Piano Lessons

"Blessed is the man you discipline, O LORD,
the man you teach from your law;

you grant him relief from days of trouble,
till a pit is dug for the wicked."
Psalm 94:12-13 (NIV)

I became obsessed with playing the piano the year we moved to Congo when I was ten years old. The first question out of my mouth at a missionary friend's home was, "Can I play your piano?" I realize now why some of them asked me to wait until after we had eaten. I was just learning, and the sound that was produced by my fingers on those black-and- white keys could not have sounded any less concert-like. I was completely oblivious to the crudeness of my playing. In my excitement, I was convinced that I had the ability to become a great pianist. There was just one little thing. I didn't like that pesky thing called counting. I could care less that every note had a certain number of beats depending on what it was. Counting ruined my style. I didn't have the patience for it. Besides, there were plenty of song that I knew by heart that I could play based on my memory. My parents bought our piano from the Voths and brought it to our living room at Nkara-Ewa. I spent countless hours attempting to play hymns and less complicated music from Tshaikovsky, Bach, Schumann, and Beethoven. Some of those pieces were found in my red covered John Thompson book. Although my mother's college degree was in music, we could never really get comfortable with her in the teacher role with me (translation: I was bull-headed to play music my way).

When we arrived in the States for furlough, it was decided that I should start taking formal lessons with a non-family member. I was so excited. This was going to be the moment when my talent really showed through. My teacher had me do a dry run of a musical piece we had both decided on, based on my knowledge thus far of the instrument. I was thrilled to show her all of my finesse. I was so proud that I only missed one note in the whole piece of music. I knew it wasn't polite to brag, so I tried to keep my pride of accomplishment off my face as I finished. I sneaked a look at her out of the corner of my eye, just sure that her mouth would be gaping open at my ability.

Her mouth was open. She looked at me and mumbled something under her breath I couldn't quite make out. Then she did something completely unexpected. She took the piano book from the piano and got out her pencil. She then proceeded to write out each note's value. She underlined; she scribbled. Oh, she was impressed all right--impressed with the enormity of work on her hands.

"Well, Shawn, it looks like we are going to have to start with the fundamentals."

She then proceeded to tell me that my elbows could not flail out, my posture needed to be corrected, and that I must sit an exact distance from the keyboard. I played two bars of the lesson's song. That's it. She made me do them over and over again.

Each week was the same. My teacher assured me that if I followed the rules, I would be laying the foundation for the rest of my playing. And if I learned to count out the music, I would be able to play any piece without having to hear the music first.

I completely rebelled. I believe I took a total of four lessons. I never had another formal lesson again.

That decision to not learn piano as I should have is truly one of the greatest regrets of my life. I love the piano. But I only wanted the fun parts of playing and not the serious discipline that it required to really become good at the instrument. Now I will sit longingly and watch someone play who did it the right way and wish over and over again that I had just stuck with it.

Before I turned thirty, I approached my walk with Jesus much like my piano playing. Oh, I loved Him, but I liked the fun parts of Him. I liked the Jesus that was caring, generous, and always forgiving. But I squirmed when He asked me to be disciplined, give something up that was sinful, or dig into His Word. And, like my piano-playing, my spiritual life with Him was a copycat version of what I had heard from others, but did not know how to play myself. The love I had for Him was love on my terms, not His. And because of that, it only went so deep. And forget about His power being evident in my life so that those around me might want to know Him, too.

Ladies, do we really want to know Him? Or do we just play around in our Christian walk, bringing our own rules to the table? To get to a point where you and I radiate Christ, we have to realize that there is just plain, hard work involved. Becoming more like Him takes years, not days or weeks. Are we desperate enough for Him that we are willing to set aside our own rules and bow in submission to Him? If we do, our lives will play like the most beautiful symphony ever heard.

Jesus, help me to not become faint-hearted in my walk with You. You are the Potter and I am the clay. Surrender of my will to Yours is where I will find my greatest peace and fulfillment. Your discipline will grant me relief from days of trouble.