I enjoyed playing in the band when I was in High School. Being an adequate trombone player I never quite lived up to all of the work my band director put into me, though I had great respect for his attempts to drag upward toward average. During my senior year the symphonic band had the opportunity to travel to Florida and play in a national contest at one of the universities. Of course we were all excited about the competition, well, at least the competition’s ability to get us to Florida where we would be visiting Disney World, the newly opened EPCOT Center and Sea World as side trips.

We had one little thing to do before giving our final commitment to be in the competition, to learn more advanced music. Just not anyone could show up and play there, you had to be invited and also be able to perform a level of music slightly, maybe I exaggerate, exceedingly more difficult than anything we had faced before. So we began…

On the first reading everyone scanned the music staring at tempos faster, notes higher and melodies and harmonies more intricate than had ever previously graced our music stands. It was hard! Our first attempt was bad! I remember the director stopping us after just a few measures and saying, “It sounded like someone just dropped a bucket of BB’s on the floor” – not a real soothing sound. We did get a bit better progressing to the stage of mimicking “walking through a spilled box of Rice Krispies barefoot.” It was a bit disheartening as sections of the band tried getting intricate timing of melodies and countermelodies down by intently listening to each other.  Struggling to improve it was apparent a dramatic failure was occurring as we rapidly saw our vision of visiting Mickey – I mean playing in the prestigious competition growing dim.

Our director began pulling us aside person by person than section by section before school, after school and during study halls to work on our individual parts. We would often tell him that the complexity of the music was very confusing getting us off beat as various instruments entered and exited at seemingly random times. At this point he would turn the director’s score around and show us what he was looking at – all of the parts side by side and say “I have all of the pieces right here, what does your music have?” When we would say “the trombone part” he would reply “do your part well and when all the instruments do likewise it will be fine.”

It was easy for us to lose tempo and get sidetracked when we began basing our timing on what was being played by others instead of what was written for us. Just playing our notes and watching the conductor intently did the trick. Who would have thought it was that easy? Much practice and effort was still needed but when everyone worked to fulfill their roll the final product was impressive – better than we could have imagined! We created something that became such a part of us that when we arrived in Florida the competition was what we were focused upon – the rest was almost anticlimactic.

God created each of us for a purpose that sometimes seems difficult for us to fathom. Often following God seems so hard and we make attempts that just dramatically fail. More often we get sidetracked and overwhelmed by what is going on around us to the point that our timing gets all out of whack and off beat until the life we are living can’t be a real soothing sound to God at all. In Romans 12:4-6a it says “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We all have different gifts…” The passage goes on to say use the gifts given to you- play the notes on your page and keep your eyes on the conductor Jesus. Can it be that simple? Spend time alone in prayer, reading or visiting with mature Christians to work on what it is God made you to be and do. Melding your part with other Christian’s allows something amazingly impressive to spring up positively impacting all those involved and beyond. Life can be better than you imagine when you fulfill your God given potential and purpose. God passionately wants all of us to know His will and purpose for us – it’s life saving! Have you decided to keep your eyes on Jesus?   Can it really be that simple?

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This weekly devotion is written by John Key

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