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Piano Student

If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come—one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? Hebrews 7:11

In my short elementary school piano playing career, I was not exactly what you would call a “good” student, if by good student you mean someone who practices diligently and regularly and then plays their recital piece flawlessly. No, practicing wasn’t all that much fun because I just wanted to play grand concert pieces perfectly without all those awkward mess-ups and tedious struggles. I had no appreciation for the process of moving from Hot Cross Buns to Beethoven nor did I have any comfort level with being mediocre at best. So, eventually, I quit taking piano lessons.

We had dinner with some friends this weekend who described some of the reactions they have received to news that they have just decided to adopt two children from a really rough situation in Uganda. A common one that we also have heard is, “Isn’t that just perpetuating the arrogant white American image, swooping in to other countries’ business?” Well, yes, maybe it is. But it makes you want to ask, “Would it be better, then, just to leave those children on the street? in a brothel? send them directly to the Lord’s Resistance Army as young recruits for savage tribal conflict?” It makes me wonder if its worse to appear arrogant or to do nothing?

But something more was stirred in my heart – I want to follow God’s particular call in my life with the same approach I had to piano lessons: I want everyone to cheer me on, to see nothing buy purity and nobility in my motives, to find nothing but commendable, righteous and praiseworthy choices in how I live out the calling He has given me. If a clear and obvious inconsistency or contradiction is pointed out, if my methods are found wanting or to expose my ignorance, short sightedness, arrogance or otherwise flawed performance, I would almost rather quit than climb back on that piano bench and keep plinking away at the process.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” Mark 10:18

God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one. Psalm 53:2-3

I want to be seen as “good”, as one in whom God looks down and sees understanding and a genuine, pure, faithfully devoted seeker of Him. But the only One who is Good is God alone, lived out fully in the person and work of Jesus. His motives have been and are always pure, His methods always righteous and admirable, His efforts always effective and productive and His performance is always due honor and glory and praise. And here is a startling thing – I am not Beethoven and am even more not Jesus. When my imperfect motives and my flawed words and actions are exposed, I don’t have to be so startled or discouraged by that reality. Of course I am not Jesus, which is why I need Him!

I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col. 1:25-29

I work because He already has, is and is the One who will complete it. I struggle with all HIS energy which is at work in me. It is Christ in me that is my hope, not my own perfections or praiseworthiness. I am invited into His redemptive work not as the perfect Redeemer but because even as I do things arrogantly or ignorantly, He is redeeming me in the process just as much as the circumstance into which He has called me.

This means I can be part of adoption, without dismissing the complex and legitimate critiques and concerns. I can move into a neighborhood where I am a minority, knowing I will say the wrong the thing and do the wrong thing more than once along the way. My choice is no longer to be perfect by my own striving and above reproach in the eyes of men or abandon the calling altogether. I can keep plinking away at the piano, awkward mess-ups and neglected notes and all, because this process is guaranteed to bring about not just a great musician, but Christ in me, the hope of glory. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Col. 3:23-24

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