Excerpt: The Christian Musician
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.