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Finding your voice
“I was born with music inside me. Music was one of my parts. Like my ribs, my kidneys, my liver, my heart. Like my blood. It was a force already within me when I arrived on the scene. It was a necessity for me-like food or water.” –Ray Charles
In brass instruments and in even woodwinds the requirement for practiced embouchure is one of the most pivotal lessons a new beginner can learn. Embouchure is the application of one’s lips or mouth onto a mouth piece or reed in order to create the desired sound or vibration that leads to music. The facial muscles are applied in such a way that to a beginner it can cause discomfort jaw ache. The momentary ache felt by the new beginner pales in comparison to the music that is created out of such discomfort. When the lips are properly applied to the instrument there is a connection that is made, there is hope and a glimmer of what can become of this instrument. You see, playing music isn’t only about looking the part, holding the instrument in the correct manner, but it requires the musician to sacrifice something of themselves for the purpose of performance.
I remember holding that instrument up close to my face, then being taught to pucker my lips into the formation of a strange grimace while making a small hole within my lips so that the air could exhale from my body. I was giving something of myself into that lifeless instrument for a greater purpose.
“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.” Genesis 2:7 (NIV)
Picture it for a moment, creator God, the artist and conductor of life, breathing the essence of life into the lifeless; He was giving something of Himself into his creation for a holy purpose. God looked at the world He had created, the animals, the trees and oceans, and finally our first parents, and He said “it was good”. God breathed life into the very fiber of human kind and in that moment this symphony of life began for us all. Notice that before God poured the breath of life into man, he wasn’t a living being, man was dormant and still. Just think about that for a second, ponder it…soak it in…is your mind blown yet? Without the very life breath of God, the entirety of our existence would remain and always continue to remain just dust. The Hebrew word for breathing life into us is; nishmath chaiyim, meaning “the breath of LIVES” which implies not only life but intellect as well. While this breath of God expanded the lungs and set them in play, his inspiration gave both spirit and understanding to mankind.
When we apply ourselves to the everyday tasks of life, what we are doing is exercising the very breath of God in our human existence. Our intellect – God breathed, our temperament – God Breathed, our sense of identity – God breathed. When we come to the understanding that we were created to be intricately connected to our Creator God, our worldview and sense of purpose begins to change as well. With this higher understanding, it then becomes all too clear how pivotal and vital God views our part in this life. We were created with Divine intent not some cosmic accident, when we understand that this very breath of God exists within us, the appropriate response to this knowledge is to exhale into our world love, exhale into our world hope, exhale into our world purpose. When we play the music God has called us to play, the end result is transformation from fallen creation to restored creation – reconciled to God.
But there is still something missing in our relationship to the Great Conductor of life. What is still required of us in order to exhale or to breathe the breath of God in our lives? When we pick up the instrument God has handed us to play and place it to our lips we must apply muscles, we must strain, learning new principles…spiritual embouchure. Another word for it is spiritual discipline.
Richard Foster in his book Celebration of Disciple: The Path of Spiritual growth, writes;
“A farmer is helpless to grow grain; all he can do is provide the right conditions for the growing of grain. He cultivates the ground, he plants the seed, he waters the plants, and then the natural forces of the earth take over and up comes the grain…This is the way it is with the Spiritual Disciplines – they are a way of sowing to the Spirit… By themselves the Spiritual Disciplines can do nothing; they can only get us to the place where something can be done.”
In our giving, in our application of spiritual embouchure, there is pain and sacrifice. What drives us to sacrifice? What motivates us to keep going when we face and encounter discouragement and frustration? Faith. Faith must be our motivator, the oil in the valves of who we are in God’s symphony. We prepare ourselves; we pick up the instrument or gifts of God, placing them to our lips with the knowledge that we will most likely fail before we succeed. Spiritual embouchure is risky. We are essentially putting ourselves out there for God and for the music that He desires us to play. Finding our voice is not easy; we have to give something of ourselves in order for us to reach that discovery. Just as God breathed life and inspiration into our bones so too we must give something of ourselves in this life that we live.
Notice the words of the Apostle Peter, he understood what it meant to give something of himself for the purpose of God’s symphony:
“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV)
Because that breath of life exists in us, which urges us to play the music God has placed in us, we then must enact our spiritual embouchure which will be painful, difficult and it might cause our hearts to ache…but when we do so, we are participating and we begin to catch a glimpse of the performance of Christ in us so that others might be saved. Give it a try, exhale deeply, let His presence permeate our lives so fully that the pain we encounter along the way only strengthens our resolve to play His music in our lives.