I did band for a year. It was the most painfully uncool year of my life.
At my middle school, you had to do choir plus band or theater. There was a girl in band I thought was cute, so I went with band. I chose percussion, proving mediocre at best.
I’m convinced that sadists invented middle school band; it’s full of torture devices, especially if you play percussion. Percussion equipment in middle school consists of a drum practice pad and a xylophone that they insist on calling a “keyboard.” There were no cool “drum line” snares, and we never played driving beats. We just hit keyboards with rubber mallets like toddlers.
I hated the “keyboard.”
It was heavy and ugly and needed to be carried in this big black case. It looked like I was carrying a sniper rifle through the halls of my school. It was also expensive. My family didn’t want to fork over the money to buy one so we found a loaner. Did I mention I hated it?
I would ride home every day from school with one of my friends and her mom. They would drop me off, and I would trudge up the steps to my house, lugging my “keyboard” like a defeated soldier returning from the destruction of his self-esteem.
Finding Approval, One Fling at a Time
One day when they dropped me off, I got out of the car and decided to sling the “keyboard” across the yard.
I loved their approving laughs and made it a habit to consistently hurl my “keyboard” across the yard when they dropped me off. Then, one fateful day, this rhythm came to a crashing halt—literally. When I opened up my bag that night to practice, I saw one of the most horrifying things I had seen thus far in my short life—the wooden frame of the “keyboard” had snapped in the middle.
I told my mom, who explained to me in detail just how upset she was and how upset my father would be. When he came home, I was waiting in the living room, much more ashamed than afraid. My father is not a mean man and was rarely unjust in his punishment. I think my shame was compounded by the knowledge of how gracious he would be. He was a man I deeply respected, and I failed him.
He told me how foolish I was for being so careless. I obviously had no respect for this piece of borrowed property. I would have to pay for a new “keyboard.” In that moment, I was not afraid of him, just ashamed of myself. I cried that night, tears falling onto my bed like my off-tempo strikes on the drum pad.
The Rhythm of Sacrificial Love
I woke up in the middle of the night to go get a glass of water. From the kitchen, I could see through the crack in the laundry room door. My dad was on his knees with gorilla glue, putting the “keyboard” back together. He had realigned all of the various keys and glued the broken pieces back in place. I never told him I saw him.
I always knew my dad loved me, but that night I saw that love in a new way.
“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6).
Was my father perfect? By no means! But his love was strong, and he showed me what sacrificial love looked like. He showed me a love defined by the love he received. His own father failed to give it to him, but it captured his heart later in life—a love modeled through crosses, thorns and suffering service.
When I saw my father on his knees, working at midnight to rebuild the “keyboard” that I broke so foolishly, I saw more than just the man I called “Dad.” I couldn’t help but see Jesus on His knees with a towel in an upper room, washing the feet of His disciples.
I was never able to capture the rhythm of a great percussionist; I still have a hard time catching the tempo. But there was a rhythm to my father’s love, a rhythm that allowed me to see and hear the beauty of forgiveness and restoration. My father pointed me to Jesus, modeling for me how to live in the rhythm of God’s grace.