Monday, May 14, 2007

The Passing of the Touch

I love the piano. It is wonderful to produce rich harmony while letting my fingers dance along the ivory keys. I love practicing to achieve "the touch," as my musician mother puts it. I love the instrument, and I love to serve God with it.

Over the years, I've had opportunities to be a pianist for camps, fellowships, and worship services. There would be challenges, but I enjoyed living up to them. I practiced everyday, I did my best. I was determined to shine in this skill as much as I could.

Then all of a sudden, somewhere along the line these last two years, I realized that I was near the other words, I was the leading pianist for our fellowship, an assistant pianist for our choir, and a seasoned pianist for our praise team. Wow, I was so impressed with myself.

I was now something of an authority in the field. People would come to ask "Achi WenWen" what to play. Friends would tell me that they are very confident whenever they have me as their accompanist. I now had the responsibility to be teacher to younger pianists. Oh, I loved it.

So I trained younger pianists. Some of them were great, some of them were lazy. I felt so proud to be the musical mentor of the great ones. I loved it when they thanked me for tuning up their skills.

We were all growing for the glory of God, and that was all that mattered...well, until I realized I wasn't thinking about that most of all.

One particular trainee of mine, the most patient and determined and talented of them all, became better and better as the weeks progressed. I loved it; I was proud of him...then, he started to outshine me.

I could hear it clearly with my own ears. Those techniques, those patterns, and that strong undercurrent of pure talent were nothing I could ever have for myself. He was too good, so good that I could hardly imagine him to once be my student. That talent and affinity for a pianist's "touch" were what I could never attain through grueling practice or sheer determination. My potential as a musician is less than half of his.

I was upset, though I did not show it. True, I was still proud of him, but this realization that the student could be higher than the teacher bothered me. I selfishly felt that I was not receiving the proper recognition as his tutor whenever people praise the young man for his skills. I thought it was all unfair. Why should he, who owes so much to me, be better than I am?

Ouch! God hit me once more. I messed up many sessions of playing the piano. My heart was no longer right.

I still practiced the piano like crazy for church ministries, but mostly out of a desire to prove myself better. But, better than what?

God does not require me to be better than all pianists. He does not want me to outshine everyone. He only asks for my best from me...that's it, my best. It was I who was not satisfied, not Him. If I was lacking in my music ministry, then it was only because I lost a pure heart.

I thank God for helping me realize these lessons. I do not need to fret that my efforts seemed to go to waste. No, they are not wasted. I should live up to the talents God has given me, the same way my student should live up to his.

Instead of pouting that I am not as good as others, I should celebrate that God has used underserving me to train better servants for His kingdom. I should be thankful, not discontent. I should rejoice with those who rejoice, not wallow in self-pity.

My piano skills may be just enough to serve a certain purpose in practicality, but God also used them to teach me a lesson on purity of heart. Thanks be to Him.

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