I slide onto the bench, settling in front of 88 black and white keys. Before I let fingers rest, curving on ivory, I find middle C.

It’s the first note a child learns from her teacher. For her first two weeks as a piano student, my daughter lay a pencil flat across middle C so it wouldn’t blur into the stretching, creamy path of keys.

Before long, she had mastered middle C, no longer needing a pencil as a guide. Yet, whether we’re 8 or 38 or 78, we pianists continue to find middle C first, if even subconsciously.

Then the fingertips dance on keys, and we weave melodies in soothing legato or hopping staccato. This is how we make music.

A few times a week, I slow down and make my way to the keys, slipping in beside my daughter or by myself to play the songs from my old Methodist hymn-book — songs that I so rarely get to sing anymore.

Last night, I pulled back the bench, just before tuck-ins. I pulled out my Mom’s old hymnal with the gold-embossed emblem, and pressed it open to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I lay fingers on either side of Middle C.

And my skin tingled, right up my back as I played the song. When it comes to the song being woven of this life, I want Christ to be the Middle C of my being.

Yes, He is the first and the last, the Alpha and the Omega. But He also wants to be at the center.

When I was a child, teachers in my church-basement Sunday School rooms pointed Him out, lay a pencil down like the beam of a cross so I could find Him easily. Teachers like Rose and Hortense prayed that we’d find Him on our own, after they weren’t alongside to guide us anymore.

But I grew up, slept in on Sundays, preferring “Church of St. Mattress” over the sanctuary down the street.

Then I grew older still, yearned again for the melody of faith to break through the dissonance of a broken world. I found Middle C on Calvary, where crossbeams met in the middle and where a river still flows red for me.

I bowed low before Christ who is the Center, and discovered that I still knew how to find the ever-present Middle C. For even though I left, He never had. He has always been. He sounds the same as He always has — never-changing — and at last, I could hear the consistent song of the ages.

Christ keeps order in the chaos, the Steady Tone ringing through days and years and millennia.

And today, Middle C hums in me, keeps me in tune. He is my center.

He is the song I sing. And I join the chorus of the ages:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8