On Not Being the Soloist

I had the opportunity to poke my head into a dress rehearsal Mike was singing in yesterday. The professional-level choir of three dozen, accompanied by a chamber orchestra of half as many, is preparing three of J.S. Bach’s motets. The director stopped them in the thick of one intricate moment with a complaint: “It seems like when you don’t have the solo you’re not very interested in the piece.” With his observation in mind the choir’s sound improved, as each part took more pride in the rich backdrop they were creating upon which the solo could shine through. The solo needed that context for its full glory.

In church this morning my pastor made another interesting observation as he preached on what it means to serve the Lord with all of our lives. He was illustrating his point by calling attention to mothers who of all people find everything about what they do to be distinctly not about themselves. “When we focus on what we’re having to give up and the sacrifices we’re making, it can get pretty depressing.”

I felt a strange satisfaction yesterday as I sat watching my husband realizing my life dream – to make that kind of music with that level of expertise. The music was coursing through my veins, too, as I listened. I knew as I sat there what Mike knows, too: I’m just as qualified to be up on those risers and I’d probably get an even bigger kick out of it than he does. (Choral music and Bach are much more my thing than his.) But to have the life we want to have, to love the kids we love to love, to share one set of goals as we are intent on doing through our marriage, only one of us gets to do it. I’m pretty happy with it being Mike because no matter how well qualified musically I am for what he’s doing, he’s got more strength and will power and focus to get it done and he’s less easily deterred from making it happen by setback, disappointment, or drama than I’ve shown myself to be in the past. If one of us is going to be a fantastic professional musician, it’s going to be Mike. Besides, I’m thriving and loving what I’m doing with our sweet little half-formed people (the ones that can’t speak English yet!) day in and day out and we both know that Mike would go crazy if he did this ’round the clock – even crazier than I’d be if I tried to shoulder everything he’s shouldering as a church music director, instructor, and student in a highly competitive atmosphere without getting bitter or burned out.

I could be focusing on what I’m not doing. I’m not singing Bach and I’m not playing hymns and rehearsing a choir each week and I’m not studying with a world class teacher. I would get depressed if that’s all I thought about. But I’m pretty sure I am enjoying Mike’s success as much as I’d enjoy my own if I were the one in his shoes. Someone said that behind every great man is a woman. That came to mind yesterday as I listened to his director urge the ensemble to do their part even when they weren’t the soloist. In the concerto that is our life, I am all that busy, intricate, tireless accompaniment that showcases what people hear on the surface. My days are full of laundry and diapers, bills and groceries. I stay busy with the life we are living together, making it all possible. The reality is that over the decades I will probably be known to most of the people we engage with as “Mike’s wife.” Mike might be the one performing in the spotlight but I am right there with him and no less a part of the music, and I am loving every minute of it and I wouldn’t change a thing.

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