound improved. By the end, their fingers were dented by the strings, their picks were well worn, and they had almost learned to produce a decent C chord.
But most importantly, they were happy. Glowing. Why? Because they were playing guitar, just like Daddy.
As I stood by and clicked pictures, I was reminded of how God, my father, asks me to imitate Him too. 1 Peter 1:15-16 (NIV), says “But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” And in Matthew 11:29 (NIV), we’re told to, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . .”
I’m called to be like Him, to learn from Him. Doing that, I’ve come to realize, isn’t a whole lot different from my girls learning to play guitar. As God makes beautiful music, He asks me to join in – to try. And though my fingers may be still a little small, and I might bump the wrong strings, still what’s important is that I study the way my Daddy does it and try to do the same myself. Study, check, play. Boldly, joyfully, and with my Father in heaven’s help.
It doesn’t matter if my music isn’t always perfect. What matters is that I watch, learn, and try again. That I practice using my instruments like God uses His. The Bible, circumstances in life, popular culture, off-the-cuff comments by acquaintances, friends, or family – how does God make music from these instruments? How does He work in people’s lives? And how can I make music with those same instruments?
The only way to know is to study the Master. Study the gospels. How did Jesus use scripture, culture, circumstances, comments, in the gospel accounts? How does God work in my own life? In the lives of the people I know? We must study, watch, learn, and play.
God is making music all around us. If we pay attention, we can make music too. It may not be perfect. It may a little off-key, a little awkward. But if we practice and watch the master musician – if we allow him to move our fingers along the frets, we too can play the notes of heaven, and bring beautiful music into the lives of those around us.
So, let us play. Joyfully, boldly, with our gaze fixed on the Master who teaches us the proper chords.