Essay / Theology

Playing Piano with Jane

John Mark Reynolds, 2005.

Today I was working on a book project while my daughter Jane had her piano lesson. She decided to fool Dad by announcing that she was going to play a song for me. What followed was no longer “Lightly Row” or “Twinkle” or any other piece with which beginners delight parents. I heard a lovely piece that may have been a bit of Bach, but was certainly the best noise our piano had made in days. Of course, her clever piano teacher, Sarah, was playing. When Jane asked me what I thought of “her” playing, I went along with the game and pretended to be astounded with her improvement. This caused Jane to laugh very hard with all the superiority of youth and point out that it was really “her teacher” playing. Silly Daddy.

However, when I commented that Sarah was very good at playing the piano, Jane became serious and informed me that the piece was a duet. She too had been playing and should receive her due share of credit for the lovely sound produced. Her one note, after all, played at the right time, periodically and correctly, was part of the music. I must give her proper praise and so I did since for a seven year old in her first year she had indeed done splendidly. We laughed together and Jane went off without a further thought to the rest of her lesson.

But Daddy knew that Jane had once again taught him something important about life and ministry. He laughed with her, thought some, and then laughed out loud again.What did I think? God allows us to play in His universe. He keeps the whole thing going, he undergirds every note we play. He lets us play a note or two, since we wish it, and He is a good Father. He lets us grow up slowly, increasing our role, which is never very great. If we saw what even a President or a great thinker actually does (compared to what God is doing), we would laugh out loud.

When a great disaster strikes human beings, we are tempted to blame God. We never think that perhaps governments that refuse to heed warnings or take precautions are to blame. We never think that in a free will universe people take risks, little and great, and receive the due reward or penalty for those risks. When things go wrong, it is an act of God, since He is big enough to take the blame and not strike us down for our folly. The bad notes are all the Teachers and the Good Teacher takes the blame with a sad smile.

However, when the praise begins for a thing done right or a happy state of affairs, God often vanishes. Humans often feel absurdly pleased with themselves for arranging a sun-shine day for the party. How clever of them! Even with the token tip of the hat to the Big Man Upstairs, we are happy enough to take prizes and awards for things for which God does most of the important work. We use the bodies He made to win games and award ourselves great praise. We use the minds He made to develop Big Ideas (small to Him) and give ourselves degrees for them. We are all absurd in that sense.

Oddly, God does not care. He knows we are but seven (in the grand scheme of things) even folk who seem wise to us, like Plato. He enjoys our taking credit for a little note He lets us play. He is willing to shoulder the blame for human sin and the consequences. He is not indifferent, that is a slander. No, instead He loves us. As I play my one note today, very small in the Great Music, it is o.k. to feel happy with what I am doing. My place is secure, because Abba Father (Daddy, if I remember my Bible well) delights in my joy.

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