What I Did Last Monday
By Joel Bates
Do you have the impression that D.M. instructors travel out on adventure trips and return to camp through a revolving door? If we've given that impression, then allow me to relate what this wilderness skills instructor was doing last Monday evening. I came home after a long, hard, yet exciting and adventurous day full of making phone calls, signing receipt letters, answering emails, and planning for the next trip. Supper fare filled the table, and the aroma of steamy, roasted potatoes wafted across the room, producing broad smiles on our children's faces as they eagerly found their seats and grasped forks and knives. After the prayer, taters filled plates, and forks jabbed the food into mouths. All at the table chewed rapidly because if we lingered over the savory flavors too long, we were going to be late for the evening's holiday adventure.
As the clock passed 6:20 P.M., my wife ran around grabbing coats and scarves and hollered down the stairs to hurry the kids. Then they sped out the door and darted to the van. I, however, dawdled, unfazed by our tardiness, unwilling to be rushed, and unimpressed by what we were about to do. As we stepped out of the van in the church parking lot, I could hear the din of the piano and a few straining vocalists trying in vain to warm up their rusty vocal cords. We were at choir practice, and for me, it seemed I had no choice. My wife is a big supporter of choir; it's her favorite sport. Some of my daughters would be singing this year, and it would be extra special to have dear, old dad with them. But worst of all, my mother-in-law was the choir director. Left with no pardonable out, I joined the throng of singers sitting in the first two pews, waited for further instructions, and began wondering why there were only two other men present. One was my father-in-law, who looked toward me with sorrowful longing eyes that seemed to say, “I understand, my boy. I, too, wish that I could be away from this indolent place, and somewhere far more joyous—a happy place, a place like... like in my recliner watching the game on ESPN.” Yes, he saw me and knew my inner thoughts. I nodded knowingly.
I received a music binder, was told to sing tenor, and struggled to read my part as the piano accompanied me. I couldn't make out the words and keep up with the little black marks they call notes, so what came out of my mouth was not music, but more like the combination of a person thinking out loud and a muffled kazoo. One of the altos felt so sorry for me that she abandoned her section and came to help me. Her friends could see the hopelessness of her effort and begged her not to throw away her future on a voice like mine, but it was the Christmas season. Motivated, no doubt, by the Christmas spirit, her compassion won out. Her boldness in pointing out my obvious helplessness angered me. Did she assume I knew nothing about what I was doing? And, now I had created a rift in the alto section. I was considering just walking out and forgetting the whole thing when the director reminded us to listen to each other. We rose to our feet as she played an intro to the first song, and when we began singing, the harmonies swirled around us. This sound was much more than just random noise. Obviously, the others had practiced, learned their parts, and could, by listening to each other and watching the conductor, actually make music together. Carried along by some unseen magic in the music, I sort of lost myself in it, and before I could stop myself from having fun, I began to sing with them. It sounded good to me, almost heavenly! Wow! the words made sense; the notes began to fall into place; and with adequate breath support, my voice hit the notes. My miraculous improvement and enjoyment produced a reassuring smile from my alto cohort as she slipped in among her own kind and left me to belt out the tenor parts on my own.
As our humble choir made reason of the words and harmony of the notes on the pages, I began to consider how this simple choir practice depicted the Kingdom of Heaven—not that we would ever sound like the heavenly host. Individually, none of us was very impressive, but together, under the direction of and submission to the conductor, with practice and good listening, and with a little talent, we could make a sound that would please the listeners, inspire the soul, and bring glory to God.
We often have pretty normal, ordinary days at D.M. It's not all about the adventure and exhilaration when things come together and God's glory is clear...or is it?