He Drew From Us

from EricWhitacre.com

from EricWhitacre.com

His arms swung side to side like fishing line through water, pulling notes through time and space as if sound had weight.   Arcs of song spun like orbs through the air, flowing from us and reverberating into vaulted rafters.

We had no idea we could sound that good.

Stunned, our eyes riveted on the conductor’s face, his hands, his body. We watched for his next breath, mirrored it, and brought forth shimmering, whirling tone.

No wasted motion. No excess talk. Every move efficient, yet indulgent; he was masterful, and we instinctively copied. Faced with his gentle genius we became an instrument that he played.

Decades before, I learned that any choir reflects the conductor – his attitude, his motion, his nuance. However, newly awed by my amazing experience, I realized again how much we became what our director demonstrated and accomplished what he expected; he drew music from us which we could not produce on our own.

Even more stunningly, I see now that the people around me will reflect whatever I emanate. Our brains are wired like that – we sense (and sometimes mirror) the people around us. I’m not particularly happy about that concept, but the reality exists: the people around me will respond to who I am and what I do.

Most of the time that is a shudder-worthy thought. I’d rather the ones I lead and befriend not copy me, but copy…someone else. Someone nicer, kinder, gentler. Better yet, let them copy Jesus. But copy me? Not so much.

Those aren’t real options, however. We are social creatures and we often produce the sound that we see and hear around us. I think again of my conductor. He knew in advance what he wanted to hear and he enabled it. HE enabled it. He didn’t yell or exhort, but saw what we needed to do and showed us how to get there. He did not insist that we figure it out on our own.

And does not my God do the same? He lives in me and brings forth from me that which I didn’t know I had. He brings forth that which He has built, that which He inspires. He makes the impossible happen.

Funny how I assume my effect will be negative, but that which I radiate isn’t all bad, thank God. Much to my amazement, some of it is good. Passion, delight, hope, joy, dreams, vision…. These are things He wants to spread to others, and they burst forth from all He does in me. Despair, anxiety, criticism, judgment, negativity and insecurity? He’s working on those and apparently they don’t spread as contagiously as I fear.

My part is to focus on the Conductor, sing even when I cannot hear myself, and trust that His direction will create the marvelous sound we all desire. “With me,” He whispers, as I follow His downbeat.

You, too, follow that downbeat. You, too, hear His voice. What is He whispering? What marvels is He drawing forth from you?

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Pond Thaw and Zacchaeus

image from sumbelnews.com

image from sumbelnews.com

with reference to the story of Zacchaeus: Luke 19:1-9

 I sang a song once—a short pensive piece from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa. “Must the winter come so soon? …It is a long winter here,” it intoned about the harsh Siberian clime. Huh. Not just in Siberia, it seems—a long winter here, too, of the garden and of the heart. Snowy December delight turns to slushy March-April groaning. “Again?! we whine as yet more flakes fall, and we wait impatiently for our souls and our hands to thaw in warm spring sunshine.

And then it happens. During lunch, ice covers two thirds of the pond. By dinner time there is no ice in sight, and a short hour later, two pairs of ducks swim happily in the wind-driven water. I never knew ice thawed so quickly.

Do hearts thaw as fast as ponds?

Yes, if Zacchaeus is any indication. He climbs a tree just to see Jesus walk into town and five minutes later he’s having dinner with Jesus and paying back all that he stole, and more.

That isn’t just a thaw, that’s a meltdown.

Like Zacchaeus, we climb the tree, anticipating spring, hoping for Jesus’ liberating grace to free our hearts.   We don’t know what His sunshine-y grace will bring; we only know we can’t bear another snowstorm.

But this thaw, this meltdown into spring, has its dangers. If Zacchaeus had known the change that Jesus would inspire, would he have climbed that tree?

Take care, I remind my soul as I dangle on an overhanging branch of Zacchaeus’ tree, almost close enough to reach down and touch Jesus passing by. ‘Take care,’ I warn my eager heart. ‘You know He will change more than the physical season. He always does. He doesn’t settle for smiling at the outcast, He joins him for dinner and moves into his heart. I know this Jesus. He’s dangerous. Give him an inch and He’ll take a mile, and you, my soul, won’t even know what happened.’

What’s worse, I know what July brings. Endless hot, searing humid days will fry my skin and wither my spring delight. Do I prefer the pressure and heat or the frost-bitten cold? Neither, I conclude, as I push the intruding cautions aside. For now, I greet spring in my backyard as well as in my heart, eagerly awaiting what Jesus brings.

Hearts and ponds, they thaw fast these days!