Monday, February 2, 2009

Bullies and Freedom

When I was in high school I was in a daily situation in an orchestra where I was frequently intimidated by another student or by the director. If I were making a Hollywood movie I would call them "bullies". The technique was simple: tell me whatever was necessary to make me back off as a competitor. Tell me whatever necessary to make me feel less than prepared, adequate, musical, intelligent, acceptable... You get the picture. Intellectually I knew exactly what was happening, but emotionally, I eroded. The result is that I would either freeze up or make mistakes, neither of which would happen when I practiced alone. Amazing, the power of words and intimidating actions!

For a couple of years the symphony orchestra in which I play has used a rotating seating system for all string players behind the front stands of principle players. Last weekend I was seated with a young college student who essentially either ignored me or tried to intimidate me with his unprofessional attitude and actions. Amazingly, I felt like that 15-18 year old high school student again and began making mistakes in passages that I knew I could play--with a metronome--up to performance tempo. It didn't help that the odor of tobacco was so strong that my allergies were flaring. After the third rehearsal in these circumstances, I began to really think. I thought about my reactions. I thought about how I KNEW that I could actually play the music. I thought about how many times I had actually performed this music with this orchestra and other orchestras. I thought about the fact that I had as much right to sit there and to play well as anyone else did.

After some prayer and saying "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" about 50 times, I played a decent concert. More importantly, after yesterday's sermon from our pastor who talked about letting go of past sins and baggage, I did. Let go of the baggage, I mean. Being intimidated by bullies and receiving it as it is intended, is the same as believing a lie. Listening to, and believing lies is the same thing Adam and Eve did, right? So it's a choice, right? So I choose to stop believing that I am less than prepared, less than intelligent, less than musical, and less than what I know God has made me to be. I also choose to ask that I may have a different stand partner for future concerts, because I know that is the correct choice. And I feel free!

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