For over two years I served as “the piano player” at my church, a very traditional Presbyterian Church, meaning that most Sunday’s is was just me playing. This was an article written for our church newsletter during my second month as the piano player. This was a life-changing ah-ha moment!
When a musician sits down with a new piece of music they first look at the key signature, and second they look at the time notation. The theory goes, if you play in the right notes in the right key at the right time, then you should “get it right”. Pretty simple, right? But here is the thing, from where I sit at the piano there are distractions are all around me so what seems so simple becomes oh so hard!
The door opening and closing with people moving in and out of the sanctuary, acolytes moving light, ushers doing their job passing the offertory plates or distributing the elements of communion, people singing in a different key or rhythm, Reverend Tom moving around behind the pulpit, people talking, people blowing their noses…who knew there was so much happening in a church at any given moment!
Sometimes even the very thing I’m supporting, for example the choir, can be a distraction. While I need to stay aligned with them, at the same time I can’t allow myself to focus on their voices and their words too much because then I lose my place. It’s a delicate balance, I must be aware, but not lose focus; my role is different than theirs. My notes and my timing is different, so I need to be aware of them but my focus needs to be on my music.
Here’s the thing: focus is not something that comes easily to me. My natural state is all over the place, moving fast and bouncing from one thing to the next. Whether it’s cooking dinner, cleaning the house, or writing a paper, at some point, I will get the task done, but I’m more like a cyclone. I tend to circle around and around, each time picking up another piece to complete the task, but rarely is it a linear-straight line effort. This is a trait Robby noticed early in our marriage, so when I told him about my struggle to focus at the piano he immediately laughed and said, “go figure, the most easily distracted person is forced to focus”. Little did we know he was on to something big.
I believe God places us in situations to teach us something. So here I am, smack dab at the intersection of learning and focus, and it is so much more than just music. The lesson applies to my whole life! God placed me on this planet to do something only I can do. My notes, my timing. But how often am I distracted by all that is going on around me? How often do I get off my page and jump onto someone else’s page because it appears more inviting? More fun? Easier? More noticeable? More rewarding? Like a good opportunity?
This piano gig is teaching me to focus on focus, on the piano bench and in the rest of my life. It’s not easy and takes a lot of daily effort, but I am starting to see the positive outcomes, better music and better living. Thankfully I am not alone in this venture. When my focus starts to slip, when I choose to listen, I can hear God whisper, “focus, just play the notes on your page. I will give you the right note at the right time. Focus on Me, not the world. Don’t get ahead of Me. Together we will make beautiful music and a beautiful life.”
Ultimately my job is to be focused on God and be rooted in the perfect timing of God. My hope for you is that you find your perfect key and timing of God. Remember, just play the notes on your page.