Speechless in the face of Grace

Kawai piano goodBesides being the artistic director of a faith-based theater company, I am a piano teacher. I started teaching piano when I was 18 years old, and with the exception of a couple of breaks (my last two years of college, and between the births of son #1 and son #2) I’ve been teaching ever since.

The annual Spring recital, right after Memorial Day, has been a tradition for my students for over twenty years. It’s the night when we celebrate their progress and their accomplishments. They play their most difficult pieces. I mention awards they’ve won. We showcase any graduating seniors.

It’s NOT a night about me.

Except that this past Tuesday, my piano families decided that it was. 

I’m not going to go into the reasons they gave for wanting to surprise me as they did.  But what they did, at the end of the recital as I was inviting everyone into an adjoining room for a little reception (also a tradition), came as a complete shock to me.

In fact I was so stunned, I was speechless…which they will all gladly tell you never happens to me (or to my brother, JTR, for that matter).  What these dear folks did that night was first to present me with a gift certificate to a local music store (which happens to have a great international reputation). That was stunning in itself.

But then they carried this into the room, and set it down in front of me:


(It’s a very nice digital keyboard, 88 keys, fully weighted, with MIDI capability and all kinds of neat sampled sounds…a wonderful and long-desired addition to my studio. I’ve been looking longingly at these for several years now.)

I still replay that moment in my mind, and I can’t remember any really coherent thoughts. I wish I had been poised and gracious. I wish I’d wept a little and hugged them all (again) and opened the wrapping paper right there, to admire the box. But I didn’t.

What did I do?  I fled. I said I needed to go and get the drinks for the reception, and I left the room, walked down the hall to the kitchen, and then I just stood there.

I SO don’t deserve this.   That’s all I could think of, over and over.

Later I took the above photo at home and posted it on Facebook with the caption, “This is what grace looks like.”


As I think about it now, it’s not so much that the gift looks like that–it’s that the reaction should look like that.

Imagine this scene: you are on death row, deservedly, and you know you have only days or weeks to live. Nothing can save you, and you are just marking time now until the end. Suddenly you are informed that someone else is going to take your place in the chair, and you can go free–your loving family is waiting with open arms to welcome you home to a new life.

Do you think you’d calmly and graciously thank the person for their sacrifice? Sit with them and chat while the injection takes effect?


You’d collapse on the floor. You’d sob. Or you’d sit and stare, unable to comprehend it all right away.  But I don’t deserve this… you’d mutter, over and over again.

jesus nail pierced hand

That’s what grace looks like, friend. I’m grateful for the reminder of just how unworthy I am.

“But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

(Ephesians 2:4-5, NIV)



8 responses to “Speechless in the face of Grace

  1. “Everything is grace because everything is God’s gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events, to the heart that loves, all is well.” (St. Therese of Lisieux) What a wonderful gift from God through your students and their families 🙂 I know that you will use the keyboard to make beautiful music as your gift in return.

  2. GBL, something very similar happened to me this week, thank you for helping me put it into perspective.

  3. livinrightinpgh

    Our Pastor was speaking about “grace” and “mercy”, and put it into perspective for me in a way I hadn’t seen it before: Grace is receiving what we do not deserve, while Mercy is NOT receiving that which we DO deserve.

    I think it’s beautiful that your students showed such wonderful appreciation. CLEARLY, they’ve gained a LOT more than just learning to read and play notes on a piano. YOU have given them a LOVE of music.

  4. How exquisite. How overflowing their love and affection for you! What a tremendous blessing. a tangible expression of grace for you but also of gratitude given.

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