Something really scary is happening today. My brother is giving me back my tuner. I want it desperately, but I am also scared to death of it. I know I’m a bit of a drama queen, but hear me out. Remember how I shared in my last post that I am tone deaf? That means I have no idea if I am playing in tune or not until someone either claps enthusiastically, or more often, covers their ears and cringes. Even when people are tearful when they hear my music, I have no idea if their tears are tears of joy or tears of pain. Everything sounds great to me since I have no idea what it’s supposed to sound like. However, that is not always the case with my tone-sensitive audience. I am always afraid I’ll look like Beethoven, who was enthusiastically waving his arms and conducting the music in his head while all the audience heard was a mess of musicians trying to keep up. What makes me able to play for an audience without first passing out ear plugs then? My faithful tuner. During practice sessions on any instrument other than the piano, I was seldom without my tuner. However, like a nagging parent, just because my tuner and I were inseparable does not mean I enjoyed my tuner. In fact, more often than not I wanted to throw the thing across the room because the red lights were either flashing on the left (too low) or on the right (too high). Try as I might I could never get to the middle where the green light would come on.
When I first started taking oboe lessons, my poor teacher had to not only un-teach all of the bad habits I taught myself, but also try to teach a string and percussion player how to breathe. She was a relentless and skilled teacher however, and soon I was ready to play my first solo in my college’s Christmas concert. From putting books on my stomach and my hand on hers to making me play with a mirror on my stand, she taught me how to not only play in tune, but also how to make beautiful music from this stick of wood (or at the time, plastic). When she was by my side, I did not fear the tuner, because I knew that if the red lights popped up, she would show me how to adjust my embouchure or breathing to make the green light turn on. Soon, I was seeing the green light more and more often, and loving the music I was making.
As I have shared before, I was raised in a very performance-based church where there were very specific and strict codes of conduct and many were not expressed, but you knew when you transgressed because of the reprimand that usually followed immediately. Their goal was to produce well-disciplined Christians who would be the reflection of Christ to the world. Sounds great, right? It did to me too, until I heard the words, “Be holy as I am holy.” Yikes! You mean I’m supposed to be perfect in everything I do and say and think just like Jesus is? “Yep,” came the response I got every time I asked. If I had been wiser, I would have said, “That’s impossible! I’ll never be able to be perfect like Jesus.” Instead, my longing to please my pastor and be a good Christian made me walk away determined to get up at 3:00 in the morning and do those three-hour devotions that my pastor was famous for. The next morning proved to be my demise as I rolled out of bed and saw my alarm clock blaring an evil 7:30. I had failed again. The red lights were flashing angrily and loud and getting to the green light was a hopeless goal that I began to think was reserved for pastors and never for failures like me.
In my new church, my pastor had recently begun a Bible study series on the book of Romans. Having been saved by two verses in that wonderful book, I was immediately drawn to it. However, what I have been hearing the last couple of months have been completely contrary to what I was expecting. Take this week for example. On Wednesday, we were studying Romans 7 where Paul talks about why applying the law to sinful people doesn’t work and actually produces the opposite of righteousness. I realized that was exactly what was happening in my former church. I was in despair because I only had a tuner telling me I was wrong, but nothing to help me be right. As I am learning more about the freedom that Christ gives us apart from the law, I am beginning to welcome the Holy Spirit as my teacher to show me how to be right. When I experience the correction of the Holy Spirit, I am surprised that it is not the condemning voice of displeasure and anger I have heard from my authorities in the past, but an encouraging redirection to the path of righteousness. Furthermore, like I realized from this week’s lesson, the freedom I have in Christ shows me that I can play in tune. Just as my oboe teacher taught me that I can make the green light come on, the Holy Spirit’s teaching has shown me that I can do the right thing. With the Holy Spirit at my side, I do not fear the law because I know that it is only giving me the opportunity to respond to God’s love in obedience just as the tuner gives me the opportunity to play beautiful music when I have a skilled teacher at my side.