Have I ever told you that I'm thickheaded and slow to learn? This is such a similar post to this one from a year ago, I can hardly believe I'm still in this place. There's a reason that God has to use baseball bats to get my attention. ;)
When I was a little girl, I remember listening to my brother practice piano. I loved my brother, and I wanted to play piano just like him! I begged my mother to let me take lessons too. When I was 7 my mom decided that I had reached the age to be able to take lessons. I liked it for awhile, then it got harder and I didn't like it so much, but my mom made me stick it out. Eventually, I got good enough that I could play almost anything with practice and sight-read lots!
Along about 4th grade I also discovered that I loved to sing. I auditioned for a children's ensemble at church, in which I cried through the entire audition, and somehow miraculously made it into the group! My piano lessons gave me the ability to harmonize, so I became an alto.
I loved music! I even dreamed of writing songs, and wrote songs. I wrote and performed a song at my Baccalaureate!
In high school several things happened that in and of themselves weren't horrible but put all together added up to a lot of pain. First, my favorite piano teacher moved away. I got into a very emotionally destructive relationship with a girl who was also a pianist with dreams of writing music. She was very competitive and took many opportunities to put me down and make me feel that I wasn't good enough. I also tried out for every solo that came along in our high school church choir, and was given the brush off for one reason or another. At school during my senior year, I was the accompanist for the concert choir. The director was less than kind, to put it nicely! And I began to look at others' talents and abilities and compare myself to them, and being that we humans are our own worst critics, I always fell short.
In college, I took on a double major, Music Education and Music Performance, with a double emphasis in both voice and piano. Do you think I bit off more than I could chew? Yep! I was still optimistic though, but I had developed that bad habit of comparing myself to others, and there were some awesome musicians at my school. I lasted a year.
The destructive relationship continued.
After my year in college, I auditioned for a touring group called the Continental Singers. They didn't need a singer at the time, but they were short on keyboard players for their upcoming tours. I had never played keyboards. I had never read a chord chart. I had never played in a band. But I went. I had a great time, made great friends, but not in the band. The other band members were frustrated with my lack of experience. For three months I dealt with constant, outright disrespect both personally and musically.
Shortly after the tour ended, so did the destructive relationship. I met my tenderhearted husband, who doesn't carry a single musical bone in his body, and we married. After that I just quit. I wouldn't sing or play for anyone, even myself. I wouldn't write music.
I listened to all those voices in my head that told me I had no talent, I had no rhythm, I couldn't sing, I couldn't play. I'm not one to blame people or circumstances for the direction the my life has taken. I chose to listen to the people around me. I chose to let their words effect who I became. I chose to believe them. I chose to quit. I chose to take the talent God gave me and bury it deep inside me.
A few years ago I decided I would start singing in the choir at church. I had no expectations. I just thought I'd sing, because I do love to worship my Jesus.
A little over a year ago I reconnected with my favorite piano teacher. I learned from her that she had thought of me as one of her most talented, promising students ever. And God began digging up what I had buried. He began healing those old wounds. Not long after that there was a solo open that I really wanted, but there was no WAY I would ask for it. A friend approached the music pastor on my behalf, and he (much to my surprise) let me try it. I worked and worked on that song, and it went well. Before long I found myself being asked to sing on the praise team, with a small solo thrown in here and there. I also began trying to take piano lessons, but I could not get past the old voices. It was painful and uncomfortable to sit at the piano. But, I was singing! Still, I feel so unworthy and it truly is a surprise to me every single time I'm asked because there are so many more talented people around me. Singing in an a cappella ensemble at Christmas was both a highlight and the most terrifying thing I've done so far.
Two weeks ago I approached a friend about singing in his Saturday Night Worship band. He turned around and asked if I play an instrument. I don't know what on God's green Earth made me tell him that I play keys (you know, since I haven't for the past 20 years) but I did, and he gave me 2 songs. I asked him for chord charts well in advance, but I didn't get them until 3 days before time to play and I didn't get a chance to look at the charts until the rehearsal the day of. Oh MY! I was a MESS. The voices in my head were screaming. I froze. I could not play during rehearsal or sound check. I ran out of the room crying after the sound check. My husband (God bless him) found me in a dark corner of the church a few minutes later, and he held me, and he listened to me sob about my past and how I couldn't do it. And then he said a very beautiful thing to me. He said, "But this time is different. I'm here for you now." Bless him, bless him. In that moment he met my deepest need, to feel safe and loved by him. And I did. Later he held my hands while I waited for my songs to come up, and he bowed his head and silently prayed for me. I know he did because I felt God's peace come over me.
I did it. I played my 2 songs. It wasn't great, but it was at least good. I didn't stop. I didn't freeze. I just let my fingers and mind do what they have known how to do for most of my life. I played. For the first time in 20 years I played in public.
After the service this amazing thing happened. The regular keyboardist came and talked to me. Please know that I was completely intimidated by this man, because he is a keyboard player. He was asking me about my background and why I hadn't played for so long. As we talked he told me that he wasn't really a keys player but a drummer. What?! He was taught at camp how to find a major and a minor chord, and he practiced until he figured out how to play them all and is learning their inversions. He doesn't read a note of music. What?! He told me how a friend had taught him how to play an exercise called "Hannon" and he was pretty good at it with his right hand but not his left. What?!
God used him to expose all the lies of my past. You see, I can read music, quite well (thanks to 13 years of piano lessons). I know all the chords, their inversions, their arpeggios, their scales. I have played most of the 30 "Hannon" exercises with both hands, together. This revelation was NOT one of pride. On the contrary, it was very humbling to realize that my view of myself was so completely distorted that I would be intimidated by anyone who could play some chords on a keyboard. When the Truth is, that God gave me a measure of talent, more than some and less than others, and I have buried it instead of using it. And the really cool thing was that I had a unique opportunity to teach this man another exercise that would help him to grow in his ability as a keyboard player and encourage him to keep learning.
And the big Truth is that God does not want me to think less of myself than He has made me, nor more of myself that what I ought, but He wants me to have a right view of who I am, who He is and who I am in Him! I'm a slow learner, but I am learning.