Gorilla Glue, a Keyboard and Christ
I did band for one year. It was the most painfully uncool year of my life.
At my middle school you had to do choir plus either band or theater. There was a girl in band who I thought was cute, so obviously I decided to go with band. I was in percussion and was mediocre at best. Sadists invented middle-school band; it is full of torture devices. One of these devices is a ranking system within the group who plays your particular instrument; it's called "chairs." If you were really good you would be first chair and if you were bad you would be last chair. I was the last chair. Always.
Percussion equipment in middle school consists of a drum practice pad and a xylophone that they insist on calling a keyboard. There were no cool "drumline" snares and we never played driving beats. We just hit keyboards with rubber mallets like toddlers.
I hated this keyboard.
This thing was heavy, ugly, and had to be carried in a big black case like a sniper rifle through the halls of my middle school. It was also expensive. My family, who loved me dearly (as you’ll see later on), didn't want to fork over the money to buy one (probably because they knew I had absolutely no commitment) so they borrowed one. Did I mention I hated it?
It was a constant reminder of how uncool I was. It assaulted my pride… and in seventh grade I was the pastor's kid/most prideful kid in the school.
I rode home from school every day with one of my friends and her mom. They would drop me off and I would trudge up the steps to my house lugging my keyboard like a defeated soldier returning from the destruction of his self-esteem.
One day I got out of the car and slung the keyboard across the yard.
I loved their approving laughs so from then on I made it a habit to consistently hurl my keyboard across the yard when they dropped me off. But one fateful day, this rhythm came to a crashing halt.
Like every other day, I threw it across the yard… they laughed… and I picked it up and went inside. But later that night I got it out to practice for the "chair" test the next day. When I opened up the bag I saw one of the most horrifying things I had seen thus far in my short life… the wooden frame of the keyboard was broken in the middle.
I was shocked. How was I supposed to know the thing was so fragile? I had consistently hurled it across the yard, so how could it not withstand this constant crushing impact? I realized for the first time in my little life thatI had done something incredibly stupid.
I went into my parents’ room and told my mom what I had done. She explained in detail just how upset she was and how upset my father would be. When he came home I was waiting in the living room, more ashamed than afraid. My father is not a mean man and was rarely unjust in his punishment. I think my shame was compounded by the knowledge of how gracious he would be.
He told me how foolish I was for doing this. I obviously had no respect for this piece of borrowed property, so I would have to pay for a new keyboard. I was not afraid of him, just ashamed of myself. I cried that night, ashamed of failing a man I deeply respected.
I woke up in the middle of the night to go get a glass of water. From the kitchen I could see through the crack in the laundry room door. My dad was on his knees with a tube of Gorilla Glue, fixing the keyboard. He had realigned all the various keys and glued the broken pieces back together. I never told him I saw him.
The next morning my mom told me that dad had stayed up most of the night fixing the keyboard. I pretended to be surprised and immediately went to thank him.
I always knew my dad loved me, but that night I saw it in a new way.
"Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6)
Was my father perfect? By no means! But his love was strong and he showed me what sacrificial love could look like. His love for me was defined by the love he had received, not from his earthly father but his heavenly one. A love whose substance was composed of crosses, thorns, and suffering service. When my dad was on his knees working at midnight to rebuild the keyboard that I had broken so foolishly in my pride, it looked a lot like Jesus with a towel washing the disciples’ feet in the upper room.
I want to love like that. A love that disciplines, but also drives me to my knees to pray and serve. I saw that in my father and he saw it in Jesus. I hope that my daughter will someday see this love in both her earthly and heavenly fathers.