I love to play the piano.
I am not a virtuoso, but I have played enough over the years, that I can relax and enjoy expressing myself through music. I’ve played hymns in churches most of my life, and always offer to do so when I move to someplace new.
And so it happened that I offered to play for the church that I am attending here, “up north”. and am collecting quite a collection of piano stories with a common theme. Embarrassment. It’s got me thinking. But, as always, what I let myself think is important. Humility and embarrassment are related, but not quite the same and that is where the importance starts.
This morning I arrived early enough for church that I could make sure the electronic instrument, a clavinova, was plugged in, turned on and sounded appropriate for the small early service. I only had to play for the communion portion of the service – one hymn. All was set. The service went well, the message was moving and the invitation was given for communion. To my surprise, when I started to play there was a pop drum beat and a very weird bass thing going on with my reverent, calm hymn.
I hunted for any button on the control board that had STOP written on it, and tried several times to make the hymn sound like a hymn, but no. What finally came out of the machine was barely recognizable and was probably more distracting than having no music at all. Stuff like this is a musician’s nightmare.
This particular service is early, 8 am, and has small attendance, so the music crew does not do a lot of practice for it. Other times when I’ve participated, I have played the wrong song at the right time, played the right song at the wrong time, and played when I was not supposed to play at all. I suppose the regular attendees are getting kind of used to me and my uncomfortable adventures.
I am filled with mixed emotions. Why do these things keep happening? It always takes a bit of courage to put myself in a place of service to others where what I do is noticeable if I do it poorly. I am aware that music sets the mood and can influence people. I desperately (yes, desperately!) want to not distract people from their worship, or make them uncomfortable because they are worried about me.
On the other hand, I realize that music is not what it’s all about. Worship is not about me at all and how I respond when things go poorly is what God is probably watching. What does my embarrassment lead to? What discouraging messages am I giving myself about my performance, my usefulness? Will I be intimidated and unwilling to serve again? Those would not be good choices. However, I have to consider that God might be telling me that my time playing for church is finished. Maybe I am to move on to something else, and it would be okay. It has to be okay. Kind of makes me look at my pride issues and wonder what God wants to teach me next. That is always a good thing.
This morning, the pastor asked me what I was going to write about next. I had no idea then, but God inspires in strange ways and look what happens. Just sayin’…
6 thoughts on “My Uncomfortable Life (and how God uses it)”
Shirley. Your music is a gift. Period. Sometimes our uncomfortable experiences allow others to release their anxiety – knowing they are not alone in this world where strange things happen, despite any preparation we’ve taken to prevent. I once performed as a soloist with the Chippewa Valley Symphony. Upon arriving at my music stand front stage, I bumped it with my trembling hand. My tuner, water for my reed, and sheet music all went flying into the audience. There was a distinct, collective gasp from the crowd. I was frozen. Then a kind man in the front row collected all my stuff – broken tuner, empty water container, shuffled music – and brought it up to the stage. I felt like walking right off at this point, but the conductor came over to me to help me get organized, preventing my immediate retreat. 😉
I’m so glad I didn’t run. I made lots of mistakes that night. My playing was certainly not indicative of the months of preparation. But afterward, it seemed the thing people were most reflective of had nothing to do with the music at all. After the “horrific (as I call it)” incident, they wanted nothing more than for me to succeed. To not run. To keep playing, no matter what it ended up sounding like. And they wanted to commend me for that. In the end, it was a formative experience for me, not because I worked so hard for it….not because I played perfectly [because I didn’t]. It was life-altering because I realized sometimes the power of music is in making it authentically.
If you are you when you make music, God is speaking through you. And the end result is exactly as He plans. 🙂
You’re right Holly. This was not the first embarrassing thing I’ve survived and I know the truth about these things. I have felt the same as I witnessed people going through performance fear and anxiety – we are always on their side and want to see them feel better and succeed. Thanks for your comment! (I just saw it now – don’t know how it escaped me.)
I used to think that playing an acoustic piano would help avoid these kinds of situations, until I was dedicating a brand new grand in Colombiana, OH and the whole pedal assembly fell off the piano in the middle of the second song, crashing and landing on the floor. Have you ever tried to do a concert with no sustain pedal??? Don’t worry about it Shirley! It happens to us all! Keep playing. Keep praising.
That story is one to remember (and tell). Thanks Randy.
I say getting out in the dead of a northern winter for an 8 am Sunday service and just attempt to bring music in is saying a lot.
You are so kind.