I can count. I learned how to do it in first grade. Really.
With a wry smile, the orchestra conductor waved her hand in a circle to cut off the entire group. The entire group! Most of the musicians waited to hear what the problem was, but I knew. I knew.
The wry smile was aimed at me. Twenty-one measures, I had counted. Twenty-one groups of four beats, following the movement of her baton.
I counted—one-two-three-four, two-two-three-four, three-two-three-four, four-two-three-four—all the way up to twenty-one and then three more beats before I played my notes. At least, that’s what I was supposed to do.
I had only to play five notes—just five—one after another, at the same time the flute soloist played her melody. It should have been heavenly. Should have been.
When I played my notes—my five notes—the flute wasn’t playing. Well, not until the last one I played.
She came in when she was supposed to. I hadn’t waited long enough.
My job was to wait the correct number of beats and play just five notes.
I came in too early. I was supposed to wait.
Do you know how hard it is to wait? All around me, the instruments were making music. I counted fifteen-two-three-four under my breath, and they played music. When I got to twenty-two-three-four, they were still playing and I wasn’t.
I counted. And waited. The right number of beats this time.
It was a thing of beauty. My five notes, played in harmony with the flute part.
A thing of beauty. Because I waited.
Do you know why orchestra music sounds so good? You think it’s because of all the talented musicians, don’t you? Perhaps, you think the beauty comes because of all the top-quality instruments they manipulate? Some of them can cost thousands of dollars.
May I tell you the real thing which makes the music wonderful?
The musicians know how to wait.
That’s right—they know how to wait.
The composer has given each a part to play. The correct key signature is designated, the perfect time signature for the style of piece, even the speed at which they will proceed is decreed.
It is true, they must read the notes and play the correct pitch. The instruments must be in tune with each other, and a good quality violin—or trumpet—or oboe—helps to achieve that purpose.
But, all those things are of no consequence if one thing does not happen.
The individual musicians have to know when to sit silently. They have to wait.
The composer writes the rests into the music with just as much intent, just as much purpose, as he/she does the actual notes which are sounded and heard.
When an individual neglects to wait the correct number of beats—exactly the right number—no more, no less—the result is disastrous. Harmonies are lost. Counter-melodies become simply melodies out of place, with nothing to complement them.
What should have been heavenly is horrible.
All because one horn player left his place four beats early.
I hate rests.
I do not take well to waiting.
All of life is an orchestra, isn’t it?
The Composer has set into place each activity, each opportunity for service, and we have but to enter at the correct time. Sometimes, we get to sit on the sidelines and wait.
I’m not the only one who hates waiting, am I?
I’m sure I’m not.
I read tonight about King David’s men who fought and won a great battle, while a fair number of their group stayed behind with the gear and the food. After the battle the king, against the wishes of those who had actually fought in the battle, gave the men who stayed with the stuff an equal share of the spoils of battle. (1 Samuel 30:22-25)
An equal share—because they waited.
He made it the law of the land. Those who stayed in the camp and guarded the food and equipment were to be given an amount equal to those who actually marched into battle and won the victory.
A well-known phrase comes to mind; They also serve, who only stand and wait.
The poet John Milton wrote the sonnet, as he lost his eyesight. He realized that, before his strength was gone, his light was spent. Wanting to serve actively, reality dictated what his role was actually to be.
He would wait.
And waiting, he would serve.
It goes against all our society teaches. Move quickly! Be efficient! Work! Produce! Never slow down!
Against that frantic activity, the backdrop of rest—of waiting for the moment when one is most needed—is almost anticlimactic. We hate waiting.
Sometimes, the score tells us to wait. For us to jump in with our frenetic busy-ness would be completely wrong. The result would be disaster—chaos.
I’m practicing counting my measures for the next time I play with the orchestra. It will please our conductor immensely.
I wonder though—do we have as much interest in pleasing the Composer/Conductor who has the score all written out for our lives?
From beginning to end, we enter to play our part and it can be beautiful, as well as harmonious. It will, however, be that only if we have come in at the right time.
I’m learning to wait. Still.
He’ll give me the cue when it’s time to come back in.
I can count on it.
When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide;
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts; who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
(John Milton ~ English poet ~ 1608-1674)
Wait for the Lord;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the Lord.
(Psalm 27:14 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.