January 25, 2006

The One-noter

1503 page27 cap fell in love last night. Let me tell you about it!

I attended a lovely vespers service here at Andrews University. First, a children?s group sang two numbers that I hadn?t heard since I was in college. I don?t know where they found those oldies, and I might well have been the only other person in that whole room mouthing the words along with them. But I certainly was delighted to hear them again, for they warmed my heart.

And that?s when it happened. A group of very young children performed a musical number on instruments I?d never seen before, a kind of bamboo bell. As with any handbell group, each child?s bell pealed a different note. This performance was impressive, with surprisingly intricate harmonies.

In spite of the adorableness of the kimono-clad children, and the beauty of the music, my attention was completely riveted on a tiny child on the far right who, up until the very end, had played not a single note. He paid painstaking attention, though, with concentration and discipline rare in one so young. I found myself paying equally close attention as I waited for his turn.

1503 page27I held my breath when he moved his instrument up in readiness to play. And when, with poise and enthusiasm, he finally did present his one-note musical offering, I realized that I wasn?t watching alone: as he played his precious note, the congregation spontaneously broke into applause and gentle laughter. We had all been ?pulling for him? the entire time. Just then, all of us wanted to hold him close and tell him that he had done a fabulous job.

How often I?ve felt like that child on the far right. I have a part to play, it?s true. It?s small, and I know that. In a world of people whose gifts seem more notable than mine, I?ve practiced, but I haven?t always had as much performance opportunity as those whose notes seem to come up more often. Sometimes I feel very much alone, isolated, disconnected. But the truth is that there?s a fellowship of believers pulling for me. In spite of my apprehension, I am never totally alone.

I struggle to stay focused, fearing that when the time finally comes to present my gift, my thoughts will be somewhere else. That would be a tragedy, because one note though it be, my one note would still be missed. The song can?t go on without me and my small contribution. In its own way, it?s as important as any other. Without it, the melody would be incomplete.

That?s true of your note, too.

You and I and that precious kid on the far right have something in common (besides being adorable, that is). We are part of something bigger than each of us individually, and our contribution, whatever it may be, matters. We offer it up, not just for the listening crowd, but for the ears and to the praise of Jesus.

That child stole my heart. As for Jesus, I think He fell for the kid on the far right too. And the kid on the left. And the ones in the middle. Red and Yellow, Black and White, playing in every chord or just adding a note here and there as needed--all are precious in His sight.

Jesus loves the little children of the world.

Even the one-noters.

Valerie Phillips is an associate director of the women?s residence hall at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan, where she has ministered to collegiate women for 25 years.