I’ve written recently how my son’s involvement in marching band the last four years has reignited the love and interest I once had for the sport. During this time, we’ve enjoyed the four shows his band has performed over a dozen times each at multiple football games and competitions. If you were to watch the performances I’ve recorded, despite my best efforts to capture the whole band, each recording contains multiple zoomed in shots of the sideline percussion ensemble my boy has been a part of. With over sixty kids on the field, whether recording the show or not, my focus nearly always remains on my son. It has taken a conscious effort to take my gaze away from my boy and his performance to observe the other performers, including the children of close friends with whom we have had the privilege of sharing the stands. Even when my eyes would drift, it would be only a moment before I would return to focusing on who I knew on the field.
As we’ve attended the various competitions the last four years, we always planned to arrive earlier than our band performed, and generally stayed later, to enjoy the other performances and, in all parental honesty, “size up the competition!” Being a former percussionist, during the performances of the other bands I could not help but focus on the drum line and sideline ensembles. I have an appreciation for the skill a drum line possesses to perform rudiments and visual stick drills in synchronization. When my son was called upon to master the art of holding multiple mallets in each hand to execute chords on a vibraphone, I understood the practice and preparation required to accomplish the task. Due to my conditioning and training, I am rarely able to not fix my attention on the percussion section of each band we observed. This was never more evident than last weekend at the final marching competition of our boy’s high school career as my wife, a former color guard member, leans over to me while watching a competing band and says, “Nice peel-off!” I was so attuned to my beloved former instruments I responded with the ever so elegant, “Huh?” “Color guard . . . nice peel-off?” “Oh, I missed it!” I honestly had no clue what she was referencing!
We focus on what we know and what we’ve been conditioned to follow. This was my life growing up and life as a churchboy. I was taught the requirements of being a Christian and conditioned to behave as a Christian should. Christians don’t drink, don’t cuss, attend church, read the bible daily, spend hours in prayer, pay tithes, boycott movies and organizations opposed to their individual beliefs, and insist their way is the only way and all others are doomed to an eternity in hell. What a load of crap!! All of this and more is done and adhered to not necessarily because you believe it or even because you want to, but simply so you can please God and be assured He loves you. The irony is none of these things, regardless of how closely followed, truly bring assurance of either. It saddens me to admit I followed and focused on such garbage. What an amazing and humbling thing it is to realize we can be reconditioned and unlearn what we have been taught. Reconditioning occurs when old ways or methods are found to be ineffective or no longer applicable. True reconditioning for churchboys happens as their eyes are opened to the unconditional love of God Jesus came to reveal which we did nothing to deserve and can do nothing to lose. With his death and resurrection, Jesus shifted the focus from the conditions required to reach God to simply, “Come.”
One of the friends I referred to in attendance at band events earlier is a former schoolmate I spent three years marching with in high school as part of the drum line. We’ve shared memories, laughs, and critiques over a couple of the last seasons of how “things weren’t that way in our day.” (Our wives have gotten quite tickled at the curmudgeonly old men we’ve become in our early forties!) A former percussionist himself, he was reconditioned to focus elsewhere as his daughter performed as a member of the color guard. Conversations following performances revealed he no longer focused exclusively on his former instrument of his choice as his gaze was now fixed upon a greater source of love and joy.
Such is the life of a recovering churchboy. No longer focused on do’s, don’ts, rules, and conditions, I’ve now been reconditioned by a greater source of love and joy, the unconditional love and acceptance of the Father which is not dependent on anything I may have done or not done or could ever do or not do.