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The Harmony of Unison


“I’ve enhanced the tuning of my guitar,” the little guy announced.
“Your guitar has only one string,” his older sister remarked.
“And it’s out of tune,” the other sister added.
“Well, actually, one tone can’t be out of tune with itself,” my husband entered the conversation. “Now, if you want to play your one-string guitar with another instrument—then you’re going to have to get in tune with that instrument.”

Thus began a teachable moment about music, tuning of instruments, orchestration, and blending of sound waves. My mind wandered to the spiritual application for marriage as I reflected how one partner is in tune when alone—until the need to blend in unison or harmony with a spouse requires some fine-tuning.

A Marriage in Harmony

I’ve often marveled at how calm my life is when I’m alone. It’s perfectly in tune, but just add one more voice, and dissonance can occur through misunderstanding. And, oh, how peaceful are the days when there is only one child, but how much commotion and weeping and wailing are introduced with the addition of each new instrument into the orchestra of a large and blended family!

Some members of the orchestra seem to prefer dissonance just when I’m trying to conduct the legato phrases. An off-kilter child disrupts my pleasant syncopation by clapping on the offbeat just when I’m grooving to the beat. And some of my musicians want to improvise and play according to the creative expression of their current emotions and fanciful whims instead of following the score. How do I orchestrate all these different musical styles?

It’s hard enough to get my duet with my husband to sound musical—he with his bearish baritone and his belting bass. Those low tones vibrate my heart strings, but make it difficult to harmonize. With his love for dancing around the melody line or skipping to harmony, he can be hard to follow sometimes.

And that’s the mystery of marriage. How do I get my tone in tune with his so our instruments make a harmonious sound in the music of life? Because if life is an opus, and my husband and I are playing a duet—no matter how different our instruments, or what tones they produce—if we’re in tune, the music is melodious. When we’re not in tune, we just produce discord.

Making Music Together

I remember the first time we made music together. We’d both volunteered for VBS, and they put us in charge of the music. I anticipated a co-directorship utilizing both of our talents and skills, together producing inspiring music that would minister and encourage. I was sitting at the piano with my neatly arranged sheet music, waiting to make beautiful music when he announced, “Hey kids, you want to sing The B-I-B-L-E?” Everyone looked to me for the introduction to a song that wasn’t in the books, and in a split second I learned to play by ear.

In all my years of expensive classical piano lessons, I had never once considered that playing by ear was something I could learn. That talent would have lain dormant if not forced to the surface by that annoying song-leader who later became my husband (who seemed to delight in forcing me to learn new songs—with no sheet music—in front of an audience).

We had many encore performances of that song and dance. He’d make an announcement, and I’d scramble to accompany him. This man liked to make up his own music, and when you march to the beat of a different drummer, you can rearrange the music to fit your style. It doesn’t matter what the composer suggests—who has time for a ritardando?

Oh, for a meticulously marked-up score of life, where I could count out the beats and wait for a cue to play my part. I longed to press the right note and follow all the musical rules, so my life’s music would sound just as the composer imagined. But, life in marriage isn’t that predictable.

Fortunately I kept playing, and over the years I discovered that my heart loves the beat of a new song. And even though in my heart I wanted to be like David, creating beautiful original music that overflowed from a heart of worship, I was hampered by my need for the sheet music. God knew I needed the tempting tune of this man to shake up my life’s music. God didn’t want me to spend my life playing music written by other people. He wanted to give me a new song, and He used my husband to teach me how to play that music.

How many beautiful tunes would I have missed out on waiting to find the right arrangement in the right key?

Why do two such incompatible music lovers end up in a duet for life? Because there is delight in dichotomy. There is harmony in variation. A duet is richer than a solo. Harmony is fuller than melody alone. The pulsating sound waves of two different tones blending and weaving into a new song is a beautiful new creation, nonexistent on its own. And because God said, “It is very good.”

The combination of two becoming one, blending gifts and talents and energies, creates a new song for the glory of the master Conductor. He is weaving a beautiful orchestration from the sounds of our lives. As we follow the Master’s baton, He is creating a new song that floats in a supernatural and satisfying solfege of sound for His glory.

Tuning In

So, what do we do if we’ve gotten a little out of tune? Listen to concert pitch. The conductor selects one instrument and declares it to be in tune. Then every other member of the orchestra tunes to that instrument. That becomes the standard for being in tune—even if it’s not a true 440 hertz sound wave. If we find that perfect pitch and get in tune with it, everything we do will be in harmony.

How do we learn to match pitch? Play a note and listen to the sound waves it creates in comparison to the conductor’s pitch. Is it pleasant or dissonant? Adjust the pitch until it matches his. Our soul knows how to be in tune and cries in distress when it is not. Two souls inharmonious are as discordant as two instruments out of tune. It takes practice.

After finding the pitch, learn to sing in unison and then learn to sing in harmony. Surf the trough of the sound wave as the tones pulsate and reverberate for the glory of the master conductor weaving beautiful music in our lives. Like a good musician practices to produce a good tone and maintain perfect pitch, learn to listen to the sound waves of the heart, of two becoming one—one sound from two instruments—a harmony of unison.

Shari Popejoy, wife of thirty years, mother of three, author of nine books, and creator of Won Without Words (a blog of encouragement for wives) and Oh Joy! (for homeschool families) lives in the quiet country of the Ozarks. She and her husband operate Injoy, Inc., a publishing company that specializes in publishing first-time authors. She enjoys high places and the road less traveled, early morning sunrises--and chocolate.

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