Excerpt: The Christian Musician

An Essay By Kyleigh // 4/14/2015

My oboe playing is not where I would like it to be. I am struggling to write a melody I like. After two months of the same stuff, my aural skills are barely improved. My reed making skills are naught to speak of. I am reminded of times I could have done more, or could have done better. I wonder if anything I do will have lasting impact, or if anything sets me apart from everyone else I see that plays so well or writes so beautifully.
>>> Teddy Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It is discouraging to hold up the standard you have set for yourself or the place that others are at and find you do not measure up. There will always be people better than you, and even when you cannot find them, there will always be ways you can be improving your skills. Francis Schaeffer said, “If I demand perfection from myself, I will destroy myself.” In this world of sin, we cannot expect faultless performances, though we strive for them. <<<
However, I have found that the sighs of frustration, from comparison with others or with the standard of where you want to be, can be taken two ways. I can despair and become complacent, or I can let it be a challenge to push on even further.
While I was at Csehy Summer School of Music in 2013, I watched the teachers carefully. I watched as they did not always play things perfectly, and watched them leave it behind, pressing on toward the goal. It is easy to dwell on failure – like the conversation I should have had or the side ache I did not run through or the recital that my reed went berserk for and even though I fought it like never before it was still wild.
I was particularly discouraged by the recital for a long while. I still wish I could go back and re-do it with a reed I was given that evening. But it is the past, and this is now. I was challenged to move on by Paul’s words in Philippians, speaking of attaining the resurrection from the dead:
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-14).
Forgetting the wobbly reed we must strain forward, to continue further on to perfection. I speak of it as applied to music, but Paul wrote it about striving for righteousness, which is far more important than musical perfection.
That puts music into its right perspective, and yet it also spurs me on to pursue everything I pursue with even more vigor. And yet, in the long run, while I enjoy studying and love the challenge of “excelsior!” with music and running in particular, that’s not what’s most important. And it’s not what makes my friends love me or want to be with me or keep my friendship. Our love is much deeper than that. We are united in Christ, and this should be what takes first place in our strivings, pressing on for the goal of righteousness. Life is not a competition. We are all called to different things, so while we may want to be better at something, it may not be our path, because ours is a different one, better for us even if we cannot see it then.
If we make other things our identity, then one day when those things are taken away by illness, age, life circumstances, or anything else, life comes crumbling down. First of all, we are His. Our relationship to Him, not how we fare musically, should be where we place our worth. It is a difficult balance to find as we strive to be the best we can be with the gifts He has given us and yet not hold them too dearly. >>> need a connector <<<

We will never attain it on earth – neither the righteousness nor the musical perfection. But through the death and resurrection of Christ, we are even now righteous before God, and will one day be totally free of sin. Our worth in Him is not in what we can do, but in our being His. He, not our abilities, determines our worth.

Comments

I have no criticism, as I

I have no criticism, as I have zero experience in writing essays, but I will say that I found it very encouraging.
Thank you for posting this!

Damaris Ann | Tue, 04/14/2015

"It is the small temptations which undermine integrity unless we watch and pray and never think them too trivial to be resisted."
-Luisa May Alcott

I wonder if anything I do

I wonder if anything I do will have lasting impact, or if anything sets me apart from everyone else I see that plays so well or writes so beautifully.

Ugh, isn't this the blunt truth. This had some really standout parts, Kyleigh, and I really liked it. At times, it's tempting to say, "Oh, I know there are a million people who play better than me!" and then just, as you said, resign to complacency. Honestly, I've been doing that in my piano playing. I played a wedding last year, and that was a challenge. I'm a cripplingly slow note reader, so I easily spent a month just working on one song. But the other day I pulled out some old piano books and sat down and played through a couple of songs, just for a little bit.

This is definitely motivating, your essay. It's made me think about the way I've been going about playing piano. After reading this, I definitely think I want to revisit playing some classical pieces and doing theory again. So thank you for that! You've spurred me into wanting to work harder this morning! (AND it's only 7:56 a.m. Haha!)

