I often sit just a room away as my husband pours out Bible stories and devotions to our two oldest children. It’s really not that I’m trying to be disengaged. I’m actually listening to every word. (Ok, mostly every word.) But I’ve found that those two monkeys lend more of their attention if they aren’t distracted by me being in the room. It’s their time together with Dad. Unless they are half-asleep. Or arguing with each other. In that case, I’m not sure how productive it is…
Anyway, one night not too long ago, I listened to him discuss how God blesses us with talents and spiritual gifts, and how very adamantly Paul was telling Timothy not to neglect the spiritual gift he received. If you asked me what that gift was I couldn’t tell you. Because this is the spot where I stopped listening. My mind was absorbing the words spoken out of my husband’s mouth. I couldn’t help but let the thoughts roll backward to an incident that happened many years ago…
It took place in the upper room of Dulaney Auditorium at a university I was attending at the time. My new piano teacher was going over my skill level to determine what music I’d be playing that semester. Once I’d finished playing several difficult pieces from memory without so much as the teeniest mistake she appeared more than a little stunned.
“I’ve never had a student play this well on the first visit. Just out of curiosity, with your love for music, have you considered attending Julliard?” She asked.
I slowly shook my head no.
Unfortunately, I don’t really remember how the rest of the conversation went but I confessed to her that I’d never had a lesson. What she heard come out of my fingers was the result of fourteen years of sweat blood and tears over a row of stained, ivory keys attached to a smelly, old player piano.
I could play well. Really well. It was an amazing talent to have and one that, I thought for years, was a freak accident. But I also saw the many holes in that “freak accident” of mine. I seldom played for anyone outside my close circle of friends or family, however those who heard me play couldn’t see those holes. They couldn’t hear those holes.
But it was enough that I knew they were there.
I knew how many hours I spent listening to the tunes before I laid into the music. Cheating by writing the letters next to the bass clef notes inside each margin so that I’d know what my left hand should be doing most of the time.
And then there was the memorization. I disliked the struggle of reading the sheet music so much that I would memorize every single song right down to the very last note so perfectly that no one ever knew I had a crutch.
I was afraid of my talent because it drew too much attention to me.
I wanted it to be perfect or it couldn’t be shared.
Foolish pride made sure that I lowered the expectation before it ever really became one. And, over time, I allowed those insecurities harbored within me to paralyze me with fear.
I was never able to overcome that fear. Not in that upper room. Even after receiving a standing ovation for a performance that would never have happened had it not been required to pass the stinking class.
I was done with it after that semester. Who chooses to minor in piano anyway?
It certainly wouldn’t help me in the real world.
It took some time, but several years after I left college I would sit down to stumble my way through the music I spent hours perfecting and I could suddenly see the waste beneath my fingers. All of the time spent honing an ability that could’ve been useful, holes or no holes, was lost.
The talent still existed, but it was a broken, distorted mess. I was unable to pick up the pieces and feel the excitement running through my fingers again. Unable to use it for anything spectacular. It was…ordinary.
And I cried.
I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on those days. I’ve had moments of wanting to wallow in self-pity about how selfish I’d been. Moments of wanting to beat myself up in frustration.
But I’ve moved on.
Nearly twenty years from that day I sit, pounding on different keys this time. I’ve traded in the piano bench for a comfortable spot in front of my keyboard where I can share my feelings about this journey I’ve been on. A journey that’s lead me to healing and learning to trust and give my life for something that has nothing to do with me, but something that is all about tremendous love for me. A journey that’s lead me to Christ.
It is now that I reach for the Words that show me how to live life. Show me the ways to put my faith to work. And in that search I find something that resonates across every corner of my past to bring this story full-circle.
One could argue that my talent for the piano had nothing to do with a spiritual gift. I will admit that this is true. But how often do our talents compliment the gifts we are given upon being saved? How often do these talents allow us an outlet for spreading the gospel and reaching others in a magnificent way, alongside the manifestation of the Spirit?
In one hand I hold the talent of being able to express myself through the written word.
In the other I hold spiritual gifts for teaching, exhortation and administration.
I now know that, with Christ, there is no such thing as that “freak accident.”
And neither is the upper room.
In my upper room – in that beautiful, historic auditorium – it was through a teacher who tried desperately to speak life into a talent that I thought fell short of ever being able to be used.
But it was through another upper room that the disciples were able to recount their experiences with the risen Christ. It was there that they first received the gift of the Holy Spirit. A Spirit that, not only gives us the indwelling of Christ, but brings with it unique abilities that are to be used within the body of Christ.
I have arrived in that upper room, once again.
So here I am – ready to take the next step in wild obedience.
Ready to see where my faith is going to take me.
I will declare that Christ is in me.
I will declare that I have gifts and talents to be used for His kingdom.
I will declare that I will overcome the enemy’s desire to keep me from moving for God.
And I can’t wait!
I forget about what is behind me and I continually press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Today I’m linking up with the following authors to share my story: