First Performance

I was keyed up that night.  My mother, sister, and I were going to our Christmas Cookie Exchange at church.  We had gone the year before, so I knew what to expect: we would chat for awhile, then sing some songs and have some special music, someone would speak for a little bit, and then we would chat some more and exchange our cookies, eating some meanwhile.  Nothing colossal.

Except that I was playing one of the specials.

Even that would not have been very exciting if I were used to it, but I had never played in public before.  Playing for my family was no big deal, and for close friends was fun because they enjoyed it so much and did not mind the mistakes.  But what if I made a big mistake in front of all the ladies in my church and all my girl friends?

My memory of the church that night is dim because I was so focused on my task.  I remember better the hazy feeling I had, barely aware of the people around me.  The music of my piece was running through my mind and my fingers, and almost before I knew it, it was time to play.  My hands were cold as I sat down on the hard piano bench.  I spread my music out, put my fingers on the keys, and realized that I could not remember the first note.  For a moment, the page in front of me was blank.

I took a deep breath and looked at the page again.  The notes looked familiar, the keys beneath my fingers began to feel like any other piano keys, and I started playing.  My leg was shaking, but I managed to control the sustain pedal despite the tremors.  All my focus was useful now.  I forgot about everything but the song in front of me.

The applause was moderate when I finished, but I was relieved that it was over and excited that I had actually done it.  A funny pair of emotions to be feeling at the same time, but oh well.  When you have just finished your first performance, that combination is understandable.

My friends made a point to say how much they had enjoyed my playing.  One in particular had noticed that I had “aced” the piece, meaning that I had not made any mistakes.  We laughed because I was acting more nervous after the fact than before – my hands were shaking!  All the nerves and muscles which I had tensed prior to the performance were now loose.  It is a reaction I still have, and I have had to find ways to stay more relaxed.

I have played for specials, offertories, and even Sunday services many times since then.  I still get nervous, and I still sometimes come to my seat with my muscles twitching or shaking, but sometimes I do not.  I am comfortable with performing now.  I have also realized over the years that playing for an audience is not satisfying, only nerve-wracking.  Instead, I now play for one person, Jesus Christ.

He does not mind when I make a mistake, rather, he cares about my heart as I am playing.  When I do my best for him, it does not matter anymore who is listening.  God can use my playing to bless those who hear with an open heart.  And my own heart will bless and be blessed by God.

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