As for your connector, I think you need to introduce the concept of never attaining it on earth tentatively, without elaboration. Maybe, "It is a difficult balance to find as we strive to be the best we can be with the gifts He has given us and yet not hold them too dearly, because they truly do not take precedence in His eyes on earth."

Is that terrible? LOL. Just a suggestion! But something along those lines would make a good bridge. And then, obviously, my version gives you the issue of repeating words.

"Comparison is the thief of joy," Teddy Roosevelt said, [insert your commentary on this quote]. It is discouraging to hold up the standard you have set for yourself or the place that others are at and find you do not measure up. There will always be people better than you, and even when you cannot find them, there will always be ways you can improve your skills. [I find that slightly more concise than the previous wording--just a slight change, but it cleans it up, since there is a lot to digest here.] Francis Schaeffer said, “If I demand perfection from myself, I will destroy myself.” [Again, I think this needs some sort of commentary from you to bridge between this and your next statement]. In this world of sin, we cannot expect faultless performances, though we strive for them.

Thanks for sharing this, Kyleigh! It's a great encouragement! :)

Madeline | Wed, 04/15/2015

everything was better when/you would call and I'd be like/yeah babe, no way

Edit #1

First section edited:
“Comparison is the thief of joy,” are words attributed to American President Theodore Roosevelt. I cannot find the background of his statement, but do not need to know the context in order to understand what he means. I have seen it in my own life: comparing myself to others has often caused me to be downtrodden in my study of music.
Even as I write now, my oboe playing is not where I would like it to be. I am struggling to compose a melody I like. After two months of the same drills, my aural skills are barely improved. My reed making abilities are naught to speak of. I am reminded of times I could have done more, or could have done better, but did not. I wonder if anything I do will have lasting impact, or if anything sets me apart from everyone else I see that plays so well or writes so beautifully.
It is discouraging to hold up the standard you have set for yourself or the place that others are at and find you do not measure up. However, we cannot just brush it aside, for it will only happen again. There will always be people better than you, and even when you cannot find them, there will always be ways you can improve your skills. As musicians, we strive to play every note in tune, every rhythm precisely, and every melody with flawless phrasing. But we live in a fallen world where nothing is perfect. We cannot attain faultless performances, no matter how hard we work for them. This is what caused Francis Schaeffer to say, “If I demand perfection from myself, I will destroy myself.” He knew that expecting our lives and music to be free of mistakes would cause frustration that could lead to further disappointment and even depression.

However, I have found that the sighs of hopelessness, whether from comparison with others or the standard of where you want to be, can be taken two ways. I can despair and become complacent, or I can let it be a challenge to push on even further.

---
Thoughts?

Kyleigh | Tue, 04/21/2015

Edit #2

If we make other things our identity, then one day when those things are taken away by illness, age, life circumstances, or anything else, life comes crumbling down. First of all, we are His. Our relationship to Him, not how we fare musically, should be where we place our worth. It is a difficult balance to find as we strive to be the best we can be with the gifts He has given us and yet not hold them too dearly, because our use of His gifts is not what grants us His love and acceptance. The way God views us is not wrapped up in our performances, musical, moral, or anything else, but in the righteousness of Christ.
Because Jesus paid the price for our sins, our worth in Him is not in what we can do, but in our being His. He, not our abilities, determines our worth, and this is why we can strive for excellence without despairing when we fall short.

We will never attain it on earth – neither the righteousness nor the musical perfection, but we’ll still have music in heaven. And in heaven, there will be perfect intonation, perfect harmony, perfect understanding of music.

Kyleigh | Tue, 04/21/2015

:)

I don't have criticism, either, just to say that this has been something I've been thinking about lately, and I found your essay really echoing my own recent thoughts. When I tie my identity up too much in one thing (like writing) and then writer's block lasts a month or more, my life can come crashing down. I have to remember that my value lies elsewhere. Thank you!!

Sarah Bethany | Wed, 04/22/2015

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