Tonight, I picked up my trumpet for the first time in over 3 years. A friend had asked me if I’d consider joining the band she was a part of, as they were desperate for trumpet players, and I reluctantly said yes. Reluctantly because there was so much fear. Fear of what it would sound like. Fear of not being able to play. Fear of not being good enough. But after being encouraged to just give it a go, I did. And it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I thought. It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t awful either. And as I played, as I fumbled my way through the dark, I was reminded of what it was like when I was first learning to play over 10 years ago. Memories came flooding back of times when I played on my own in my room at home, times when I played at school, times when I toured parts of Europe with the county wind band. And I realised none of that would’ve happened without the gentle encouragement of those closest to me.
Confidence has always been something I’ve lacked. Something which I’ve had to work hard on over the years. And as I look back, I noticed that my confidence grew in those places where people encouraged me to either give something a go, for the first time, or to just keep going with something that I’d tried but wasn’t sure about. As I played those first few notes on my trumpet this evening, I was reminded of one of the first times I played. In the living room of my parents house, with my grandparents sat patiently listening. And as I played, I was reminded of my grandparents encouragement to me – encouragement to stick with it, encouragement to keep going.
That memory has been particularly helpful to me today. My grandmother passed away suddenly a few weeks ago, and there have been times in these past few weeks where I’ve wondered how we as a family are to ‘just keep going’ without her. When she passed away, one of my greatest sadnesses was that she wouldn’t be at my ordination next year. My grandmother was a woman of deep faith, a woman who’s example I had not fully recognised, or at the very least perhaps taken for granted while she was alive. It was both her and my grandpa (who passed away a few years ago now) who encouraged me to find my voice in church. I wrote some time ago of the memory of standing on my chair between them at the back of church, loudly singing ‘alleluia’.
All of us at different times in our lives need the gentle encouragement to either try something new, or stick with something that seems difficult, but which we know (even if not at the time) will be a fruitful experience for us. And from thinking about my grandma, I later thought about all the people who have done that for me over the years. People, without whom I would not be where I am today. And I realised how easy it is for those moments, for those people, for those encouragements to pass us by, without ever fully appreciating them, or letting them sink in and speak to our daily lives. Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? But wouldn’t it be great if we took a moment, in the midst of the unknown, in the midst of the fear, in the midst of our daily lives, to stop and give thanks for those Barnabus’ in our lives, for those who encourage us.
And though my grandma won’t physically be in the cathedral, on July 2nd next year, she’ll be there in my memories, and she’ll also be there as a part of that great cloud of witnesses, which the writer of the Hebrews talks about. And that gives me confidence to ‘just keep going’…