A Bubble Bursts

As a child I listened to my grandfather playing on his baby grand piano, and I thought, “I wish I could do that.”  I would look at the musical score and tried to figure out what it meant, but all I could understand were the letters ‘m’, ‘p’ and ‘f’.  Were they notes on the piano somewhere?  I tried to play them but it didn’t sound anything like my grandfather’s playing.

Then when I was seven my parents sent me to piano lessons.  The written music started to make sense.  This was something I loved to do, and I never had to be told to practise.  Unfortunately after about six months of lessons we moved and the lessons stopped.  Playing the piano became a dream once more.  I had to wait until I was nearly 12 before starting lessons with another teacher.  During the waiting time I borrowed other people’s piano books and figured out quite a lot on my own.  A piano teacher, who I hoped would teach me, frowned disapprovingly when I told her this, saying, “You’ll be picking up bad habits.”  Perhaps I was, but music was already an important part of me.

Once I started lessons again I worked hard, but was never a prodigy, just an above average amateur.  I played in church for the first time when I was 14.  At first I would have to practise for weeks before I could accompany the congregation.  I spent hours playing all the songs in the book so that I would be ready whenever I was needed.  I learned how to play using chords and later on, how to play by ear.

There were always others who were better than I was – one of my classmates who had started learning earlier, a younger girl who had learned using the Suzuki method, someone else who played the same pieces that I did, but so much faster.  There was an ugly envy in me.

I tried to get into the performance programme at university, but my application was declined.  I hardly talked about it afterwards, because I was so embarrassed that I had even tried.  I stopped playing anything challenging for a long time after that.

My husband and I met over a piano keyboard.  He was playing in church.  I didn’t know anyone, so I thought I’d talk to him.  I didn’t think much of him at that first meeting, but fortunately he was more impressed than I was.  🙂  Our first ‘date’ was playing duets.  We play at approximately the same level, albeit with different strengths.  It is in keeping with God’s beautiful design in bringing us together – ‘oak and ash in a dove-tail joint’.

When I was in my early thirties I decided to have piano lessons again, as I had never done any exams, and wanted to be able to teach piano.  Over the next few years I played lots of Beethoven and Bach, and was introduced to Scarlatti and Brahms, and learnt about cadences and what a second inversion meant (“Drama!” my teacher said).  It took a few years, because I had our fourth child during that time, as well as homeschooling, but finally I was able to sit the ATCL performance exam, and passed, at the ripe old age of 35.

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But I’m still only an above average amateur, and I still struggle with pride and envy.  I realised that last week when someone at church commented that she missed hearing my husband playing, as she had heard me playing more often.  She commented about his style being different from mine, and how he was ‘very accurate’.  The ugly green-eyed monster hadn’t died yet.  I was hurt and put out.  Something important to me was under attack.  Thankfully we sorted it out the same day, and she realised she had been making some wrong assumptions (she thought that I had been stopping him from playing, when I hadn’t).

But I got to thinking about how I had reacted.  The only thing that was hurting was my pride, and that didn’t deserve to live.  I had been congratulating myself on my excellent musical renditions, and someone had come with a sharp pin and *pop* burst my bubble.  And I was reminded of these words (the paraphrasing is mine):

“If I play the sonatas of Beethoven by memory, perform Bach with breathtaking accuracy, and my fingers fly like swallows over the keyboard, but I have not love, then I am only a sounding gong or a clashing cymbal….I am out of tune and they are only notes, worth nothing.”

Conversely, when I play with love and without pride, it doesn’t matter if my fingers trip up or I miss some notes.  My Father in Heaven loves to listen anyway.  🙂

Whatever is Lovely….

In a recent post (Pain) I wrote about the difficulties I had been having getting over hurts from my childhood.  Even though my parents have been loving and good parents on the whole, there were painful memories and resentment that I was holding on to from the past.  Every time I visited my parents the old pain would be renewed, and I would come home unsettled and fighting depression again.  This happened many times, so that I began to avoid visiting their home.

The last time this happened was at Easter.  I was bitterly disappointed, because I wanted to be able to move on and not have this horrible pain, dealing with the same thing over and over again.  I felt like a child who couldn’t grow up.  It helped to remind myslf of God’s love and his acceptance, but I still couldn’t let go of the resentment towards my parents.  I asked God, “How can I get past this?”

The answer came when I met with a close friend and her husband for prayer.  My friend asked God for healing for the hurt places in my life, going all the way back to the little girl I was, who believed herself to be unloved.   And then she gave me a verse.  It is very well-known, but I had never applied it in this way before:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Philippians 4:8

She prayed that when I would think of my parents, I would think of whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, etc: that my thoughts and memories of my parents would focus on the lovely, praiseworthy things about them (and there are so many – thank you Lord!).  I realised that my mind had been set on a certain track, so that when I thought about them I would focus on things that I resented, and each time my thoughts went that way, the groove would become deeper and it became more and more difficult for me to think about them any other way.  God was asking me to consciously change my thought patterns.  I had been asking God for the way forward, and He had shown me the path.

After my friend prayed I realised that I needed to repent of my wrong attitude towards my parents, particularly the way I had judged them and criticised them for years.  So I did that.  When I went home I felt like a huge load had come off me.  I was exhausted, but free.

Since then the pain is gone.  It sounds simplistic, but it really is completely different.  I was a wreck emotionally before I went to that prayer meeting, and since then, I have been at peace.  The real test will be when I see my parents again.  Will the old hurts still sting, or are they healed forever?  At least I now have a way forward.  If I am hurt again, I can choose to think on ‘whatever is lovely.’

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Pain

The last couple of weeks have been difficult.  Tension with a family member has dragged up emotions and memories from the past that still have the power to wound me.  I am stung again by rejection, criticism and the feeling of never measuring up.  Once I start thinking this way, it becomes habitual, and almost anything can trigger off the negativity, even an article in the newspaper about someone’s ‘perfect mother.’ I am reminded of all the ways I fail, and start thinking I am pathetic, hopeless and just generally a blot on the landscape.  Why do I listen to that voice?  I don’t want to fight this battle over and over again.  I am in tears many times a day, remembering, and then turning to God for comfort and truth.  There are some things He has told me that I have to hold on to:

“My Father’s house has many rooms.”  John 14:2

I am loved and welcomed by my Heavenly Father, always accepted because of Jesus my Saviour.

“You are a daughter of the King.”  Romans 8:15

No longer dressed in rags, but in his robes.

“We must obey God, rather than men.”  Acts 5:29

My allegiance is to Him, not to others’ expectations.  This is particularly difficult when I love and respect a person, and they disapprove of my choices, even though I believe that I am obeying my Heavenly Father.  People-pleasing is only taking me down the well-worn path of rejection and despair.  God will not take me there.

I feel like I am a child again, confused and wanting desperately for someone to look after me.  I feel completely inadequate to be a parent to my children when I am still a child myself.  But somehow my children are beautiful, sensitive people, who are growing in faith and learning to care for others.