The Gospel and the Piano Recital

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. That’s what I was expecting.

I got Twinkle, Twinkle, but I got a whole lot more. We took the 3 kids to a piano recital this week featuring two of our young friends. They were fantastic. They each played some 20 pieces of short music from memory, including a jazzy rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. This one, though, used both hands and all kinds of flourishes.

Here’s the thing, though. Joshua, our 6 year old, also started taking Omaha Piano Lessons this year too. He is good friends with one of the kids playing at the recital and knows the other one pretty well, too. They are older than Joshua and have been taking piano longer than he has. And they study in a different method than Joshua does – one that emphasizes playing by ear before learning to read sheet music. And as I sat there listening to their fantastic performances, I had some moments of insecurity:

I hope Joshua doesn’t get nervous about his own recital that’s in a couple of weeks.

These kids are awesome and Joshua isn’t to their level yet.

Is he going to think he’s awful at piano after hearing them play?

Here’s the amazing thing, though: It did not even occur to our son – not even once – to compare himself to the boys on the stage. He sat there and bobbed his head to the music and then vigorously applauded after each number. At one point, he leaned up to me and whispered with a huge smile on his face, “They’re playing with both hands!”

Astounding. Where is the jealousy? Where is the self-loathing? Where is the insecurity? Nowhere to be found. Instead, there was the simple innocence of being genuinely happy for another without comparing yourself to them.

That’s what the gospel is taking us to, and another way that following Jesus both requires us to be and makes us more like children. Joshua has not yet grown up enough to know that you have to compare yourself to everyone around you. That’s how you measure your value in society – first you’re the fastest runner. Then you are the prettiest girl. Then you have the best car. Then you go to the best school. Then you have the highest paying job and the nicest house. Then you have the most obedient children, and thus the cycle begins again.

But the gospel breaks that cycle of constant comparison.

It breaks that cycle by reminding us first of all that there is no best. There is no best because there is no good. Not even one. The ground is like quicksand at the foot of the cross; try as we might to climb up and over our fellows at the base we find ourselves slipping back to the same level as everyone else. Compare if you like – but it’s like comparing one unwearable and stained garment to another.

But then the gospel breaks the cycle again by taking all those who believe and establishing them again on equal footing as the beloved children of God. In His house, there is no comparison either, because all are perfectly loved. Perfectly accepted. And perfectly righteous. That’s where the gospel is taking us.

It’s taking us to the land of children’s piano recitals and congratulatory words from friends. To the place of security and genuine well wishes. To the realm of real love and grace.

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