You might have figured out that Auntie Em is a musician. I can play the piano by ear; I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t. I remember in kindergarten, being puzzled by the boy who couldn’t beat a triangle in rhythm to the Maypole dance! I thought everybody could play the piano by ear until I started teaching lessons.
I began taking lessons in 4th grade, got in the studio of a college professor that taught privately in our town in 8th grade, and continued with him through high school graduation and beyond. (He also taught Sunshine and Sis all through school, and Sis all the way through a piano performance major in college!)
I love to play. My mother never had to remind me to practice, not once. I taught private lessons for 12 years and I’m presently in my 18th year teaching choir (and playing the piano an awful lot!) I’ve had a “church gig” since I graduated from high school.
As a natural and a trained musician, and as a choir teacher whose job it is to listen critically for what to fix and how to fix it, a lot of music is difficult for me to listen to. I hear wrong notes. Wrong rhythms. Intonation problems. I rarely can listen to music to relax, because I listen very actively… “oh… key change.. ABA form… oh, a reiteration of the original theme”… etc, ad nauseum!
Okay. Got the picture?
Now put all of this in the immature mind of a young woman in her 20’s. My music is a very “out front” kind of gift that draws a lot of attention and the praise of kind people. It was a battle for a long time to fight ego, vanity, and pride.
Through much prayer, some maturity, and the revelation of the grace of God, and the understanding that through Him I can do all things (Phil 4:13), but without Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5), I think I have a handle on it.
I came to realize that God gave me the gift, just like he gave me blue eyes and fair skin. Maybe I always did know this; I just didn’t quite know what to do with it. He put me in a family with the means to provide lessons, in a town where there was an incredible teacher. Yes, I practiced hours and hours, but it was always something I enjoyed. He could just as easily have given that talent and opportunity to someone else, but He chose me.
I had an epiphany when I read CS Lewis’s Screwtape Letters, and the passage that talked about mature Christians not being tempted by vanity about talent; they appreciated it but would have appreciated it just as much if it were in someone else. (If you know this or can find it, please leave it for me in the comments; Lewis says it far more eloquently!) And I think in the same book, Screwtape was instructing his nephew Wormwood to confuse “the patient” by thinking that humility meant minimizing his talents, when in fact true humility is not “thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”
Because I truly have the attitude that my playing at church (particularly the offertory, when that’s all you hear) is not about me, but preparing people for the sermon, I HATE it when people clap after I finish. I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it makes me.
Okay, I said all that to say this! We recently got an audio-visual system installed at our church. We had a guest pianist perform a concert and the cameras were on his hands, and on him as he sang, which I thought was wholly appropriate, and enjoyed it — that’s what he does, and his ministry… But then I thought… Oh no. I don’t want ME on the screen! I’m not there to perform. I talked to our AV men and told them how I felt.
Then one day, the camera man talked about how the congregation loved to watch me play, and how many comments he got about people enjoying it. (Apparently he was careful not to show my face, but did focus on my hands.) I was very uncomfortable. Then I remembered Auntie Em’s Guide, the part that says “Know your rules. Know THE rules. Know the difference.”
UGH… It was like I was watching the thoughts develop in my mind, as I watched helplessly… Just because having my hands on camera feels like attention on me to ME (my rules), it’s not necessarily THE RULES! People can enjoy God’s gift that He happened to give to me, like I enjoy watching as well as listening to nature sounds, and it doesn’t mean that it’s about me. My very attempt at humility was inching toward vanity, not quite getting to this thought, but getting close: “I know better than these people; they should be preparing their hearts to hear God’s word, not admiring me!” (Makes me shudder to write those words.)
So– Auntie Em swallowed her pride once again, and told the cameraman to go ahead and shoot the hands if he wanted to. Even though it still makes me uncomfortable. After all, it’s not all about me!