When I go to the symphony, I like to sit in the orchestra pit. This is largely because I’m too cheap to pay for better tickets, but also because I like to observe the musicians up close. I enjoy seeing the sheets of music on their stands, the perspiration beading on their foreheads. I once spent an entire concert watching with fascination as the conductor’s glasses gradually slid down his nose, fell off, were handed back to him by an assistant, then started their journey down his nose again. In the space of that performance, it must have happened half a dozen times.
The problem with sitting that close is that in the louder passages, something is lost. It seems to come out as an awful racket. Most people want to sit in the orchestra pit of life. They think that being closer to the action puts them in the know; makes them more important. A lot of religious folks seem to believe they sit in the orchestra pit of God. It doesn’t seem that deciphering the will of God has much to do with glorifying ourselves. People usually tend to do that: “proving” that they are smarter in finding answers to life’s questions, and that they are on God’s side. The Catholics, for example, believe history shows that they are the true Christians, while the Protestants say the same about themselves. I have become an Episcopalian – a communion situated between the Catholic and Protestant traditions – largely because I believe that God has been equally at work in both. God actually seems to work by using the whole human orchestra – Christians of all sorts and non-Christians alike – in concert to produce a magnificent symphony. It is a work of art, but only because God is the maestro. We may only discern our own little part in the performance – we’re in the woodwinds section, among the strings or perhaps part of the big brass voice – but we want to see our section as the whole of it. This tendency is all too evident regardless of where we place ourselves on the religious or political spectrum. Every human soul is susceptible to the insanity of pride. The godly perspective settles in a few seats back from the average vantage point. It sees the bigger picture, with the entire orchestra present. The great thing about God’s symphony is that “His” glasses never slide off. God always sees with perfect clarity. Of course “He” doesn’t need glasses at all. Again, the truth doesn’t glorify human beings; it glorifies God. No one but God ever wields the maestro’s baton. The analogy of governance also has much to teach us. In school, we learned that our government is a system of checks and balances. A nation of free people, we were told, never permitted one individual or group to hold too much power. We may debate how closely we follow that ideal, but no one argues that another might work better. All human beings – individually, or assembled into any “dream team” – are fallible, and to trust any of us with too much unchecked power would be to trust in idols with feet of clay. Human beings can make music – or achieve wisdom – only when they work together. Jockeying for power, pushing each other down, they are degraded. Their contributions are diminished. God seems willing to do little with an angry mob. If we sincerely seek the will of God, we err by looking for it only in one philosophy or faction. However wise they are, or think they are. Only by stepping back for the widest possible view, only by hearing all sides and respecting every person (even the “lowest” and most-despised) can we recognize God’s hand at work. This is why the Church needs its LGBT sisters and brothers. As a matter of fact, it’s why the whole world needs us. Those who claim to care about the will of God can be taken seriously only when they include us. Far from allowing ourselves to be bullied into silence and obscurity because some people do not see our inclusion as part of God’s will, it is precisely for the sake of God’s will that we must stand up, speak out and insist upon being included. Heterosexuals are always crowding us out of the action. They speak about our rights as if they are somehow more debatable than theirs. Ours are always being put to a vote – pawed over and scrutinized like trinkets on the bargain table at a yard sale – while theirs are kept safely locked away, like money in a safe. There are more of them, so they seem sure this makes them right and us – the vulnerable few – wrong, or at least subject to their approval. But God is only One. And yet, “He” trumps us all. Our society is full of would-be maestros, brandishing wands they evidently think are magic. Some believe this one will rescue us all from confusion and impending doom, others that one. Each aspires to stand at the head of the orchestra and conduct the symphony. Most lack the humility to see he or she should be part of the performance instead of the whole. The very overweening pride and ambition that makes them hunger to control it all disqualify them from being people we dare trust with power. Those who hunger for power tend to worship power: human power. But God cares equally about each musician in the orchestra, from those who beat on those timpani drums that make the thunder to the one who, once in a great while, tinkles the little triangle thingy signifying the blowing of a gentle breeze. God loves everybody in the orchestra pit. And everybody in the peanut gallery. If the Bible is to be believed, we must listen for the will of God not only in the crack of thunder or the rumble of the mountains, but in the still, small voice. The teenaged assistant who hands the conductor’s glasses back to him when they fall off is as important to the performance, in his own way, as is the conductor himself. The Great Man is highlighted in the program, while the assistant probably isn’t even mentioned. We may never know who that poor kid is. But God never, ever forgets him. And that’s why the real maestro can never be anybody else.
A self-described “Libertarian Episcopalian lesbian,” freelance writer and the author of Good Clowns, a young adult novel published in 2018, Lori Heine published a blog called “Born on 9-11” and was a frequent contributor to the website Liberty Unbound. A native of Phoenix, Ariz., she graduated from Grand Canyon University in 1988 and spent much of her life in the insurance industry before turning full-time to writing as a freelancer, blogger and author.