I was sitting on a curb. The marching band was coming by. It was a hot day in southern Iowa and I was little. Seven or eight years old. I heard the music and my ears perked up. I saw the high school kids in their shiny uniforms marching by and then I saw the flutes. The beautiful gleaming silver flutes. I sat up straighter. I glanced at my mom. She smiled knowingly. I knew the flute was my instrument and one day I would learn to play.
In sixth grade we were invited to try a band instrument. I had my meeting with the director and confidently announced that I wanted to play flute. He gently warned that it was a very popular instrument, but I wouldn’t be swayed. I knew it was meant to be.
I remember our first lesson and learning 2 or 3 notes. I wanted to jump ahead in my book. I could already read music because I had been playing piano for five years. It was a different instrument, but easy and familiar at the same time. I already knew the language.
Other friends wavered and switched instruments, but I never did. I carried my small black case to and from school on Tuesdays, for my group lesson. In junior high and high school, I progressed and played with bands and orchestras.
And then the spark went out.
The flute became boring. I was one of twenty flutes in my high school band and I wasn’t motivated to get any better. Piano was my passion and it felt like it didn’t even matter if I actually played my flute or just faked it during rehearsal.
No one was really listening to me anyway. I sighed. What was I doing here? Did anyone even need me? What was the point?
Occasionally I would get asked to accompany the band on the piano. The piano part was quickly drowned out by the massive sound of the band, but it was a fun challenge and I loved it.
My senior year, I took a deep breath and approached the band director. “Could I, maybe, I mean, do you need…” I stuttered. “I’d like to play percussion,” I squeaked out.
Immediately he beamed. “Yes! We could use you on bells. Since you play piano, you should be able to catch on quickly!”
I was stunned. I didn’t expect a “yes” at all, and certainly not an exuberant one. I packed up my flute without sadness, only excitement, and headed to the back of the room. I finally had a new challenge. I recognized the music easily, of course, but I would be playing with two mallets, not 10 fingers. I bit the side of my cheek and tried. Yes, it would take some adjustment, but it was easy and fun.
Later that year, I would get to play bass drum, which was extremely easy, and powerful. I got stern looks from the conductor if I started going too fast. I was pulling the entire band along with me. I grinned. It was fun to have so much power.
At church, on our worship team (led by my parents) I longed to play piano and sing, but those spots were occupied—by my parents. I settled for playing flute, and really never enjoyed it at all. But, it got me out of my high school Sunday School class, and I got to hang out with my friend Chris before and afterwards, so I endured it. I played flute on worship team all the way through college, and grew to resent it more and more. It wasn’t until I married that boy Chris and we left our church to help start a new church that I would finally play piano and sing during church, which I did for the next 12 years.
In high school, even though I was growing tired of my flute, I often prayed, “God use me. Pick me up like a flute. I am your instrument. Flow through me.” I surrendered my life to God’s plan and sought to live up to a higher standard than my own. I just wanted God to use my life.
I’ve been married twenty years now, and my flute is still in my closet. I see it every day.
Sometimes I still feel like that high school girl, who wonders if anyone can hear her at all. There are so many voices out there. So many Facebook pages and blogs.
Does my voice get carried into the wind? Does it matter at all?
I recently approached a highly successful mentor of mine and very timidly asked if I could “play percussion” in her band (figuratively, of course) and was stunned when she jumped at my suggestion. She said I was perfectly qualified and she was thrilled. The timing was perfect and she needed me. I was stunned. I packed up my things and off I went on a new adventure. I thought of my high school band and realized you just never know when boredom will convert into a promotion.
When you are faithful with what you are given, and you show up doing the best you can, something new and wonderful could be just around the corner. I am embarking on a new adventure and I think I’ll always keep my flute in plain sight. It reminds me where I came from, and it represents my continued prayer, “God use me. Flow through me. YOU make the music. I am just the instrument. Pick me up and hold me. I’m yours.”
As a mom and business owner, I often feel like I’m jumping from piano to bells to bass drum to flute. I have different jobs and different roles. Sometimes I feel like no one hears or sees what I do. Sometimes the music cuts through the noise, like the high clear sound of the bells. My roles may shift and change, but I’m still the same person inside. And it’s all music that I’m playing.
And I’ll continue my prayer, “Lord, use me. I’m yours.”
Hi, I'm Jen Hickle!