We Played the Flute for You and You Did Not Dance

Unamed piper

This well-known painting is by the French artist, Édouard Manet. While on a trip to Spain, he became fascinated by a painting by Diego Velazquez, which inspired him to paint this iconic image. It depicts an anonymous regimental fifer of the Spanish army. Manet presents the uniformed boy against a flattened, monochrome background of a neutral tone. Because of this, there is nothing to distract us from the young man playing. We are left with pure wonder of the painting’s simplicity.

In Matthew, we come across a verse that says, Jesus spoke to the crowds: “What description can I find for this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to others: ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” (Matthew 11:16-17)

What a sad description of the human condition. Children trying to get our attention—but we ignore them. Or perhaps God trying to get us to notice what he has to offer—but we turn a blind eye. It reminds me of Isaiah 65:12 when God says to his people, “… I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen.”

I shudder to think how many times God has tried to get my attention and I have failed to notice. What divine interventions have I written off as annoying interruptions? What God-winks have I overlooked because I was too focused on the tasks at hand? When have I been frustrated with impatience when God was nudging me to trust that his timing is perfect?

Being Human connection: We could be in God’s presence so much more if we let this world become like a monochrome background that does not distract from what really matters. May we learn to tune into God’s providence so that when he calls, we can answer; when he speaks, we will know to listen.

Featured art: Édouard Manet (1866), “Le Fifre (the Flute Player)” ©Louvre, Abu Dhabi