A little known fact about violinists: in order to hear themselves stand distinct from their orchestra colleagues, they unintentionally tend to tune their instruments slightly sharp or flat in comparison to the other violinists nearby.
Let me explain. As an orchestra warms up and tunes before a performance begins. The best violinist, known as the first chair or concertmaster, plays her open A string once. The rest of orchestra hears this pitch and adjusts their instruments to match. Concertmaster plays her A again and orchestra joins her forming the sound of one note and one giant instrument. Finally, the concertmaster hands the perfectly tuned orchestra over to the conductor and the show begins. This is the ideal situation.
However, inexperienced violinists have a hard time making this happen sometimes. The same musicians that can tune any violin in a matter of seconds, struggle. Additionally, the instrumentalist that can hear a short sound stroked from a violin and judge the pitch correct or incorrect every time, has a hard time adjusting her own sounds to blend perfectly with a group. This is not the ideal situation.
Unintentional out-of-tune violins can be found in orchestras because, as a violinist, you are trained to hear a clear sound with your left ear- the side of your head that the instrument is held on. The left ear hears a very loud and distinct sound during practices, lessons, and small group rehearsals. Each violin has it own sound, much like vocalists singing the same note but with distinction. But, when playing with the orchestra, the sounds of all other instruments make it hard to hear the same violin, even though it is just inches from the ear. So without meaning to, often these violinists alter their pitch so slightly it probably isn’t even noticed by the untrained ear. However, someone that has heard an open A string played for years can tell when one- even among a dozen or more- is out of tune. Out of sync with the rest.
Thinking about this today made me wince a little because I see it now in light of spiritual things. Without meaning to, this inexperienced violinist must adjust my step, ways, practices just slightly so I can hear myself. Since I can’t hear myself clearly it must mean I am perfectly in tune with my colleagues, right? Jesus said that his ways were not our ways and his thoughts were not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) I observe two things here.
- I struggle to trust that I am in sync with God when I can’t hear/see/feel Him close.
- I am not naturally drawn to doing things someone else’s way, adjusting my step/speed/direction in order to align myself with another.
You know what this sounds like? Pride. (The reoccurring issue in my life!) “God, I can’t hear myself because of all the chaos around me. So, I think I’ll adjust something. Yes! There we go, I can hear myself again. Everything’s ok now” Or try this one on for size: “God, I just want to hear what I sound like alongside everyone else. I just have to make sure I have that rhythm right. As long as I can hear myself and I can control it all, I’ll get it done right.” Sound familiar?
Jesus asks us to walk with him and to stay in stride and instep with him. We aren’t to run ahead, lag behind or wander off. Our feet are to hit the ground so in-sync with his, that only one step is heard. It’s hard to do though. It’s hard to remember that his speed and direction is the best when everything is shifting around us. It’s tough to slow to his desired pace when our eyes catch glimpses of the lengthy to-do list. And it’s challenging to head in the direction he is going, when someone in need is down the road the other way. But, thankfully, Jesus doesn’t ask us to set the pace, chose the stride length, or navigate the course. He simply wants us to obey, to align ourselves with his purposes and plans, to “gel” with his will.
As long as our violins are tuned to his perfect A-or our spirit is in line with His spirt; then we can rest in perfect peace that we are “in-tune” with what he has asked us to do. We don’t have to use our limited wisdom to adjust our pitch just enough to double check. We can work as unit of one with him.