The opening strains of ‘I Surrender All’ floated in the rafters of the sanctuary. I brought my clarinet to my mouth and waited.
“Are you tired of wrestling with the Lord, trying to get Him to agree with you rather than agreeing with Him? I invite you to come forward, lay yourself on that altar of submission, and surrender to Him. He is waiting for you.” Pastor paused. “As the worship team plays, come and give it all to Him.”
Pastor nodded at me, my cue to begin. I was to play the entire piece twice as a solo. On the third time through, the vocalists would add their voices, sweetly, softly, as if angels’ wings were caressing the souls of the congregation. The tempo was slow and the mechanics of the piece simple enough that I should have no problems.
The notes I played glistened with emotion. As I coaxed the music from my clarinet, my instrument wept with a voice of surrender.
I scanned the congregation for reactions. Some, with eyes closed, stood with hands lifted to the heavens. Old Mrs. Stauffer, her white hair combed into a neat bun, smiled faintly, lost in memories of eighty years of camp meetings and altar calls. Sam and Becky, a young newly-wed and newly-saved couple, left their seats to come forward, their faces moist with tears. The leader of the worship team caught my eye and smiled in approval. I wondered why only two people responded but figured the chorus would beckon the others.
Then it happened: the dilemma every musician faces at least once in their lives. An instrument malfunction. I pressed the C-sharp key for the first and highest note of the chorus and nothing came out.
Not now. I groaned inwardly.
The C-sharp appeared twice in the chorus, sustained notes both times, and I could not play it.
If this happened during practice, I would scan my clarinet for the culprit, usually a loose pad. When I found it, I would apply the flame of a lighter under the key to get the glue on the pad to adhere again. But my lighter was tucked away in my case, and my case was under the pew. My husband sat beside it, frowning with concern at the second missed note.
My cheeks blazed with an embarrassed flush. The second time through the piece I decided to drop the chorus an octave to avoid the malfunctioning key. As I came to the end of the solo, I also came to the end of my clarinet’s range. The last two notes were too low for my instrument.
The vocalists began to sing as I held my clarinet in frustration and silently fumed.
I blew it, Lord. I wanted to move more people to come and commit themselves to You, and I couldn’t do it.
His voice whispered to me from within. “No, you couldn’t. Do you not know the Holy Spirit brings them to Me? Not you. Surrender your musical gift to Me, and I will work through you to move mountains.”
My heart wept at His words. Then He added, “Come to the altar, Daughter. And bring your clarinet.”
Cradling my instrument in my arms, I joined the large group in front already singing, “I surrender all.”
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