The Conductor's Baton
I grew up with a great love for playing music. As a result, I sat through my fair share of band and orchestra rehearsals as a kid. If I could sum up the cardinal rule of musical teaching from my boyhood conductors, it would be with these simple words: “Watch the baton.” Sometimes those words were spoken sagely: “Watch the baton.” Other times they were shouted: “Watch the baton!” Either way, when wielded with skill, a good conductor can use a baton to communicate tempo, volume, and emotion while creating the miracle of musical togetherness.
As Christian people, we are not unlike an unruly group of middle school band students. We are all still spiritual beginners until the final school bell rings and we enter the blessed unending summer of God’s favor. Until then, we have a conductor who would like nothing better for us than to “Watch the baton!”
Unlike my memories of my early conductors, however, God rarely yells at his people. Alas, God respects our willpower and loves us too much to do this with any regularity (I can almost wish he raised his voice with me more than he does!). God nearly always whispers the wise, sage words on which all good things hinge: “Watch the baton.”
So, it’s on us as spiritual students to do everything we can to train our eyes to see the movements of our God and Divine Conductor. This is why so many Christians read Scripture, go to worship, spend time in silence, pursue many avenues of prayer, give, and serve. It’s all about practices that help us to keep our vision on the small, miraculous, divine baton point that has the power to guide our lives at the right pace, volume, emotional expression, and relational connection.
As one of the pastors at Elmhurst CRC, I like to think of my role at church as that of a conductor-in-training. It’s a good fit, I believe . Though there is great leadership responsibility in holding a baton, there is a profound humility about it as well. Here’s the humble part of conducting: while directing music, the conductor makes no sound. That would be a distraction to the musicians. The real music and audible loveliness comes from those who have instruments. That’s everybody else, AKA the church.
This is my hope and prayer for Elmhurst CRC in the days ahead: that we will be diligent in our personal spiritual practice and increasingly sensitive to the conducting of the One who knows where the music is going. Indeed, turns out he wrote the whole score as well! I’m anticipating some soaring and gracious moments ahead for us.
Personally, I’m more eager than ever to play my part, to practice diligently, and to “Watch the baton!” Care to join me?