In fourth grade I got the whim to play a musical instrument. The band director lent me a trumpet for a couple weeks and I took to it immediately. The only problem was, to play in the band, I needed to have my own trumpet. My folks were dirt poor and I knew they weren’t just going to go out and buy me a new instrument. But I had a plan. For years, I had baked chocolate chip cookies and sold them around the neighborhood and at school. (You could do that kind of thing back in the day.) I had the $37 in hand to buy a decent used trumpet. I never took lessons, but the band leader always told me if I would just practice, even a little bit, I would get better. I was 10 years old, “getting better” was a relative concept.
For the next seven years, I blew some air through that thing, but I never “got better”. Then, when I was a sophomore in high school, we got a band director who inspired me. One day I did an adventurous thing – I stopped by the band room on the way home and grabbed my trumpet. I took it home and practiced. The next day I did the same thing. That went on for several weeks. One day at marching band practice, our band director was frustrated and angry about the general lack of effort he was getting from the entire band. From up in the stands he shouted, “There’s only one person who even knows the music and where to stand on the field.” All of a sudden, everyone looked at me. I’m sure I blushed with embarrassment. I had no idea that my piddling efforts at practicing had made any difference at all, let alone that it had been noticed. More on that after a word from our Sponsor:
“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Every follower of Jesus can get better. You can ask any pastor in the world whether he wishes the followers of Jesus under his care would read their Bible daily, pray daily for the work of the ministry, share their faith daily… “get better” as believers. The answer would be “Heavens Yes!” We can blow air through our instruments (sit in the pews), we can tromp on the grass (throw a few bucks in the plate), but if we are not growing we are not doing our part to advance the Kingdom – and that is what we signed up to do.
My richest experiences in high school and the closest friends I made were directly connected to my life in the band. As I headed off to college, I realized that I was good, not great, and I put my trumpet away. But I never forgot the lesson I learned about getting better. When I began to truly live as a Christian, I opened my Bible, read it, looked up cross-references and key words, memorized key verses, and talked with others about what I was reading. It has made all the difference in the world. Not everyone is going to wind up a virtuoso soloist – we aren’t expected to be. But followers of Jesus are all expected to get better by doing daily what we can. I guess the simple question is, has the Director inspired you?
Clark H Smith