The church sanctuary was cool yesterday morning, good news given the large number of people attending the first official service in our new building, but not good news for my flute. I’d warmed up and rehearsed with the accompanist, though we weren’t playing with the choir until the offering. Through the gathering, confession and forgiveness, scripture readings, recitation of The Nicene Creed and Pastor’s message, my metal flute became colder and colder.
As the ushers approached the altar to receive the offering plates, I compressed all the keys and quietly blew warm breath into my flute. “I want to play perfectly this time,” I prayed, “if that is Your will, all for Your glory, of course.”
Yup, I wanted it both ways—don’t we always? Thy will be done as long as it matches mine. Ironically, my desire for perfection always reveals my less-than-perfect nature.
A month ago, I’d worried about my nemesis: high E and sometimes high F. And here we were again, performing the same piece with lots of high E’s and F’s in the flute part. Those pitches were not going to be easy to articulate in the cold… harder than playing on the warm summer evening at Trinity.
Yesterday morning, I squawked the first high E, like a football player muffing the opening handoff. I adjusted my embouchure and squawked the next high E a little less. My flute warmed as I played along, and squawking ceased. I finished respectably—no missed entrances or wrong notes—though third octave pitches sounded thin, and I’d paid little attention to the choir and director.
Returning to my seat next to Keith, I muttered under my breath, “Darn.” Okay, so the word was slightly more graphic but not the worst I could have said. Still, I felt doubly chastened.
I shook my head and focused on the prayers—praying for others. Then, during Communion, I looked at the cross and thought about how much I needed Jesus. As we knelt at the rail, I sensed the gift of imperfection: humility.
Like flute playing, humility takes practice.
So, after the service, our church organist/accompanist said to me, “Don’t worry about mistakes. I make at least one every service.” She knows I struggle with perfectionism and no doubt saw my frowns.
Then a friend came up to me and said, “I enjoyed your playing this morning.” I thanked her (progress) but said I wished I’d played better and offered a brief explanation about the physics of sound and air temperature. In other words, by emphasizing my imperfection, I knowingly and ungraciously slid further into it.
As we were leaving, I saw a woman whose sister we’d prayed for during the service. “I finally got to hear you play,” she said to me.
I nodded then paused and said, “I was sorry to hear of your loss.”
“My sister was 93-years-old. We talked every Tuesday morning—for years.”
“That will be an adjustment,” I said, and this time she nodded.
The church, the body of Christ.
Yesterday afternoon, I watched NFL football highlights with Keith. Team players and prima donnas. Perfect passes and completions. Errant plays, drops, and interceptions. Amazing defense, kicks and misses. Each time, the players picked themselves up and focused on the next play. Tomorrow, they’ll review the games and practice.
Early this morning, I warmed up with etudes that included lots of high E’s and F’s, practicing “cold” conditions so maybe next time I can avoid squawking and pay attention to the team. Just because I’ll never be perfect doesn’t mean I can’t reach for it. As long as I embrace the gift of imperfection: the understanding that it’s not about me; it’s always about Jesus.