When I was in third grade, my school offered an early opportunity to play an instrument and be a member of the school band. I remember one of the presenters was a saxophone player. I was entranced by his performance and knew I wanted to play the saxophone. So, I asked to sign up!
Well, my family was struggling financially. To this day, I do not know how my mom came up with the money to pay for a saxophone. I am so very grateful for the sacrifice she had to have made to provide me with an instrument to play in the band.
Well, a low-budget family can only purchase a low-cost saxophone. At the risk of sounding ungrateful (I’m not!), the saxophone mom purchased was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It was not the cool gold, glistening brass the school performer played. It was kind of a brown, vomit-color, and a little rustic looking. It did not shine and frankly speaking, I was a bit embarrassed to take it to school.
Many of the other kids pointed at me and made fun of me for my ugly saxophone. Well, fortunately, this strengthened my desire to play. I was going to show them! I would outplay them all with that ugly thing! So, I practiced hard and worked hard! I will never forget when the band director told he appreciated my efforts and said I was very good. So, I worked even harder for the next several years.
I was shocked and surprised when I made first chair in the middle school concert AND jazz bands! It was amazing! My teacher said I was good, but I did not expect to beat the other 13 saxophone players! I was top of the class and I worked hard at it. Well, I just kept working at it. It was a source of feelings of self-worth to me to be good at something. I also developed some of the very best friends I would ever have in my life! I was a band geek, and I loved it! It meant the world to me!
My family never had enough money for me to get a new saxophone. I was still embarrassed by my old and clunky thing. I liked that I could play well, but I sure wished I had a nice saxophone like everyone else. Then, an idea came to me! Maybe I could refinish or have this one re-plated! What an idea! If I cannot afford to get a new saxophone, maybe I could remake this one! I found a company that would do it for me! I had just enough money from my job bussing tables to pay for it. However, the process of refinishing this thing was quite difficult to go through. I was worried I might not have anything left or that it would not make it through it!
After all that abuse, the next step involved dipping the saxophone into the silver plating material.
We had to pull off and remove all of the keys. We had to strip off all the pads. We had to scrape off all traces of any glues or adhesives. It was a rough process and I feared we might destroy my only saxophone in the process of working so hard on it. We also had to hammer out any dents and bend back parts that had been damaged by a kid who plays the saxophone. And this was just the beginning. After all that abuse, the next step involved dipping the saxophone into the silver plating material. Because it had to be heated to incredibly hot temperatures, I was not permitted to be present for this. They told me the shell would be dipped repeatedly in scalding silver. Each layer would be followed by cooling and dipping again. The same process was followed for each of the keys. It took quite some time!
Then, it had to be put back together. Pads were glued back on to keys, screws were replaced and tightened and wires and springs were adjusted. This was a very tedious process and was frustratingly difficult and slow. But, we persisted. The finished product was amazing. I did not know this would happen, but the tone completely changed. What was once shrill and harsh became mellow and soothing. It had a brightness in tone and appearance. I could not help but rub it and notice that everything reflected off of it! I loved how it shimmered and sparkled.
What an experience showing up to school with my “new” saxophone. Everyone wanted to see it and was so impressed by it! Then, when they heard it, they loved it! I found myself trying even harder to get good at the music and my new saxophone. It took a bit of time to adjust to this dynamic new horn and the incredible sound it made.
I still have my silver saxophone! It is truly a one-of-a-kind instrument. I have had people offer to buy it from me. Some of my kids have asked if they can have it if I ever decide I don’t want it anymore. It has accompanied me to jazz festivals, band trips, community-based concerts, and more. I have loved playing and having my saxophone.
Well, life with all its adversity and hardship, is often like the process with my saxophone. All too often, you and I feel inadequate, clunky, not good enough.
We are often embarrassed and ashamed of ourselves and feel like we are nothing special. We keep going, trying to hide the fact that we are flawed, not as attractive as others around us, and we feel our perceived little worth is obvious every time we show up.
We keep pressing forward living our lives and playing our songs. Sometimes, we even forget the awkwardness and embarrassment and we just get better and keep going. Other times, we drop on the floor, dented, chipped, and cracked. But, we keep showing up and we keep playing.
Then, the time comes where we have to change. Experience, adversity, struggle, and challenges come. We feel like rough spots are being shaved and sanded off. We feel like who we are and what we know is coming off and the whole process is exquisitely painful. The Master works on us and it is torturous. It hurts when dents are removed, cracks and chips are sanded out and filled, and old parts are scraped off.
Then, we may add to that being immersed in heated trials and tests that feel unbearable and agonizing. We are flooded and dipped over and over again. We think we can hardly stand it. Yet, it happens again and again. It is too much, but we hold on as we are swamped and sunk again and again. The heat is oppressive and overwhelming.
Yet, the Master is doing His work. Soon, we are feeling like we are getting back to normal. Things are starting to look and feel familiar again. Yet, they are not quite the same. Everything is familiar, but nothing is the same. It is like we were what we once were, but different. We are changed. We are transformed.
Soon, we are ready to be polished and perfected. When we come out from all of this, we sparkle and glow. Everything is new and improved and better. We have been molded and shaped into something better–something wonderful.
The trials and tests of this life are designed to refine us, prove us, and transform us. As we push onward in the refiner’s hands and heat; as we endure the chipping away of faults and flaws; as we trust in faith that the Master has done this before and is making something wonderful and new; as we persist and keep striving to become, we will be rewarded. We can come out precious–a treasure.
So, when you are doing all you can with your own cheap and clunky saxophone to become all you can be; when you work hard with all you might in spite of your imperfections, flaws, and weaknesses; and when you persist in the face of hard comparing, heavy trials, and perplexing problems, know this: You are being made into something magnificent! You are being crafted in the Master’s Hands into a wonderful instrument.
You are being made marvelous, more capable, and wonderful. The process may be hard–it will be grueling at times, but hold on and know you are becoming something amazing! Keep pressing on! There is beautiful music for you to make!