(This week is the eleventh installment of the book, “The Band Director’s Lessons About Life”, which TCRN is publishing as a series during 2020. This week, band director and spiritual author Donald Lee relates a parable about choosing our path in life. For a complete listing of previous episodes in this series, click here.)
If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
YOGI BERRA (American baseball star and dispenser of home-spun wisdom)
When the calendar rolls around to June, I start working on retention. Every year, some kids drop out of the band. It’s unavoidable, but band directors try to keep it to a minimum. So one June day in grade-eight band class, I asked the fateful question.
“Who is planning to be in band next year?”
Most hands went up, but several of my really skillful players sat still.
“Ouch!” I said. “Angela, Patrick, Mia, why not?”
“I want to take foods in ninth grade, but I’ll come back to band in tenth,” explained Angela.
It was no surprise. Foods class always decimates my band program. It’s the only chance our junior high students have to take cooking. Foods is fun. It’s easy. No homework. You get to eat your work. What’s not to like? Especially for a fourteen-year-old.
“You can cook at home every day if you want to. I’m sure your parents will let you. You’ll be cooking for the rest of your life. But you only have a few years to play in your school band. That chance is here, now, then it passes away forever.”
“Cooking at home’s not the same,” Patrick chimed in. “We can always come back to band in grade ten.”
“I know you’re saying that now, but life has a way of taking you in a different direction. Once students drop out of the band, they don’t often come back. Your activities and interests switch to a different path. Let me illustrate with a story.
“Back in May of 2011, a large forest fire burned through part of the Northern Alberta town of Slave Lake, destroying over four hundred homes. People from all over the province donated items to help the victims rebuild their homes and their lives. In Fort Saskatchewan, where I lived, one of our neighbors filled her minivan with donated items and drove them up to Slave Lake. Somehow Shelly got on the wrong road. She headed north on Highway 28, but after a while, 28 veers eastward. She should have turned north again but missed the turnoff.
Shelly had picked up her friend Laurie to have some company on the long drive. Laurie had immigrated from England decades before but now lived in a nursing home. The two ladies spent the hours talking, laughing, enjoying the rolling Northeastern Alberta countryside, and singing old English pub songs.
After about three hours of delightful summer driving on Highway 28, they pulled into Cold Lake.
“What’s wrong with this picture? The sign says Cold Lake,” Shelly wondered aloud.
“Oh, my goodness,” Laurie said. “How did we get here? We’re going to Slave Lake, not Cold Lake.”
Oops. After a brief stop in Cold Lake, they turned around and backtracked the four hours to Slave Lake, dropped off their donated items, and drove three more hours back to Fort Saskatchewan. Their carelessness had doubled the length of the trip. At least it was still possible to accomplish it in one day, although the nursing home was furious that Laurie was not home until late that night.
“You see, if you get on a road to Cold Lake, you will arrive in Cold Lake. If that’s not where you want to go, then don’t get on that road. If you like music, then stay in a band. Don’t take a different road. You’re on the right path now. Cook at home, cook later, cook whenever you want. But stay in the band! Trust me, you will come to regret leaving.”
What road are you on? Where does it lead? We’re careful about this on a vacation, yet somehow we often don’t think about it with respect to our life journey.
It reminds me of the old story of the sign on a dirt road in the Northern Alberta muskeg: “Choose your rut wisely; you will be in it for the next 100 miles.”
Once we get on a road in life, it’s hard to get off. The road often becomes a rut, so be careful. Choose a road that leads where you want to go. As well as being good practical advice, it’s also a spiritual principle.
We are spiritual beings on a spiritual journey. I’ve noticed in my own life that my spiritual progress tends to go in little bursts separated by long stretches of ruts. Most of us are stuck in a spiritual rut most of the time. We made some progress many years ago. Maybe we joined our spouse’s church when we got married. We learned some new things about faith. It was interesting for a while, maybe even illuminating. But for years now, we’ve just been going through the motions. We’re stuck. Is this really where we want to stay forever?
We can think about the road metaphor in all aspects of life: spiritual, mental, physical. Where are our relationships going? Our career? Our life’s work? Our physical and emotional health? How are we using our mind? Is it for good? But most importantly, where is our spirit headed?
Deep down inside, all of us know the answer. We should be headed toward God, or the Creator, or the Universe, or whatever you like to call that Divine Creative Force. We long to be close to God. That’s the longing in our hearts.
There are many spiritual paths that will take us toward God. But there are many more that will take us away. Check your bearings, your spiritual GPS. Are you headed toward God? Get on some road that leads there.
You will end up going where the road leads. Choose your path carefully.
Donald Lee is a spiritual author and speaker. This article is part of a weekly series for 2020 in which TCRN is publishing his inspirational book, The Band Director’s Lessons About Life: Volume 1 – 50 Parables on Life’s Performance Cycle, in serial form – one parable per week. You can learn more about the author at his website: www.ComingHomeSpirit.com, or order a copy of his complete book on Amazon.