Hope for the Out-of-Tune

Today, the Piano Tuner comes to tune the piano.

We have to be very quiet so he can listen.

I learn that the Piano Tuner makes minute adjustments to the tension of the piano strings. He’s listening for how the notes on my particular piano interact and tunes my piano based on its unique features.

The piano will not, on its own, stay in tune.  The whole instrument experiences continual stress from both internal and external sources.  Even slight changes in atmospheric pressure can undo my little piano within just a few weeks.   

So we call the Piano Tuner, and he sets the instrument right.

I listen, watching him work. “Is it hopeless?” I ask, embarrassed for how long it’s been.

“Not at all!” 

When he’s finished, he plays extraordinary music–warm, beautiful, rich, and resonant–that I didn’t realize could come from this piano.

There’s hope for the out-of-tune!  There’s hope for me yet!  

Lord, come and set me right today.  Make any adjustment you need; apply or undo any tension.  Let music flow out of me that’s tuned perfectly to your perfect ear. 

I know how quickly and how thoroughly I go out of tune (not just with my horrible singing voice!) in attitude, ambition, and action. I remember the great hymn and sing out:  “Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.”

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How does God tune the out-of-tune in you?

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A Very Public Failure for My Daughter

Yesterday, Barnes and Noble slates my daughter to perform a piano piece as part of a fundraiser for the Music Academy.  Neighbors come, cameras focus, and parents beam.

But when it is her turn to perform, my daughter bursts into tears and freezes.  She cannot even approach the piano.

Instead of forcing her onto the piano bench, we gather up her blue puffy coat and the sheet music in her red tote bag and travel home as fast as we can.  

She slumps into the house and says over and over again, “I couldn’t do it!”  She cries and falls onto the couch.  She writes apology notes to the neighbors and her piano teacher. 

And then something beautiful happens.  The neighbors send messages that they went to the event to support her, and it didn’t matter whether she performed or not.  She could turn away from a thousand stages, and they’d still come every time.  My daughter, not her performance, mattered. 

Her piano teacher calls to tell her that learning the piano isn’t about performance.  She tells my daughter that she can choose when, if, and why she wants to perform at all.  Learning the piano has intrinsic value as an end in itself.  The goal was never public applause, flashing camera bulbs, and bragging parents.

Nobody is disappointed. 

My daughter nods with understanding.  She wipes her face and remembers that she loves to make music.   And I remember the gospel truth with every comforting phone call:  it was never about performance.  God’s love and favor are never dependent on my good performances.  The sooner children learn this, the more they might relax into the freedom that comes with being unconditionally loved, accepted, and valued.

I ask my daughter for permission to tell her story.  She says, “Sure, Mom!”  It doesn’t bother her anymore.  She knows now that it’s never about performance.  And it isn’t a public failure after all. 

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Journal:  Am I tempted to believe my worth is in my performance?

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