We have watched it again and again and each time we watch it we laugh like it is the first. In our home of two teachers and four musicians the movie, “School of Rock” strikes a chord in our family that rings out in laughter time and time again. The theme of the movie is realized in a scene where Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, walks into his rock band practice only to be informed that he has been voted out of the band. His antics on stage, passion in performance and “20 minute guitar solos” just don’t serve the purposes of the band as they are focused on success, stardom and most specifically the $20,000 “grand prize” of the Battle of the Bands. Dewey’s response to being “voted out of the band” is one of incredulity. In the trademark excess of Jack Black, complete with overarching brows, bugged out eyes and a dramatic flip of his long, black, unkempt hair, Dewey says, “You guys just don’t get it. It’s not about the money . . . , it’s about the music.”
It was with those words that I encouraged Becca, my twelve year old daughter, just minutes before her piano recital. Becca was anxiously facing the challenge of playing eight pages of Chopin under the bright lights, in front of a crowd, and by memory. I could tell that nerves were getting the best of her as she began to worry about her performance—remembering the piece, playing the right notes and doing well. I pulled her aside, put my arm around her shoulders and said, “Becca, you have put in the practice time, you have the ability and you have played the piece perfectly many times at home. You have nothing to prove to me, your mom, or yourself. Your piano playing is so beautiful and such a blessing to me and to so many others. You have already done the job when it comes to this music. Remember, this recital doesn’t define you, in fact, it isn’t even about you and your performance, . . . it’s about the music.” At this I saw a slight rise in Becca’s countenance and the glint of a smile in her beautiful blue eyes. I continued, “You know the music, now let it flow through you. Play it from your heart, enjoy it and let its beauty ring out and touch the audience.”
As I sat in the audience and listened to student after student play their recital pieces, tears filled my eyes. In the midst of Beethoven, Chopin, Shubert and a rendition of “London Bridge” from the Beginners Piano Book, Level One, I found myself reflecting on the music—actually hearing the true music being played at the recital. The music I heard was the music of our lives—the music of practicing, struggle, discipline, and commitment. I heard the melodies of mundane living, of repetitious scales and runs, never-ending arpeggios and chords, of missed notes and forgotten stanzas. I heard the groans of practicing sandwiched between school, lessons, chores and homework. I heard the irresponsible playing of made up music, favorite songs and fun ditties in respite from the task at hand—the work. I thought about the many times the moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and grandparents had heard the songs practiced—full of halting and erratic starts and stops, at slower tempos, and in disharmony interspersed with flashes of melody. I realized that this music—the music of life and relationship, is the real music. It is about the music, the music that is performed daily on the stage of life and it is this music that is the most beautiful to listen to and to reflect upon.
As Becca was playing her recital piece I found myself engrossed in her countenance and performance. Her auburn-red hair was luminous under the bright stage lights. Her long, slender fingers gliding over the black and white keys and the fluid movements of her hands and arms served as art in itself, accentuating with dance the beautiful music floating from the grand piano before her. As she played, I noticed my hands were tightly clasped together, perhaps in an effort to take on or hold back any tension in her that might interfere with her playing. At every pause or slight bauble in the music I found myself cringing; not out of disappointment, but out of encouraging support, hoping that she wouldn’t allow the mistake to deter her in her journey through the song. As I savored every note, chord, trill and run, I was silently speaking to her and praying for her deep within my heart. “Keep going.” “Don’t be discouraged.” “It is wonderful.” “Move through the bauble, let the beauty of the music before and aft encapsulate it.” “Keep going.” “Let it ring.” “Oh, that is beautiful."
As I listened to her play, my mind filled with recital memories of short, ten measure songs and little sandaled feet dangling from the edge of a piano bench. All of the “music of life” between those early days and the present moment crescendoed into beauty as she played the final chord of her piece. When she lifted her hands from the piano keys my heart leapt with the smile upon her face and I heard myself silently speak from my heart, “Well done.”
When it comes to life, it is truly about the music. It is not about the performance. It is about the moment by moment music of our lives played out before our Father in Heaven. In Psalm 108:1, King David says, “My heart is steadfast O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul.” (NIV) From the deepest, most meaningful part of our lives, we are to sing out a song, and this music of life is to be offered up as a melody to God. It is a tragedy that many people think that the music of life is realized in one final, high pressure recital. The world says it is all about the performance and the grand prize goes to the flawless, the perfect presentation, and ultimately defines this as beauty.
In the Father’s eyes this is not the case. In the Father’s eyes—or ears—it is about the music, the music of life, replete with its daily practice, baubles, frustrations, mistakes, struggles, disappointments and successes. It is within the very playing out of the music of our lives that the Father finds beauty and joy. As we play out the melody of our lives, God the Father is deeply involved and interested in every note. Listening with intense love and care, He is ever present as we go about the practice of daily living. He hears the missed notes, and understands the frustrated pounding of the keys as we hammer out situations and circumstances in our lives. He silently rejoices with us as we work out challenging stanzas and struggle to memorize long, difficult pages of music.
As we play the music of our lives and look into the Father’s heart we find One that is lost in His love and adoration of us, His children. We find a Father who sent his beloved son to a cruel Roman cross to take on all of the tension, cares and sin that might interfere with our life song. We find a Father giving His all for us and resurrecting Jesus to life so that the music of our lives might reverberate and resound in joy off of the arching stone walls of an empty tomb. As we look into the Father’s heart we see One who delights in and savors our every breath and movement, and we see a loving Savior who is forever interceding to the Father on our behalf with words of encouragement and prayers of help and support. “Keep going.” “Don’t be discouraged.” “It is wonderful.” “Move through the bauble, let the beauty of grace, before and aft, encapsulate it.” “Keep going.” “Let it ring.” “Oh, that is beautiful.” As we lay our heads to rest for the night we find a Father who is ever with us. He takes the cacophonous music of our lives, plays it through the symphony of grace and then whispers in our hearts, “Well done."
At the end of Becca’s recital, the parents, students, grandmas, grandpas, brothers and sisters all stayed and celebrated with punch and cookies. Congratulations were offered. The room was filled with hugs, laughter, lots of oohs and aahs, reflections on the recital and enormous sighs of relief. Becca was across the room, talking with some friends. In one arm she held a bouquet of roses that I had given her and in the other hand she had a cup of red punch. She was smiling. I could tell it was a smile of relief—and satisfaction—from a job well done. I made my way over to her side of the room. I put my arm around her waist, pulled her close and told her that she did a wonderful job.
“Thanks Dad, but I did have a few mess ups,” she said.
I responded, “Yes, but they were practically unnoticeable as you just moved through them.” I then asked her, “What was going through your mind when you were up there playing?"
Becca said, “I just kept going, enjoying it, knowing that you and Mom were out there listening and enjoying it too. I actually thought at one point—at one of my favorite parts in the song—it’s not about me, it’s about the music. So I just played the music.”
With that, Becca slipped off to resume chatting with her friends.
As I stood there holding an empty punch cup I silently prayed, “Father, thank you for the music of life. Help me to remain steadfast as I move through the difficult notes and measures of living. Help me to embrace and enjoy my favorite parts of the song. Father, most of all, help me to remember that it’s not about me, it’s about the music. You are the composer of this world’s most beautiful music. In fact, You are the music. Thank You for being in my audience, cheering me on, filling me with Your music of hope and Your song of love. It is only by Your grace that I can move on in beauty to the end of the piece. Father, help me to play the music of my life for You.”