An Audience of One

We’ve had snow here in Arkansas. That means that the world came to an effective end for about a week while we waited for a thaw. There is no (or at least poor and little) street maintenance done here before, during, or after a “winter event” so we just hunker down and wait it out. That’s why we lost a week, and the winter concert at school had to be canceled. I was disappointed because my son had a solo in one piece they were playing – the only solo of his High School music career to date– and now we would never hear it.

However, due to a last minute rescheduling, the Performing Arts Center opened up and the symphonic bands threw together a hasty performance for those of us who could attend the first hour of the school day. It was kind of a nicely abbreviated concert experience with everyone in casual clothes, but since it was during the day many parents could not attend. Oh, there was a decent turn out, but sparse compared to an evening performance.

I waited through one whole recital, and one performance by my son’s group, and then came his solo played over the soft accompaniment of the collective symphonic winds. It was beautiful. Not only did he play technically well, he played with feeling, filling the notes with beauty and passion. Like a boss! And it did not occur to me until driving home how many people did not hear him play.

I didn’t even care. It was like he gave a concert to an audience of one: me. And it filled me with a joy and happiness that can not be reduced to words or prideful boasting. His performance was simply like a gift. It was the full expression of the talent he has been working so hard to develop poured out for my enjoyment, and for no other reason than the pleasure of it. (I actually leaned over to the mom sitting next to me and said, “That’s my boy!” Yes. I did. And I’m not ashamed to admit it!)

I’m in one of those seasons of life where I have wondered at my purpose and usefulness, not only as a Christian but as a human being. Some days seem void of a reason to rise and dress. It isn’t that I don’t have plenty to do - you’ve seen my previous posts - it’s just that none of it seems to have any real meaning or impact or significance. And there it is. The nitty gritty. I want my life to have significance. Don’t we all? The problem is, as it is with so many things, that we measure significance against a worldly standard.

I’ve taken some time as I contemplate the new year to look back over the activities of late searching for the moments where God has brought opportunity to my door. What I’ve discovered is significance in places I would least expect to find it.

For example, my life is currently full of teenaged boys. I live with one. I tutor two. I have 12-20 in my home every Wednesday evening. They sleep here on occasion and sometimes eat a meal. Their shoes clutter my doorway and their body odor lingers in my couch cushions. Their feet have stained my walls. They play chicken in my living room when I’m not looking and spill 2 liters of soda on my kitchen floor… regularly. And I love it. I love them. Having them in my life is a privilege, and a great responsibility, and one I have not treated with the diligence it deserves.

I have looked at this phenomenon of teenaged boys as just a happy by-product of having one myself. I have completely overlooked the potential in it. Every conversation I have, every tutoring session, every interaction is an opportunity to purposefully build up these young men in their faith, to discover places to cover in prayer, to unveil areas of warfare, to encourage godly living, faithfulness, generosity, and gratitude.

That’s significant. But here’s the rub. No one notices what we do in secret, in passing, in “casual” conversation, in the course of our day. We equate significance with immediately resulting recognition and results. No, not necessarily praise, but we unconsciously ask ourselves how important a thing can be if no one even knows we’ve done it, if it doesn't have world-wide effect?

It feels like playing a solo for no audience. And that’s the fallacy. That’s our failing. To God, our purposeful attention to where He’s placed us and what He’s given us is immensely significant, and we “perform” there for an audience of One.

We are caught up in a current church culture of determinedly looking for bigger, better, more sacrificial, intentionally painful, idealized and romanticized ways to serve God on the world mission field, when He has already given us a sizable mission field that we overlook every day. One that we are uniquely gifted to reach.

The funny thing is that the work He has given us seems so routine as to be insignificant, less than a reason to rise and dress, when in fact it is a solo piece to be played with technical prowess, with feeling, with beauty and passion…like a boss! Not like an afterthought, or accident of circumstance. Every day that we wake up on this side of eternity is an opportunity to consciously redeem the mundane, and offer back to the Author and Perfecter of our faith a “performance” as a gift.

Life purposefully and attentively lived is the full expression of the talent He has given us, poured out for His enjoyment and for no other reason than His pleasure. It fills Him with a joy and happiness that cannot be reduced to words. (If you read the book of Job you'll see that occasionally he'll even lean over to our adversary, nudge him in the ribs and say, "That's my child!") 
I would encourage you to take the time to look at your own calendar and reflect on the potential value in what you find there. Consider how you spend your days and what comes so naturally or circumstantially to you that you act without considering what's redeemable in it.

What solo has God given you to play for His enjoyment? Is it managing your household budget? Do it like a boss! Is it noticing the downcast and sharing encouragement? Play it with feeling! Is it enduring another piano lesson? Give it some passion!  Is it wiping the drool off your baby’s (or mother’s) chin? It’s a beautiful thing!

Do not treat with contempt these opportunities to play for God’s glory just because they lack worldly importance and bring you no acclaim! Don’t diminish their importance by actively looking for something “bigger” and “better” to do. Play for an audience of One with all your heart, just for the eternal joy of it, and in those moments find true significance.