She came to me in tears, obviously distraught. Uh-oh, I thought. She’s injured herself. She’s sick. She can’t play.
“I’ve been practicing “We Three Kings” and I thought it would be OK,” she said, fat tears still rolling down her face. “But now I can’t get through it. I won’t be able to play it this morning.”
She looked at me as if she expected an executioner’s judgment. My thoughts raced: Really, honey? For an informal mid-year piano recital in the home of friends? This is not anywhere near the apocalypse you think it is.
I tried my best to reassure her that it was no big deal. After all, she (my most advanced student, by far the best musician of them all) had a three-movement sonatina prepared, and an original composition. The loss of a seasonal piece was really not earth-shattering.
But a few minutes later, after she returned from splashing her face, I could see her talking to others and she was still visibly upset and unhappy. I was inclined to mentally roll my eyes over her angst…until I saw that a church friend, a musical peer, had come to listen to my students. Suddenly, I was praying that they would be at their best, and that I would be able to get through my short introductory piece.
True confession: I am quite comfortable speaking in front of the largest group you can gather. Acting? No problem. Singing? Harder, but do-able, as I’ve proven. Playing the piano? Agony. Torture. To Be Avoided.
So of course I have to force myself to show solidarity with my students by preparing a memorized piece to play at our recitals. I’d feel every inch the hypocrite otherwise. But no matter how many times I play, it is a nerve-wracking experience.
So. My students and I all played. Nobody fell apart. Everyone got through their (in some cases multiple) memorized pieces just fine. Not anyone’s best performance, compared to what I hear at lessons, but quite acceptable. So what were we so worried about?
It occurred to me afterwards that we should spend more time praying to be as concerned about pleasing God as we are about impressing people. It’s not a bad thing for my students to want to play their best, to impress their family and friends, to please me and win my praise. It’s not wrong for me to want to play my best, especially because my performance is unavoidably (if not completely logically) linked to evaluation of my teaching ability.
But do we obsess about this? What would our lives look like, if disappointing our heavenly Father reduced us to tears of distress like my little student’s emotion over not having a piece ready to play?