The Best You Ever Played

It was my first piano recital. I had played the piece a hundred times, so I was familiar with it’s dark, slow rhythm. But I wasn’t familiar with the roomful of people who all had their eyes upon me.

I placed my little fingers on the keys and let the music fill the air.

When it was all over, my grandma wrapped me up in her arms and told me it was the best she had ever heard me play. She sounded sincere, but I knew she was lying. I had played the piece for her before and executed it flawlessly.

I missed two notes during my actual recital. And the perfectionist in me beat myself up for it so severely that I still remember it fifteen years later.

I’m not exactly sure why I’m remembering it now. Not sure why I’m thinking about fumbling over notes and how that relates to my life today.

I’m working my first secular job now, and it has made me think about how to live like Jesus in the world around me. Made me start wondering what to say and what to do and how to make my life add up to something that points toward heaven.

I can do a lot of thinking. And I can practice the words until they flow through my mind with all the practiced rhythm of that old recital piece.

But then I get out in the world. And everyone’s eyes are on me. And I get nervous. And my palms start to sweat. And I fumble over some of the notes.

So I’m standing there last night with my co-worker, realizing this girl needs Truth in her life, but fumbling over a way to deliver it.  Because all The Answers my mind is conjuring in that moment might sound a lot like judgement to someone who doesn’t know how much I love her wounded heart.

So I listen. And I nod. And I’m honest in those moments when I say I wouldn’t make the same decisions and, yes, her brother has legitimate concerns and she shouldn’t be upset with him for caring that deeply.

But the perfectionist in me lies in bed at night and scolds myself for doing it wrong. And as my mind rehearses all the things I could have said better, God shows up.

God walks right into my bedroom and curls up beside me and brushes the worries from my brow. God whispers in my ear and sounds a lot like my grandma when he says, “You did so well out there. That’s the best I’ve ever heard you play.”

And I say, “You must be lying. Didn’t you hear me fumbling over the notes?”

And God whispers, sure and strong, “You’ve been practicing that song forever, but it’s pretty worthless when there are no ears to hear it. But I saw you, just when you were poised above the keys. I recognized the very moment you realized a different song was needed. So, no, I’m not upset that you improvised. I’m not disappointed that you chose a different melody. And I don’t care that you fumbled over some of the notes. Because your heart was in that song, and I’m not the only one who noticed.

“You did well. You did well. Yes, I do believe that’s the best you ever played.”

Chasing the Wind

I was talking to a missionary friend about doctrine the other day. He said it’s something he’s been struggling with lately as he visits churches here in the States. He’s had a couple of churches tell him that they’d only be willing to support him if he and the pastors he supervises preach the doctrine these churches believe.

Now, I’m not saying doctrine is a bad thing. It’s great… until it gets in the way of more important things. The little details that define denominations are not the Gospel that my friend is proclaiming. And when people in India are dying without ever coming to know the Lord, what does it matter what they believe about predestination? The only thing that matters is that they are saved.

You can analyze the entire Bible and interpret it whatever way you wish, but there are certain truths that never change no matter how you look at them. As long as Jesus remains in the center of things, the other details are just details – and they shouldn’t keep anyone from getting involved in what God is doing around the world.

I couldn’t help but smile as my friend confessed that some of the driest seasons of his life were in seminary – with all that knowledge, all that theology, all that doctrine. It reminded me of the verse in Ecclesiastes that says, “Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.” (chapter 1, verses 17-18)

You can know everything there is to know about Christianity and still feel as if you’re missing something because it’s not doctrine that draws us to the heart of the Father; it’s His unfathomable love and mercy. And while it’s important to know what you believe, you can’t let the little things separate you from other believers. God never intended for doctrine to divide His church. Don’t get so caught up in chasing the wind that you miss the miracle of what God is doing in this moment here and now.