Tuesday, March 12, 2013

No Problemo

In learning to play a new song on the piano, invariably a "hard part" comes along that makes life difficult. More than a snag, it is a great big snarl that has to be worked through, bit by bit, repeat after repeat of the troubling section.  Lately I have had to perfect about 10 hymns each month for a hymn sing, so I have struggled with quite a few tangles. Usually they're not too bad. By slowing down, seeing what is going on in the different parts, playing each hand separately, or even listening to someone else perform it, I can most times get control of a hymn pretty quickly.  They're generally not very hard.  However, with most classical pieces, and even the occasional hymn, a point of frustration lurks, waiting to test my self-control.

I remember not long ago playing the same line of music over and over probably more than a hundred times.  Finally one night, I had had it.  I banged on the keys, stomped, shrieked, and yelled like a three-year-old.  My husband happened to be in the room and made the mistake of commenting on my behavior.  Surprisingly, I replied with something that actually made sense (to me).  I said that, yes, I was extremely frustrated; that after practicing a song that many times and still messing it up, any normal human being would lose it!  It was kind of a turning point for me, in terms of my bad temper.

I have always had a volatile disposition, and have felt bad about it.  Really the worst part about it is you make a fool of yourself.  So I guess it is at least humbling.  But I realized that night that there was a real point of exasperation, and I had reached it.  It wasn't so much my defect of character this time, but a reasonable response to hitting a wall.  And I even felt good about getting there, because for the majority of my life I have avoided frustration and humiliation by not persevering.  Here I was, doing the work, which involved plowing through this antagonism.

So I didn't feel guilty.  And after that, I sat down and played the piece through.  I don't even remember what it was now because I can play it without thinking.

Playing piano is one thing I love to do because it allows me to release what is deep inside, even if I didn't write the music.  It can be someone else's ideas I am expressing, with a bit of my personality thrown in.  The other day someone told me I play "beautifully," which I thought was funny because she has only heard me playing out of a hymnal.  There is not much room for artistic interpretation in that!  But maybe it was the beauty of the hymns themselves she was hearing. 

There are hard parts in life.  There has been one for me in comprehending the Gospel.  It is that Christ died for our sins.  He died for my sin.  That is the one thing about Christianity I have had trouble grasping.  It doesn't make any sense.  Once, for a flickering moment I thought I understood it.  Sitting in Pastor Brian's office as he was explaining it to me, unfolding God's righteousness, taking me through Hebrews and the Old Testament, expounding on the sacrifices...  It was enough for me --the Holy Spirit was there--my heart was sealed. That was 17 years ago.

Since then I have to admit it has been a recurrent problem.  I have studied and asked and listened and read.  I have thought and prayed and talked and written.  Still, it is inexplicable. And yet, it is what I base my life on--by faith. I will never completely understand what Jesus Christ has done.  My brain cannot contain it. But I am walking, walking by faith not by sight--like when you just forget what you're doing and the song seems to play itself through your hands.

"Abandonment never produces the consciousness of its own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon...John 3:16 means that God gave Himself absolutely. In our abandonment we give ourselves over to God just as God gave Himself for us, without any calculation. "--Oswald Chambers

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