At the Keyboard

My seven-year-old niece is learning to play the piano, and I am her teacher.

The first few lessons were all uphill, until she discovered that what she thought was an imposition could instead be a challenge. Now I watch her face for the expression that means she’s found the live wire, the current: she’s caught hold of something she wants to know, and is riding that wave until she learns to crest it. She looks up, triumphant, waits for her high five.

My job is not to impress things on her mind, but to steer her in the right direction and let her natural tendencies take over. When I see frustration on her face, I ask if she wants to try something else. For her part, she can gratefully accept the offer, trusting that I’ll turn her towards something else that is good for her to know; or she can decide to be stubborn, hammer out the same five notes over and over, letting her frustration fuel her desire to conquer, pounding the pattern into her own brain by force of will.

Either way works, and the way that works best is the way she chooses.

Occasionally her will has to be overridden. There is something she doesn’t understand, and doesn’t understand that she doesn’t understand. It looks hateful and petty and pointless and senseless, but I will insist (though she thrash and whine) that she learn the difference between a quarter and a half note, because if she doesn’t then the next thing won’t make any sense.

If I, who am evil, know how to teach my niece Twinkle Twinkle, how much more does God the Father know how to teach me to sing with the angels? And I will thrash and I will whine, and sometimes I will thank him and sometimes I will blow raspberries at him.

He doesn’t mind, because he knows I am only seven.

16 Comments on “At the Keyboard”

  1. Thomas D says:

    A very good parable, sir!

  2. Colm says:

    Beautiful post, Steve.

  3. Susan says:


  4. Brother Snark says:

    I love this! Well put.

  5. MiriSyl says:

    Sometimes, I feel like i have been 7 years old for a very long time…

  6. mikell says:

    I feel like a piano no one is allowed to play.

  7. Pandora says:

    Your first post that has ever bought a lump to my throat. Thank you. I needed this.

  8. momofthree says:

    Just what I needed.

  9. Faith says:

    Mikell, God is playing a glorious sonata that is YOU!

  10. Believer says:

    Beautiful post! You’re so right; God the Father doesn’t give us challenges or rules to be mean, he does so that we can learn how to do things the right way.

    God bless you always!


  11. mikell says:

    Faith I’m not worthy of a Sonata, maybe I’ll just get ONE NOTE and that’s enough.

  12. Mark from PA says:

    Mikell, don’t be so down on yourself, honey. You are lovable, God doesn’t make junk.

  13. Cletus says:

    Steve, why do you call yourself evil?

    1. Cletus, that was an indirect quote of Matthew 7:11 — “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

  14. Cletus says:

    Ah, thank you. Now I at least understand the reference but I’m still not sure you ever came, or come, close to fitting in that bucket. Sinner (as we all are) maybe. Evil, no.

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