I took this photo toward the end of the day at my in-laws home a few months ago. The Black Phoebe (bird pictured) had spent the afternoon building a nest for its soon to be chicks (or should I say eggs?). After taking the picture, I went to the dark room (aka living room chair) and processed (aka downloaded) my photos. When I saw the lighting on this photo and the Phoebe’s stance, it reminded me of someone waiting, anticipating God’s voice.
I looked at the photo longer, and got to thinking…
How often do I wait expectantly for God’s voice? Do I anticipate hearing Him? Or… do I rush through my day, finding at that day’s end, He played ‘last fiddle’?
In third grade I began playing the clarinet. I loved it. I actually started out playing the flute but had a tough time breathing the right way, so upon my mom’s encouragement, I switched to the clarinet. In sixth grade, I was now in the band at school (yes, way back then we actually had a band in middle school due to the educational support). Anyhow, now to recompose myself after that little tangent….
In fourth grade, we were playing a John Philip Souza march and the band leader/teacher/conductor stopped us. He then proceeded to look at the clarinet section and informed us that he was tired of hearing all the noise he was hearing from our section – bad noise – and it was primarily coming from the first parts.
You see, each section – the trumpets, the tubas, the flutes, the trombones and the rest- all are broken down into parts, depending on how many players are in that section. So, if you have 3 trumpet players, you have someone on the first, second, and third part (there are usually always 3 parts, sometimes four). If you have fourteen flutists, you will most likely have 3-4 on the first part, 4-5 on the second part and the remaining on the third part. Why? Because those on the first part are the better players and they can carry the lead part well. And because they are better players, they can usually carry the lead with FEWER players because they can (usually) belt it out when needed, hitting all the notes while still playing in tune.
All to say, the best of the best or – the best of all those on the first part – is called First= chair. The one in the ‘first chair’ of your particular section is looked up to as the best in that particular section. This person can be given special responsibilities such as making sure you’re group is in tune with the of the band/orchestra or fleshing out the difficult parts.
Okay, so – what does this have to do with my angelic-looking, little black phoebe?
Well, on that day in fourth grade when my frustrated band teacher stopped the band and looked directly at the clarinet section over the top of his glasses, he spoke…
Looking at First Chair, he outlined a section of the music First Chair and her ‘first-part-counterparts’ were not getting. He then requested the first chair play it solo – in front of the entire band.
Now – trust me. I know I have Parkinson’s disease. I know I am 53 and getting old, according to Boo. “But not that old,” she adds – whatever that means! 🙂 And, I also know that at times I don’t remember things quite right. Yet, on that day in 1972 when I was just a peon in the middle school band, I remember it very well and I remember thinking how glad I was to not be sitting in first chair and just a peon instead, occupying seat 12 out of 13.
There had never been challenges or try outs in our section for a higher chair since I had joined the band. It was sort of like, if you were younger, you went to the end of the line.
So there I was, listening to First Chair play the requested music. Music, mind you, she had seen before and had been practicing. But – she didn’t get it right and the band instructor asked her to hand the music to the next person – Second Chair.
She got it wrong.
But – because she did better, she was moved to first chair and the music was then passed to Third Chair.
Third Chair: no better than the current second, so she remained third.
Fourth Chair: better than third – they switch places.
However, because no one had gotten it right yet, the teacher didn’t contain his challenge to just the first section. He continued it going down the line through the ones playing the second part (approximately the 5th -9th chairs) and I realized at that moment – I wanted to throw up. My band teacher, with the help of John Philip Souza, was giong to get his little clarinet section in order – now!
On and on it went, seeming to take forever and then it happened. The music was passed to me. The silence was deafening and my stomach was in knots. I sat the music on the stand. Sat up straight and began to blow. I wish I could say it was oh so beautifully melodic, but I was only in fourth grade, after all. Perhaps it was to others, for when I finished, my teacher bowed and the rest of the band clapped. I was the only one who had played it right. And do you know what happened? I became first chair.
A funny thing happens when you have sat in the seat of ‘First Chair’. You don’t want to go back. Not even to second. You covet that position, for there’s a certain respect that comes with it. You’ve earned that position (or at least, you should have) and others look up to you as someone who can help them to become better or in understanding their parts.
And so I remained First Chair until I went to high school. It was there II met Becky. In my freshman year, another girl played First Chair. She was a senior and she was good. However, when it came time for try outs for the Honor Band, she and I both tried out. Even though I made it and she didn’t, because she was a senior, she remained the much sought after – First Chair.
The next year, I was a sophomore and the position of First Chair was mine for the taking and I did just that. In my junior year, however, a new girl came to town. She had been playing for three years. She wasn’t bad. She wasn’t great – as far as I measure greatness. She tried out for the Honor Band and she made it.
So did I. Only –
I was two chairs behind Becky.
Because of that, my band teacher moved her into First Chair and I played ‘second fiddle’ to her. He tried to explain it was because she only had one year left and I had two. It didn’t seem fair.
What is fair doesn’t always prevail. And, I must admit, Becky was good. Also, we became pretty good friends after I sorted out my jealousies.
In my senior year, I was back in First Chair.
So – (you may ask again) what does this hvae to do with that tiny, black bird?
How often do we go through life – our moments, our days, our years – playing the part of music instructor and God is just one of the players in the band? How often do we set aside our music and listen for His? How often do we sit in silence, waiting for Him to speak?
Getting the opportunity to be the first chair is an honor and when you no longer have it, you can feel second rate. Less important.
I truly think we move God into second chairs constantly and yet, because at one time He did have the first chair – first place – in our lives, we have made Him second rate to too many other things. Less important. And – we know this makes Him jealous. He wants His rightful place back.
Exodus 20:5 states, “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who not tolerate your affections for any other gods.”
Our gods of today could be food, for some women it may be shoes, for others – collections of ‘stuff’. TV and/or movies. Do I dare bring up Facebook and/or Twitter or Pinterest? It is these things that God is jealous of because whatever we allow to occupy our attention, if it’s not God, He is at least playing second chair and if not, twelfth or thirteenth and all of our little gods are lined up in front of Him.
I don’t know about you, but I want the music of my life to be beautiful. A song worth repeating. I want all of my affections to be for Him. He covets that first place in our lives. He’s earned it, after all.
Writing for Him, because of Him –