It started in sixth grade. “Why don’t you just pretend to play? Just move your fingers around, but don’t play.” She was our new band teacher, and I, the young girl just learning to play the oboe. Her words seeped down, wrapping their slimy fingers around my insecurities, and for the next year, I just pretended to play. At our school concerts, I would sit there, reed in my mouth, fingers moving in the correct note patterns, but no sound coming out. I stood up at the end with the rest of the band and gave my bow. Why don’t I just keep pretending? I’m apparently not good enough. People don’t even seem to notice. I would sit in the practice room for my allotted time, not daring to make a squeak in case anyone heard the notes of imperfection.
She was let go after that year, and in her place was a short, spunky woman who was determined to draw me out, to loosen the grip of those fingers that clung so tightly to my soul. I was gripped with lies that I wasn’t good enough. That to hide my true self was better than possible rejection.
Six years later, I was able to get a small scholarship to play at a liberal arts college in St. Paul, Minnesota. My new oboe instructor was a chain-smoking, eccentric woman. Half way through the year, she said, “Danielle, you play like you’re scared. You play like you don’t want anyone to hear you.” She instructed me to fill the oboe with breath that came from down deep and blow out across to the very back corners of the room. No hiding–fill the room with sound. After taking a deep breath, I started, and sound sliced through the quietness of the room. She stopped me, grabbed my shoulders, and said, “That’s what I’m talking about. You don’t need to hide anymore. That was beautiful.”
You don’t need to hide anymore.
The following year, I was asked to accompany a Catholic girls’ school choir at the St. Paul Cathedral. In this gorgeous, reverent place, there would be no room to hide. What if I messed up? What if they regretted asking me?
The choir was up in the balcony that sat at the back of the grand cathedral. As they started singing, I waited until my section of the song came, a haunting oboe solo. The sound gathered in the domed ceiling and then poured out like from a bowl, and continued pouring out a glorious sound. It was me, but amplified. Could that sound be coming from this little oboe of mine?
This is the very picture of what Christ does in us. He wants to take our meager offerings, gather them in His bowl, and pour them out in a song grander than anything we could ever imagine or do on our own. The lies of our Enemy wrap tightly around us, trying to strangle any chance we have to make a noise. The Devil would like us to believe that to hide is better than taking a step out. That to fear our mistakes is better than actually making them.
Oh, but we’d be missing out on this glorious song of life that Christ has called us to! How many times each day, do I have to take a deep breath and let Him blow out across the room, filling the spaces where I feel so lacking? Those days when living in Cambodia, with the noise and the mess and the disastrous consequences of sin make me want to curl up in a ball. When my language skills seem to be digressing instead of growing like so many of my teammates and I feel like a fool. When my kids misbehave and I wonder how much of it is because I’m such a horrible mom. When I can’t even serve my husband the way I know I need to. When I feel the fear of rejection start to curl it’s way up my throat and seek to choke my joy.
I breathe. I take that deep breath and blow out. Letting Christ say, “You’re beautiful. You don’t need to hide. Just keep going.” It’s just me—amplified.
Where have you seen God amplify one of your meager offerings?