When I was in middle school, we had more than our share of bullies, so I adopted the strategy of laying low. I figured that I was better off flying under the radar. If the bullies didn’t notice me, they would leave me alone.
After I became a Christian, however, I found God nudging me out onto the stage of activity where I could not hide. That night in early summer when I began reading the New Testament and gave Him my life, Jesus had said (through the scripture reading) that “a city set on a hill cannot be hid” and had warned me that I could no longer fly under the radar. I did not realize, however, that a complete reversal of things was about to happen.
In my recent posts I’ve been telling you about some of the things that surprised me after I became a Christian. Here’s a fifth surprise: in the first semester of my freshman year of high school, I found myself thrust into the limelight to such an extent that I simply could not hide.
It began with summer band camp. I told you in the last post that I found marching difficult at first and prayed for help overcoming the technical difficulties. Acting on the idea that came to me, I memorized all my music and then was free to learn the steps. Our marching band attended summer band camp at Michigan State University for one week every August, and that was my first experience with the high school marching band. Before the week was over, everybody was talking about the new kid who had all the music memorized and could march with the best of them. My older brother started being drum major that year, and late in the week the band director called my brother and me out onto the field and had us demonstrate one of the dance numbers for the rest of the band, to show them how it was done. For a freshman who had never marched before (and was having difficulty in the beginning), that was an exhilarating experience. And to have all those older kids treat me with such respect, not only during band camp but all throughout the football season, was tremendously humbling.
Then came cross country. I joined the cross country team because my 8th grade track coach said he thought I’d be good at it. I wasn’t sure he was right, but I decided to give it a try. I ended up doing all right, but here’s the real surprise: our cross-country team ended up being Class C State Champions that year. This was the first time for us (although we did it again the next year), and it was a very big deal. They held a special high school assembly to celebrate our achievement, and every single one of us was given a Varsity Letter. In other words, just because I decided to try cross-country, I happened to become a member of the Varsity Club. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time. But it was an especially surprising turn of events to be on a par with older, tougher, cooler “letter men,” when I had just recently tried to fly under the radar.
Then marching band ended and we started the concert band season. I played clarinet, and there were lots of us (probably about 15), all of them girls except me. A senior named Cassie was first chair – or at least she was during the prior concert season. But we had to do chair trials, and on the day when the results were posted, I couldn’t find my name on the list. Everybody was kind of jockeying for position so they could read the posting, and I kept going up there and looking, then walking away and coming back and looking again… but I couldn’t find my name. It was very embarrassing to think that the band director may have forgotten about me.
I don’t remember what happened next. Either I told someone my dilemma or I finally just realized, but the reason I couldn’t find my name was that I wasn’t looking high enough. I had won first place. Instead of being thrilled, I was horrified. How could I (a freshman) look Cassie (a senior) in the eye and say, “Move over”? As it turned out, I walked over to first chair in a daze, and Cassie was already sitting in second chair. I told her I was sorry, and she told me not to be. She was a very nice person and was very supportive of me throughout that whole year. I considered her my friend.
But as you can see, this was all quite surprising to me. The first night of Bible reading, I had been warned that I would not be able to hide from the public eye anymore, now that I was going to follow Jesus; but I didn’t realize how true that would be, nor could I have predicted how it would come about. All these things just happened to me, and they had no apparent connection to my becoming a Christian. But once they did happen, I began to think very seriously about my responsibilities as “a city set on a hill.” And that led to more surprises…