Sunday, May 06, 2007

Decision for Position

The Wagner concert was a blast - literally - and if you're familiar with Wagner you know that's a good thing. The balcony box seats were great. Only the second violins were obscured from view without completely leaning over the edge to see them. We also had a good view of most of the rest of the audience. Rodney Harrison, our director of worship, was one of the several added to compliment the numbers of the Oratorio singers in order to tackle the size of the sound that Wagner is known for. His wife and daughter came in and sat on the orchestra level. His daughter waved ecstatically when she saw us and proceeded to plug her ears during the periods of applause.

Lest you doubt the worthiness of such an activity as attending a playing of Wagner, I assure you that I prefer participation in worship. Nevertheless, despite the poor philosophical intent such composers exhibited, it is God who has created music to stir us. Even hymn writers are sinners, but God redeems creation. This sort of brilliant music provides a context for understanding where our musical sensibilities originate culturally so that we may turn music into worship with understanding. But the focus must be on God and not ourselves, and that is the purpose of this post.

As I watched the musicians filter onto the stage and warm up in preparation, I was reminded of my time spent as a physics major at UNC Charlotte. Late in my last year there, I had decided to leave it all to study Bible. I nevertheless finished the year.

My schedule was full. I was taking advanced math and physics courses, logic and computer programming as electives. I was also working two part-time jobs, and I was still acing my courses. I had impressed one professor enough in lab that he offered me a position in his graduate lab although I would still be an undergrad the following year if I stayed. This would have gotten me well ahead of my peers and ensured a healthy placement in a lab or school somewhere where I could earn significant grant or private research money. My area of interest was particle-photon interactions. On a side note, I impressed my professor because I was unwilling to fudge numbers in order to accomplish the task. I was often the last in the lab working diligently to produce the most accurate results with the equipment I was given and record the data accurately. I was also particularly detailed about recording uncontrolled factors that could skew results. (As an aside, my fellow classmates - the ones who rushed through lab - are our scientists and engineers today. Unless they typically have some revelation between undergraduate lab work and a carrer in their field of study, this exemplifies the quality of scientific endeavor we see today. Science is only as good as the scientists.)

Given my heavy course load and work schedule, I was in need of an activity where I could relax. To this end I auditioned for the university wind ensemble. Dr. Bish, then the head of the music department, auditioned me. Having been a professional trombonist in the Marine Corps the audition was a breeze. In high school, I had even demonstrated a capacity to write orchestral scores. He gave me 2d chair, first trombone. He said he would have made my 1st chair, but the trombonist he gave it to was actually a music ed major whose primary instrument was trombone - and he needed the experience. Apparently Dr. Bish called the orchestra who in turn gave me a call and offered me a chair as a trombonist. I couldn't help but think that I could have been one of the musicians taking their seats that night if I had only decided not to leave Charlotte.

I went to Columbia Bible College the next year. While I left all else behind, God gave me a heart for missions there. I had fellow students from around the world. I met people who make a larger impact on the world than the greatest world leaders. I met people who had come from different factions of war-torn former Yugoslavia who met together to worship God. I met a photographer from behind the iron curtain who had the most remarkable historical pictures of the fall of the Soviet Union I'll ever see. I met people from China, India, Africa... I met a man from North Dakoda who discovered in him a call to go to the Bedouin people in Saudi Arabia with the gospel.

I came home from Columbia with a desire to go anywhere that God opened the door for me to go. Lois caught this same passion. Now, while I stay home and work to pay the bills, she is taking our children into the mission field for the summer. Our trip to Charlotte was a final get-away for my wife and I before she leaves.

So as I watch the orchestra prepare, I consider the decision I made. A decision of position. I could have a good position as a researcher and have a good side position in an orchestra. I have chosen another position - that of obedience to God. While God could have called me to the lab and the orchestral stage, He has called me to involvement in missions. I could be a great man, but I would rather be in a garbage dump with the odor of septic garbage in my nostrils, the sight of dust devils carrying garbage hundreds of feet into the air to strew them miles across the land, beholding people the world deems as unimportant and worthless sorting through the garbage for sustenance as I hold the dearest girl I'll never meet again until we meet at the throne of Christ - Genesis. While the strains of Wagner echo yet in my mind's ear, the greatest music I long for is the cry of a sinner who has realized his salvation and become broken for Christ.

I'd rather be nowhere else but in the will of God.

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