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Competing for First Chair

by Brittney Chan

“And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.”

‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:15‬

I was in middle-school band. Yep. I’m sure you can envision me as a pre-teen: decked out in a jean skirt and a t-shirt, hair slicked back in a ponytail, lugging around a bulky, black case from class to class.

I was so cool.

I played the trumpet, which was certainly not my first choice of instrument, but there I was. In eighth grade, the twins that lived across the street were also trumpeters and we loved competing against each other for First Chair.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the terminology, let me tell you: First Chair is an honor. This position was typically filled by the most qualified member of a particular section. Each group - clarinets, flutes, trumpets, tubas, saxophones, etc. - had a First Chair, or a section leader. Their main job was to lead their companions to fulfill their part in a musical arrangement. They were studious, precise, and talented - and they were always under the direct leadership of the Conductor. The First Chair could never try to follow their own intuitions, but they had to be in sync with their Maestro.

I remember having to sit and play alone - in front of the entire band - and wait for my performance to be judged. It was nerve-racking to say the least.

This order of importance came to my mind the other day. It was the first in-person class of the University of St. Augustine’s Occupational Therapy program. I was in a new crowd of people, mingling, and trying to find common ground. Each of us were asked to introduce ourselves and speak about what brought us to OT. The spotlight hit me.

Full of nervous excitement, I rambled on for a few minutes about how the events of my life all came together to shape the path I was on. I mentioned that I was a preacher’s kid and had always been involved in ministry. Later that afternoon, a few classmates and I connected over our religious backgrounds. We talked about the specific denominations that we associated with, and I gave an internal sigh of relief knowing that I’d met fellow Christians.

The weekend progressed, and I continued to get to know these ladies. One of them reveled in how old hymns promoted positive mental health and self-regulation techniques - two hot topics in the world of OT. She pointed out lines like, “Can we find a friend so faithful / Who will all our sorrows share? / Jesus knows our every weakness / Take it to the Lord in prayer” and “Let us have a little talk with Jesus / Let us tell Him all about our troubles / He will hear our faintest cry / He will answer by and by.” I loved it. I could hear the evidence of her relationship with God through our conversation.

I became more familiar with some of the others, too. However, unlike the thought-provoking conversation I just mentioned, what I found was slightly disappointing. (Disclaimer: I am the last person that will try to slip on a judge’s robe and give a verdict concerning someone else’s walk with God. But…the tree should bear fruit, you know what I mean?) I sat through a meal with the other self-professing Christians and the behavior I observed did not bear witness with my spirit.

I thought about Jesus’ sermon on the Mount; how He said that no one can serve two masters - or two section leaders. (Matthew 6:24) If we proclaim to be a Christian, our lives should also be led by God. Our Savior should reside in First Chair at all times! Nothing can compete with God’s absolute power and authority. We have to give God the lordship over every part of who we are; including our conduct and conversations.

The Bible teaches us that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father. Just like the section leader of a band, Jesus is the go-between for the Conductor and the instrumentalist. Jesus is always in sync with God, the Father, and God, the Spirit. When these three members of the Godhead are operating synchronously in our lives, the world will hear the most beautiful and melodious sounds resonate from us! There should be harmony amongst the body of believers.

Friend, I encourage you to spend time in self-examination. Be sure that the ways in which you carry yourself are pleasing to God. How do you represent Christ to a fallen world? Do your coworkers know who leads your life? Do your children? Does your spouse?

If there is anything else competing for First Chair, we have to set our focus back on Jesus Christ: the author and finisher of our faith.

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