“For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life…” (John Baillie)

“For the great and mysterious opportunity of my life…” (John Baillie)

My husband and I talked about holy interruptions this morning, about being willing to embrace them and then share our stories at the end of the day. My interruption came this morning as I was prepping some material on Aaron Copland for my Junior High music class. A rare instance of quiet in my shared classroom space found me listening to the fast and furious “Hoedown” from his Rodeo ballet, simply delighted by the sound of it. Sitting on my teaching stool in front of Emory University’s performance, I savored it like an afternoon cup of tea. Then I proceeded to consider the piece I had played for my students the week prior: “Fanfare for the Common Man.” What inspired Copland to write this brief, but bold, work exalting the ordinary?

The question brought to mind the line from a prayer I read early this morning by John Baillie. In it, he praised God “for the great and mysterious opportunity of my life.” In a way Baillie’s prayer harmonizes well with Copland’s famous musical theme. Imagine literally starting each day with “Fanfare of the Common Man” as the score to your waking? Can you just hear the french horns dramatically blare their “Dun, dun, daahhh.” The irony of this is laughable as life often feels anything but great in the mundane moments of parenthood, chores, dog whines, Monday mornings, and breakfast to be made. It hardly seems an occasion for such pomp and celebration. And yet, Copland composed this breathtaking piece as ordinary humanity’s fanfare. It’s not “Fanfare for the Gifted and Talented and Those Who Have Their Act Together.” This is your and my song and if the piece had lyrics they could be borrowed from Baillie’s prayer of praise. Today we are given the gift of this great and mysterious opportunity of life. Every common and ordinary moment can be sacred, can be life-altering, and can be reason to praise.

What I love about Baillie’s quote and Copland’s music is the feeling of potential they have. The common of our lives hold both greatness and mystery. We never know what we’ll be stepping into, or what may interrupt us along the way. We can hold fast to the truth that nothing is wasted in God’s economy. Nothing, not even the seeming failures and successes of everyday living, can keep us from God’s purposes. I am grateful for the interruption of music today reminding me so.


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