Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Choice is Yours

So one little piano lesson was all it took to undo several years of progress and growth and revert me back to the insecure, self-conscious, ashamed, fearful, defeated person I used to be. Ugh...

Let me back up a little. I've been feeling the urge to take my very basic, just-for-me, piano playing up a notch. I'd like to be able to lead worship on my own if I ever needed to. But I didn't know where to start, so I asked a musician-friend to show me a few things and give me some suggestions that I could work with. So he's playing away, beautifully as always, imparting valuable information about chords and scales and fifths and melody and practice. And though not a word was said at any time to imply such a thing, as I watched his fingers fly gracefully over the keys, I started to feel smaller and smaller (which is saying something). I couldn't imagine ever being able to move from where I was to where I wanted to be, that my inherent laziness and lack of ability would keep me from making any progress and that I was bound to be a huge disappointment to myself and everyone else. I was ready to quit before I even played a note.

My friend left and I sat down at the piano. But, for the life of me, I couldn't convince myself to put my fingers on the keys. I couldn't believe how discouraged I felt. And I couldn't talk myself out of it, either. So, with eyes full of un-shed tears and a heart full of despair, I gave up and went home.

Later, as I tossed and turned on my pillows, waiting for sleep to come and erase, or at least delay, the heaviness I was feeling, I asked God what the heck was going on. How could such a small thing so dramatically alter my perspective and steal my joy? Had I learned nothing over the past months? Where was the peace and gratitude I'd fought so hard to cultivate? Were the changes I hoped I was seeing really so shallow? I started wondering whether any of my current pursuits were going to pan out, or if I was just crazy to think I could write a book, or record a CD, or make a ministry work. Past failures started mocking me, reminding me of all those character traits of which I was so ashamed.Well, clearly those thoughts were doing nothing to improve my frame of mind. So I prayed one of those powerfully simple little prayers (help!). Mercifully, sleep claimed me then and that was that.

God's grace really is amazing, isn't it? I love that verse from the Psalms that says, "Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love..." (Ps. 143:8) I woke up the next morning with my perspective restored, my faith renewed and determination rising up in me. I don't know if it's having recently passed the milestone of my fortieth birthday, or the coming of a new year, or something else entirely, but I've been thinking a lot lately about my life and what I'd like it to look like. I've always been a great plan-maker, but my follow-through has been consistently weak (read: non-existent). But something my piano-friend had said in the course of conversation the night before really stuck with me. He was talking about the difference between a musical virtuoso and a regular ol' musician, noting that hardly any truly great music-makers are born; most are made - by the simple (but not easy) discipline of practice, practice, practice. My brain translated this astute observation into the following thought: I get to choose. It's up to me whether I try to get better at piano, it's up to me whether I stick it out when it gets hard, it's up to me how I spend my time. Might seem pretty obvious, but it really changed my perspective about the whole situation, and even about my life, in general. Yes, I firmly believe in depending on God for guidance and wisdom and direction and vision and power and strength and motivation, but the nitty-gritty, nuts and bolts, honest-to-goodness, actual work is up to me. I get to choose how hard I work, how much effort I put into something, how I respond to set-backs and discouragement. I get to decide whether I quit or keep going.


Postscript: You may be pleased to know that I did start on the road to improving my piano skills. I sat at the keyboard, I worked on some scales, I tried some new things. I made mistakes, I tried again. And again. I foresee a challenging road ahead of me, but I've caught a glimpse of what could be - if I keep at it. We shall see.

1 comment:

  1. As usual, I see myself so clearly in your blogs! I have been trying to keep myself from being discouraged about my poor follow through on soooo many projects and ideas that I've started. I'm beginning to understand that my brain is primarily wired to the right side....making a person very creative and social, but easily distracted! So, I am also making a conscious choice to improve my record by actually finishing some of my projects that have been just gathering dust and taking up SO. MUCH. SPACE! I have made a goal of bringing my home to a better state this year, ie.neat and tidy enough to feel good about it. My goals are not nearly so lofty as playing the piano, leading worship and writing a book and starting a ministry, but I'm going to try some "big-to-me" little things first. :) God bless you Joy-bells!