26902_000_020I had stopped taking piano lessons in ninth grade because audiences terrified me. How was I going to handle this calling?
“You want me to do what?” I asked my bishop, hoping he had confused me with someone else.
“We really need someone to play the piano for the ward choir,” he explained. I hesitated for a moment but remembered my vow to never turn down a calling. “Sure, I’ll do it,” I said, instantly feeling anxious.
I had stopped taking piano lessons in the ninth grade because playing for an audience terrified me. I would agonize for weeks before a recital, hardly sleeping as the dreaded day drew near. Thankfully, I had parents who were always proud of me no matter how I played. But the choir and the ward were not my parents. How was I going to handle playing in front of them?
With sweaty palms I showed up to my first choir practice. Sister Lehr, the choir director, smiled and announced that the choir finally had a pianist; now she could lead the choir instead of conducting and playing the piano at the same time. Luckily, the choir sang one part at a time in the beginning. “I can handle this,” I thought thankfully as I played. Later, however, Sister Lehr decided it was time to try the music with the accompaniment. I sheepishly attempted to keep up. Sister Lehr subtly tapped her foot to help me with the timing. I stumbled over the tricky notes and completely skipped the hardest parts by pretending to lose my place.
When choir practice ended, I made my escape out the door and avoided looking anyone in the eye. I had never noticed the choir pianist in all of my years of attending sacrament meeting, but now that I was the pianist, I was certain everyone would notice me and my mistakes.
Despite my trepidation, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to develop my talent. I thought if I tried hard enough, Heavenly Father would make up for my lack of skill. The next few weeks I practiced for hours. I played each note one at a time, gradually putting them together, then slowly speeding up to the appropriate tempo. I still made several mistakes, but I was becoming more confident.
At the next practice, I took a deep breath and wiped my sweaty palms on my dress. As I started playing, my heart raced. Soon my hands slipped onto the wrong keys as I blundered through the song. My eyes blurred with tears as I stopped to replay the same measure numerous times. After practice, choir members graciously thanked me for playing and told me I was “really improving.”
I continued to practice whenever I could. Much to my surprise, I started looking forward to seeing my new choir friends, and I appreciated their subtle encouragement. Unfortunately, their kindness didn’t make my sweaty palms disappear or make the song easier to play.
I knew that the Lord qualifies those He calls. So why wasn’t Heavenly Father helping me play flawlessly for the choir? I was, after all, practicing and trying my best.
Our Sunday performance came sooner than I was ready for. My childhood fear returned. I hardly slept Saturday night and agonized all Sunday morning. Sister Lehr winked at me encouragingly as I walked up to the stand to play. One of the choir members gave me the “thumbs up” sign. This was it.
The introduction was flawless. I smiled. I continued keeping time and playing the correct notes. I stumbled through a few tough measures but continued without stopping. I made it to the last line. I proudly played the last chord—then grimaced when I realized I had played the wrong notes.
Instead of feeling upset, I felt my Heavenly Father’s love envelop me. I realized I wasn’t really playing for the people in the ward. I was playing for my Heavenly Father. Even if I wasn’t in perfect harmony with the choir, I was in tune with Him. I knew this was the calling He wanted me to have and that these experiences were teaching me eternal principles. I didn’t have to play perfectly in order for Him to know my willingness to serve.
A few weeks later, the bishop stopped by for a visit. “You seem to enjoy your calling in the choir, so we’d like you to start playing the organ in sacrament meeting too,” he said. My reply: “I would love to!”
Even a Small Gift Can Bless Many
“It has been said that this church does not necessarily attract great people but more often makes ordinary people great. Many … people with gifts equal only to five loaves and two small fishes magnify their callings and serve without attention or recognition, feeding literally thousands.” President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, “Five Loaves and Two Fishes,” Ensign, May 1994, 4.
Helps for Home Evening
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.
Write on slips of paper different callings in the Church. Pass them out and ask family members how they would feel to receive that calling. Relate the story of Sister Moody and challenge family members to make the commitment to magnify the callings they may be given.