Pianists revel in complexity. At concerts, my family maneuvers to have the clearest view of the pianist’s fingers. We love watching the pianist roll his fingers through a run or pound the chords so rapidly that his hand is a blur of dramatic flair. The more complicated the attempt, the more entertainment and awe for us.
I, however, have no dramatic flair. Since my training on the piano was sporadic and my consistency in practicing has always been rather—inconsistent, my fingers hesitate on the runs and fumble with the chords. I have a few practiced hymns that I can play when my mom misses church for sickness or a trip. But when I try for a run of octaves on “The Solid Rock,” there’s a chance that the congregation will sing at least one chorus a cappella.
“Trust and Obey” is another problem. Rolling out a simple run in the bass clef isn’t so hard, but when I attempt some rousing chording, my stiff fingers struggle to strike the right keys.
After one morning service where I stumbled through the chords on “Trust and Obey,” our song leader, Brother Griggs, approached me. “You know, Carmen, you don’t have to add all of those fancy chords. Sometimes it’s best to just play the notes.”
So much for no one mentioning my ineptitude. But Brother Griggs’s admonition prompted me to reevaluate my approach to performance.
To me, complexity equals accomplishment, which brings praise. I grapple with the complexity of the English language at work, get angry when someone underestimates the complexity of my lesson planning, and insist on making the most complex props for church campaigns. But I have to ask myself why I strive for complexity, and I have to admit that complexity might just feed my pride.
There’s nothing wrong with striving for excellence, but we do have to check our motivations. If our goal is to honor the Lord with our work, complexity can be a way to honor Him, for His creation testifies to His intricate and complex designs. But the Lord cares more about the humility of our hearts than our outward performance. Micah proclaims, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8) The Lord doesn’t require fancy performances. He simply wants us to walk with Him—to give Him glory with our hearts as well as with our hands.
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When I play for church now, I try to be satisfied with simple runs and chording. Although I fiddle with the complex movements in the privacy of my home, I’ve realize that humble service is what God delights to use.
It’s as simple as that.