Tuesday, June 4, 2013

I Have Been Ruined

I know that sounds like a strange title, but I found out something about myself this past weekend.

On Saturday, the family and I traveled to Camp Lutherhill in La Grange, TX.  This year, my oldest will be attending summer camp, and we wanted to give her the chance to see camp and become a little more comfortable before leaving the nest for a week.  It just so happened that Lutherhill was having "Open Camp" this Saturday, so not only did we get to see the camp, we got to experience it.

Open Camp gives folks the opportunity to engage in camp activities including swimming, archery, ropes, worship, and dining--all for free.  It's a fantastic idea and one that really put my eldest at ease.  As we were leaving, she even remarked, "I want to stay for two weeks!"

Now, enough of the advertisement for camp.  Let's address the title of this post.

At 11:00 a.m. we gathered at the main outdoor chapel for worship and a sing-a-long.  The camp counselors provided the music as we sang a host of camp songs, and in the midst of that sing-a-long, I discovered I had been ruined.

The song leader would get up to lead a song.  He played guitar.  He would play in one key, and he would sing in another key. 

Musicians are cringing at this moment.

Those with little to no musical background are probably thinking, "What's the big deal."

Well, for those who have trained ears, having someone play in one key and sing in another is tantamount to:

nails on a chalkboard
rubbing a cat the wrong way
squeaking a balloon for hours
rubbing sandpaper on your bare butt

Yes, it's that bad.

I found that I couldn't sing along.  I couldn't get into the music.  I was ruined.

Years ago, this wouldn't have made a difference at all to me.  I'd have simply followed the voice and not worried about the music.  Heck, I'd have probably even sung in a third key, but things have happened to me over the years.

I began playing the guitar.
I began singing in a choir on a regular basis.
I began singing in a gospel band on a regular basis.

My ears began to change. 

  • Whereas I used to have difficulty finding my part in singing in a choir--it comes with much more ease.
  • Whereas I used to strum my guitar without worrying if a string were a little off--because I couldn't hear it, now, I stop and adjust if things are wonky.
  • Whereas I used to sing and not worry about hitting pitch, I can immediately tell when I am off, and I have to adjust.
Because of all these things, my ears have become sensitive to music.  And when things are off, I have difficulty joining in.  I know I'm not alone in this.  As the sing-a-long was going on, I looked at my wife only to see her cringing as well.

Perhaps this is a stretch theologically, but I don't think so.

I believe developing an ear to listening for God and developing an ear for music have several similarities:

  • The more you are around music, the better you become at hearing the harmony.  The more you immerse yourself in Christian disciplines--prayer, study, worship, fasting, etc.--the better able you become at distinguishing God's voice in the crowd.
  • The more you are around music, the better you become in hearing that which is off key and out of tune.  The more you have immersed yourself in disciplines--leading to distinguishing God's voice--the more you can tell when something is out of tune and out of line with God's will and desire.
  • To truly develop your musical ear, you need to work with people--in a choir, in a band, with a coach.  Going it alone only gets you so far.  Ditto with developing your relationship with God; we need worship, coaches, pastors, scholars, those who write books, spiritual directors, and others who help in discerning God's voice.
  • When you develop that ear, you are ruined.  No longer do certain things satisfy.  No longer is singing off key acceptable.  No longer is it acceptable to allow a guitar string to be flat or sharp.  Constant adjustment is needed.  Same with living a live tuned into God.  Constant adjustment is needed (repentance, forgiveness, absolution).  No longer do the same things satisfy--"Man does not live by bread alone."  You can see things which are out of tune with God--injustice, hunger, sickness, suffering.  You desire to bring things back into tune and do so to the best of your ability.
I've been ruined in one respect when it comes to music, but it is because I have become a better musician.  I've been ruined in one respect when it comes to growing in the life of faith, but I hope it is because I have become a better Christian.

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