Junior High Band and the Art of Listening

| 25 August 2020

1974: My 7th grade self decided to retire from piano after an illustrious four-year career and buy a pair of drumsticks. Our band director was a big-time drummer somewhere on the Vegas Strip. Following our first class, the director walked over and said, “You play piano, and sing, right?” “Yeah,” I said. He replied, “Transfer to band. You’re going to play French horn now,” and handed me a gray case that looked like a vacuum cleaner. The first week of band was torture. We learned two things — how to make a sound and how to tune. The director would play a note, then stand in front of us, helping match his pitch with prompts like, “No, a little higher … push the slide in … more air, tighten the sides of your mouth — good, there!” 

Tuning our hearts to God is a lot like this. He gently prompts us as we listen and adjust to Him. Here’s how I’ve learned to listen and tune my heart to His: 

1. Turn down everything else. Ever noticed how quiet it gets at the start of a symphony? The group is taking time to tune and adjust. They listen to the common pitch being played and adjust to everyone else. To hear God’s voice, turn down the noise around you. 

2. Pay attention. Inexperienced musicians spend so much time trying to make a sound that they forget they’re supposed to be paying attention to the tone the director is producing. “Jesus said, I am the Way the Truth and the Life.” He is the tonal center for us. When a musician tunes up, they alternate listening to the absolute pitch, then themselves, comparing and adjusting. This should be true for believers when praying. Listen. Evaluate. Adjust. 

3. Keep tuning and learn “muscle memory.” Musicians constantly re-tune, even between songs. Playing in tune is about feeling the note. Repetition reinforces the ability to play  in tune –- it’s called “muscle memory.” Jesus said, “my sheep hear my voice.” We learn to identify the Lord’s voice as we become familiar with it, which takes practice. 

4. Learn to play in tune with others. Some musicians have “perfect pitch,” but many of them are incapable of playing in tune with other musicians. Or, their technique is so bad they can’t produce a note with quality or consistency, even though they hear the note in tune. Only Christ has “perfect pitch,” spiritually-speaking, and He would rather we learn to play in tune with one another. It’s called “unity.” When the Lord speaks, He shares with more than one person. God isn’t interested in solo acts. He unites us to create a symphony of praise, declaring His glory and kingdom work. We must learn to tune to one another as we tune to Christ.

Lord, Jesus, help us to listen for Your voice in the midst of the mundane and the ordinary. Grant us the courage, faith and humility to adjust our lives to your call. We want to sensitize ourselves to Your presence and voice. Speak Lord, we are listening; we want to stay in tune and in step with Your Spirit today. Amen! 

Dave Hook
Pastor of Worship