The first time I ever played the piano in public was during the offertory at a Sunday night church service. I am completely convinced the church pianist must have greased those keys with butter just before I took the bench. My fingers slipped up one way and slid down the other. Despite all the weeks of practice, I am not sure if I correctly played a single note of my solo. To this day, I wonder if anyone in that sanctuary recognized I was playing the old spiritual Brethren We Have Met To Worship.
Believe it or not, my parents paid for a decade’s worth of piano lessons. The result? I can play most of the songs out of the Baptist Hymnal, but only as the notes are written and without any embellishments whatsoever. Though I am not a talented musician, I can play the piano decently.
Correction: I can play well just as long as no one but the Lord is listening.
The summer I was in the 7th grade, our church got a new youth pastor. I think he must have volunteered to take the youth to the local nursing home to lead a worship service. To this day, I am not sure how he knew I played the piano, but he asked me if I would play the piano for the service. Ever the people pleaser, I was unable to say no.
There were three hymns for me to play: Victory in Jesus, Onward Christian Soldiers, and Just As I Am. I don’t remember particularly enjoying being a part of the service, or feeling as if I had done anything to share God with those lonely, hurting people in the nursing home. I do remember being somewhat astonished people could sing to the music coming out of the piano as I played the hymns. And I remember the deep sigh of relief that came out of my mouth as the last note was played.
Not long after that, Mrs. Ellen, a lady from our church, approached me about playing piano on a regular basis for her Tuesday afternoon nursing home devotional. Still a profound people pleaser, I found myself agreeing to join her even though it was the last thing on earth that I wanted to do.
That’s how I came to be the nursing home pianist.
The “congregation” was about ten or twelve patients, most of whom were suffering from some sort of dementia or Alzheimer’s, though a blind man who played trumpet often came to the services and joined me in making music for others as they sang along. It was a rather odd sound, I’m sure. I continued to fumble my way around the keyboard on that old, out-of-tune piano. No one had a very good singing voice. And the motley crew of worshipers had about 5 songs on the regular playlist … the favorite of which was Victory in Jesus.
For four years, my entire high school career, I faithfully showed up at the nursing home every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 pm. I never once wanted to go. I would have quit in a heartbeat if I could have found the courage to just tell someone I wasn’t coming. But I didn’t. Instead, I continued to come and play. I didn’t feel called to the job or talented enough to be the one sitting before the piano bringing forth music. But, you know, I did feel wanted, and somehow I felt needed because I was doing something no one else was willing to do.
To this day, I can play Victory In Jesus without the hymnal to guide my fingers. Every time I hear those notes, I think back to the old nursing home in my tiny hometown and to the Tuesday afternoons I spent there playing the piano. My attitude wasn’t great. My piano skills weren’t any better than my attitude. And yet, God took that experience and blessed me for it.
I believe God loves it when His children voluntarily serve others. There are plenty of scriptures to back this point, beginning with “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Matthew) and “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7). But there are so many other places in the Bible with words encouraging the followers of Christ to be first in service to others.
This saying is trustworthy. I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed God might be careful to devote themselves to good works. These are good and profitable for everyone. ~Titus 3:8
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ~Galations 5:13
Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. ~1 John 3:18
V is for Victory in Jesus …
which reminds me to volunteer in service to others, even if I don’t feel talented, called, or have a desire to do the job which needs to be done.