Still Beauty

We got dressed right up.  Shed our Saturday chore clothes and got dressed up.  I exchanged my sweats and sneakers for lip stick and heels.   And, after helping me into my coat and a whispered “you’re beautiful” we got in the car and drove downtown to the concert hall.

We spent some time looking for seats – and he looked at me funny, an amused expression dancing in his eyes because I trudged him up and down aisles, climbed stairs and test-drove seats – “I need to see” I said.

“It’s an orchestra. We’re here for an orchestra – you need to hear.”

I shook my head no, slowly from side to side. How could I possibly help him understand? “No – I need to see the music – the beauty of the music.”  There was still confusion still that bemused look. He hadn’t understood.  He shrugged and followed – happy to let me mutter, half crazy to myself while he winked and smiled at my antics.

Finally!  There, this seat felt perfect and we settled, just to the right of the stage.  Just far enough back that my eyes could wander, uninterrupted.

We waited.  My blood humming anticipation, we waited for Hallelujah!  I listen once a year to Handel’s masterpiece in its entirety and this year my husband took me to listen live. 

The choir filed on – row after row – dressed in their best and ready to sing praises.  And then, the orchestra settled.

Have you ever taken notice of the cacophony of noise just before a concert?  A rustling, a shifting, instruments sliding up and down scales and arpeggios just trying to find that note.  A noisy gathering trying to find the right tune and pitch.

It is not overly loud, this orchestra finding its way, but yet it thunders in the hushed silence of the auditorium as small talk gives way to anticipation.  The thunder of shifting, rustling, music straightening, valve releasing noise.

The conductor makes his way onto the stage and rises to the podium.  There’s a cough that dares the silence of the auditorium and you can see the waiting there, rippling anticipation across his back.  One heart beat and then another and then his arms, a graceful line of curved, fluid motion rises with his baton extended, held light in his hands.  His arms raise and with that silent announcement the noise stops, the restlessness ceases and all eyes and instruments raise as one.

I inch forward in my seat, my anticipation just there on the edge of the plush and soft chair.  I know, my heart is beating and I know that I am perched there just on the edge of beauty, a precipice of wonder.  Life, life will start singing soon.

My eyes scan the orchestra, I am looking for the telltale sign, the sign of singular focus – when eyes become clear and purpose and intent is scribed across faces.

Yes!  There it is, the strings.  Violins are cradled, like an appendage, a wing just there beneath chins, settled deep in the curve, the hollow of necks.  The bow arms, cast shadows of soft right angles.   There is unpretentious confidence in the eyes , eyes that  never stray from the conductor, his arms raised in anticipation of praise.

The auditorium is silent.  Once the hushed stillness is achieved, then and only then, does the conductor lower his arms, like a dance, graceful flowing and his body leans forward and he sways and moves.  The violinists draw their bows agonizingly slow across the stings.  The notes rise sweet into the room, filling the hallowed silence with praise.  And it feels like each note is a strand of thread that is woven into my breath.  As they coax music out of vibration and friction and make their instruments sing, the breath is pulled out of me on a sigh.

And isn’t life just like that?  When stop watches and countdowns number our days, when busy and chores and tasks and lists become the music we dance to, we lose our rhythm and our way.  When we forget the still and the beauty of waiting anticipation, when our gaze is not focused on God, we lose sight of the measures and bars of a life that should keep time with Him.  It is in the stillness that we find life.  “You can only hear your lifesing – when you still” – Ann Voskamp.

I lean over and whisper to my husband, I whisper close to his ear, “You see, I needed to see the music.”  And he wraps me close and as I lean my head on his shoulder I can barely hear him murmur his understanding.

And there in the auditorium, just there before those first notes were played, I became aware of a holy stillness, an anticipation — Life.

“Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.” – (Psalm 37:7, NLT)

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