Thursday, February 25, 2010

Under lock and key

I have been locked out. Somebody messed with the settings on the church sound board. Maybe it was children. Or maybe it was the musicians.

I am a musician.

The musicians come and practice during the week and insist on using the sound system during practice. Come Sunday the sound board is messed up. Knobs have been turned that should not be turned. Or maybe sliders have been slid. I'm not sure. No one has ever clearly pointed out to me which parts of the sound system are off limits.

In frustration, the sound man built a wood box, installed a lock, took one key for himself, and entrusted another to the pastor in case of emergency. Everything is set. All the musicians need to do is flip the switch on the outlet strip. No adjustments are needed. Thus, there is no need for the musicians to have access to a key. Problem solved.

Enter an additional musician needing an additional microphone. The sound system is locked. One microphone is available for one singer. If another singer is needed, the musicians are welcome to contact the sound man and he will come and turn on an additional microphone. After all, the musicians are prime suspects as the ones twisting the forbidden knobs. They are not to have access to a key.

Oh, brother.

With great effort against strong resistance, the musicians now know where one of the keys is stored. With greater knowledge comes greater responsibility. They will be held directly accountable for any knob-twisting that happens. The very fact that they insist on knowing where to find a key to the sound system implicates them as knob-twisters. People with respect for knobs that should not be twisted would not insist on having access to those knobs.

There are two people behind the lock-and-key decision. There are no more than a dozen people ever involved in music or sound for the services. Did the two people ever consider gathering together everyone who is ever in a position to need to adjust the sound and sharing the secrets of the sound board? How weak does a person have to be to deny access to responsible adults rather than communicate important issues to them? Are the musicians incapable of understanding even the most basic elements of the sound equipment?

I have a secret. The musicians also adjust the thermostat during their practice sessions. Sometimes the church is too cold for the musicians' delicate fingers. Sometimes it is too hot for their frenzied preparatory musical celebrations. The musicians have been known once or twice to forget to return the thermostat to the "unoccupied" setting. Thus far, these occasional lapses have been tolerated with a simple reminder that we need to be more responsible. But now that it has come out that the musicians are compulsive knob-twisters controllable only by blocking access to the knobs, I suspect the thermostat is in line for locking. A programmable thermostat can be installed and programmed to temporarily adjust the temperature for the regular practice schedule. Rescheduled or extra practices will need to be cleared with those holding the keys.

Long ago I figured out there are two rich sources for learning that can never be fully tapped. One source is those who provide positive examples to be incorporated into one's life. The even more prolific source is those who provide negative examples to be avoided. As I have been locked out of a system for which I have had almost no training and which I seldom touch, I am struck by the message behind the lock. It says I am a person who is unteachable and untrustworthy. Rather than insisting that I (and the other musicians) either learn to use the sound system properly or quit messing with it, those making the decision to lock us out swept us aside as hopeless knob-twisters. Not exactly the most edifying message I have ever encountered.

I wonder ... how many responsible adults (or children) am I locking out in mistrust rather than giving them the tools and opportunity to act in a trustworthy manner?

Thought to remember #7: "Life is reflective ... choose your source."

Only my commitment to Christian living prevents me from making a strong negative response to this message of mistrust. My baser self makes such helpful suggestions as locking up the musical instruments and walking away with the keys. Or maybe locking the door to the room where the music is stored so that only the "official" musicians have access to it. Or bringing in our own amps and bypassing the locked sound system.

In my experience, the pull to treat others the way they treat you never quite fades away. The thing to remember is how much better it is to treat others as you are treated by the most loving people in your life (and by a loving God) rather than as you are treated by those who are weak and have few resources for communicating and building relationships.

It's worth repeating and remembering. "Life is reflective ... choose your source." I refuse to reflect this attitude of mistrust and disrespect for the learning ability of others which could so easily spread through the entire church. I will acknowledge the weakness which the lock and key demonstrates and respond with compassion and grace.

How fortunate I am to have encountered grace in my life that operates at a level worth reflecting. O to be able to consistently reflect that grace to those who lock me out.