Monday, January 24, 2011

Making Altars: Part I.

Tonight is a night of remembrance. Just what were those moments where I absolutely knew, with everything in me, that God's hand was so strongly guiding me into His path for my life? The characters of the Old Testament were always building physical, tangible altars to serve as reminders of God's sovereignty in their lives. I'm okay with attempting to repeat history, with slightly different materials. For now, my "altars" will be pen to paper, keeping pace with the memories as they return to me...

"You Probably Shouldn't Be Here."

When I entered college with intentions to be a music student, I thought I could somehow get away with using my voice as little as possible. The plan was to sing in the less-strict, non-audition choir on campus so that I could meet my needed ensemble requirements and hide away with my composition papers for the rest of the time.

But, of course, this was not going to work out for me.

After studying my schedule more closely, I realized the only large ensemble that would work was, without a doubt, the ever-strict, audition-only Concert Choir.

I had never been in a "real choir" before. I'd never made it past the mostly-elderly, lightly-populated church choir of my quiet, Southern Baptist upbringing.

So you can possibly imagine the fear that welled up inside of me as I prepared myself for my first vocal audition.

I remember entering the choir director's office - quiet, timid, sure that I would be rejected the moment he realized I had no experience singing with professional groups. I handed him my application. After scanning the information, he asked what "part" I sang. "Um, I'm not sure. In church choir, they always made me sing the soprano lines." (What a lame answer! I was done for!)

He sat the paper down on the desk, looked at me and said, "If you're not sure of what part you sing, I don't even know that you should be here, auditioning for choir. And we really need altos, anyway. (silence) But since you're here, we may as well hold the audition."

At this point, I almost felt relieved. Good, I won't get in! Now they'll HAVE to stick me in somewhere else!

He began doing various exercises to find my vocal range and I sang in as much ease as I knew how. I was already at the bottom, so I had nowhere to go but up, right? We then reached the most trying point of auditions: sight-singing.

The summer before entering college, my mother "warned" me of this "sight-singing," this panic-inducing terror used by music professors to strike fear in the hearts of their students. So, on a few occasions, she would hand me a sheet of music that I had never seen before, play the first note of the phrase, and make me guess the rest. I really didn't put too much thought into it past those few moments.

Until this moment.

Just as my mother had prepared me, the choir director played the first note of the line and left the rest up to me. When I finished, he seemed surprised and said, almost to himself, "Huh. That was better than most of my upperclassmen."

The dreaded audition process ended soon after and his parting words to me were, "Well, I think we can give you a spot in the alto section."

And that. Was that.

But in my heart, "that" was much bigger.

"God, what did you sign me up for?" A sense of joy, of excitement began to fill me. The choir director's doubts had been proven wrong! I couldn't have predicted this outcome if I had tried.

And so, for the next four years of my life, I experienced "real choir." My spring breaks were always decided for me, as we spent the week touring around a part of the United States or another part of the world. My "free" hours of the day lessened due to extensive rehearsals and campus concerts. My ears always ringing with the sound of vocal student friends belting out their latest soulful rendition of our semester's repertoire. And I would not have traded it for the world.

I knew, as I would soon see in many other instances, that God did not hold a desire for me to half-heartedly sing in the background, in the seemingly easier paths of mediocrity. I was to pursue this gift with excellence, always. I am to pursue this with excellence, always.

Maybe I don't always know what part to sing. At least, not yet. Maybe it's when I am at the bottom with nowhere else to go but up, that I am able to sing with ease. Because His promises are greater than what my straining eyes cannot yet see. So yes, excellence. Always.

Even if I am told I probably shouldn't be here.

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