It all started when my roommate and I saw a flyer advertising for flag girls to join our college marching band. The vision of adventure plus a $200 scholarship was irresistible, so with no experience whatsoever, Karla and I became the the newest members of the Greyhound Sound Marching Band.
Looking back, they must have been desperate, otherwise why would've they embraced us; we were like Lucy and Ethel navigating through our latest adventure and flipping flags wasn't as easy as it looked. Fortunately, there was another freshman on the squad who had twirled flags throughout high school; she saw how hopeless we were and helped us learn the moves.
Much to the dismay of our mentor, the "Lucy and Ethel" tendencies that characterized Karla's and my friendship would often creep out. We were constantly distracted by cute musicians, talking too much, and giggling when we would make mistakes. Our poor mentor spent much of her time reigning us in.
Then there were the uniforms. Remember the flamboyant fashions that dominated the '80's? Well, picture this: an entire squad of flag twirling co-eds in white blouses and long, flowing black skirts enhanced with six-inch green satin sashes and go-go boots, topped off with black cowboy hats (turned up on one side) trying to contain big, 80's hair. Are you with me? Karla and I could barely twirl flags and march, much less do it in those outrageous outfits! Needless to say, the new "Lucy and Ethel" flag girls challenged everyone.
Somehow, though, we pulled it all together for the halftime performances during football season. As long as Karla and I tucked Lucy and Ethel away, focused on the leader, and tried our best despite our uniforms and lack of skills, we were effective members of the band. We only twirled flags for one year, but I've never forgotten our adventures and the lessons we learned.
Many years later I stumbled across this verse in Romans:
Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but grace. (Romans 6:12-14 NRSV).
I was struck by the word "instruments" and immediately pictured God as the Leader of a universal band. A band full of righteous musicians; righteous because of God's grace, not because of their musical or flag flipping abilities. God's grace reminded me of the people who welcomed my roomie and me into the Greyhound Sound Marching Band even though our only experience had been years of watching bands from the sidelines. We were accepted despite our shortcomings just as God accepts all those who come to Him despite their shortcomings.
Karla and I had a lot to learn, but we had experienced mentors come alongside us to show us the ropes. We weren't always the best students, but with patience we finally "got it" and became pretty good flag girls. In the world of practical Christianity there are many patient mentors and a great God to show us the ropes. However, that means that we must do our part to overcome earthly silliness, distractions, and focus on the Leader if we want to become effective members of God's band.
My marching band experience taught me something else...be ready to appear less than perfect. During one performance, I was whipping my flag around (impressing myself with my newfound abilities) when the flag pole caught on my uniform and flipped the flowing black skirt over my head! Unfortunately, that instant marked the end of our performance and we had been instructed not to move a muscle until the band director gave the appropriate signal. I was positioned right in front of our opponents stands and I could hear the laughter and comments as I stood there like a statue in flaming red shorts and in all my obedient glory. As time stood still I was thankful for two things: one, that I had put shorts on under my skirt that morning and, two, I had been faithful to my leader. It was a humbling moment of great satisfaction.
Take some time to reflect on the truth of Romans 6:12-14. Picture yourself as a member of God's universal band. If it doesn't seem too irreverent, picture God as the animated Band Director on the field of life leading our carefully orchestrated performance before the world. As He displays His divine moves let's do our best to put away our follies, minimize our distractions, focus on Him, and perform to the best of our abilities for the Leader of the Band.