Bill was a horn player. A really good horn player.
I was then—as I am now—a merely adequate horn player. From the first, I chased Bill. It was all I could do to stay anywhere close to him in the never-ending struggle for the coveted first chair.
First chair got all the solos. They were the de facto leader of the section. First chair had the respect of Mr. Olson. I had never had the respect of any teacher—or, so it seemed to me.
I wanted to be first chair.
Challenges were how one moved up to that coveted position. Literally, a challenge, issued in writing and handed to Mr. Olson, our band director, would result in the event which decided if one could take over the seat we all aspired to.
The challenger picked the piece to be played and named the day, at least a week hence. On the day of the challenge, both players would sit facing Mr. Olson and he would listen to each in turn.
Accuracy, rhythm, and musicality were all essential. Points were added or subtracted, depending on the skill or lack thereof in any one of these areas.
I issued my challenge and practiced. Really. I practiced. Then the fateful day came. I played my piece, then Bill played it. Mr. Olson tabulated in his notebook, a funny smile on his face.
I won the challenge! First chair was mine! The joy! The elation!
The bragging! The ragging! I laid it on thick and made sure Bill felt it.
But, there was one thing I hadn't taken into consideration. Anyone can challenge. If you lose, you may challenge immediately for the next week.
He did. I practiced. He practiced.
I beat him again.
Mr. Olson was almost incredulous. He knew who the better player was. He knew.
Bill challenged again. Only once more was needed.
As I said, Bill was a really good horn player. I was never more than an adequate player, who happened to have a couple of good outings.
First chair was never mine again. It had, truth to tell, never really been mine in the first place. I could never have kept the coveted seat as long as Bill was there. It was his chair until the day we both graduated from school.
Ah, but the glory had been mine for a short time!
I wrote last night. Awful stuff.
Hundreds of words about a solar eclipse and millions of folks who traveled miles for a two-minute experience. It turned into a diatribe about vanity and disproportion.
I disposed of the whole miserable affair. Entirely.
Sometimes it happens. Words written with good intentions and from solid reasoning jumble themselves together in cumbersome logic which discourages the soul.
Souls don't need discouragement.
Eclipses, for all the hoopla and emotional hype, are about tiny bodies (relatively speaking) covering the illumination—and stealing the glory—of those huge, life-giving stars shining in the universe.
Periodically, we see a news story about another vain, but craven, human being who has claimed to be a war hero. Acquiring the accoutrements of a courageous soldier, or sailor, or airman, they repeat fictionalized accounts of their activities in a war in which they never dared to serve.
We call it stolen valor. Essentially, they play the part of the moon to the sun during an eclipse.
Simply because they happen to be close to their audience (and the real heroes are not, at that moment), they appear important and are able to steal the valor of the men and women who really earned the glory. But, just like the short-lived eclipse we observed the other day, it is a surety that their fraudulent glory will pass astonishingly quickly and they will stand, exposed to all the world for the liars they are. A surety.
I was reminded the other day that the celestial event we observed was actually, strictly speaking, a transit—the passing of an object, insignificant in scope, over the face of another, larger and essential, object.
I like the sound of that. A transit.
It describes our lives in this present world, does it not? The moving of a tiny, seemingly insignificant object across a huge, bigger than life one.
We, who strive to walk in the way, follow the orbit set before us in our transit. It is not our place to attempt to be anything but what we are.
The way of Christ's kingdom is that those who are small, the servants, will one day be large. Two of His disciples found that out with embarrassing clarity, as they lobbied on one occasion for positions of importance. (Mark 10:43-45)
But for today, we follow the path set out—small and hardly noticeable among the others who transit this earth. We serve, that the Creator of all that is may be seen distinctly.
It is not for us to get in the way. It is not for us to fill the view of any person.
Still, our way is not the way of the world.
Make a splash! Be noticed. Front and center!
But the Teacher told His followers not to take the most important seat, because they would almost certainly be moved to the foot of the table. (Luke 14:8-10)
We humans have such an inflated sense of our worth, even in our damaged condition claiming attention not due to us.
When I say, we humans, I mean me. I wave my hands and get in the faces of those about me, intent on gaining their respect and admiration.
When I do that, I take away from the glory due to God and rob Him of the joy that should be His when the right time is come for me to be in that position of honor.
Our transit of this earth is a path colored with joy and tinted with pain.
But for all that, we reflect the light of the Savior, lending light for the journey to those on the same path and pointing the way for others who will come.
The Light shines brightly on us.
Don't accept your dog's admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
(Ann Landers ~ Pseudonym for two American advice columnists ~ ca. 1943-1999)
Let someone else praise you, not your own mouth—
a stranger, not your own lips.
(Proverbs 27:2 ~ NLT ~ Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.