I have finally come to terms with it: I am a recovering perfectionist. I never saw a problem with it in the past. After all, perfectionists do amazing work, right? We’re not the ones who just throw things together without any careful thought and effort and ride on a prayer hoping everything will turn out with only a couple of semi-major disasters. No, perfectionists get the job done and they do it right the first time – or not at all.
And therein lies the problem.
I’m not a perfectionist in every aspect of life but music is another story. It’s not that I’m completely bereft of musical talent. It’s just that daydreams and sunshine always seemed to get in the way of those 6-8 hours of daily practice that I knew good musicians surely had no trouble fulfilling. I decided to sit back and relegate myself to other areas where I knew I could shine with less concentrated effort.
Then God turned the tables.
After I had been involved in one ministry for most of my life – and loving it – I began to feel led into a different arena of service. I never fully understood the story of Jonah until I too decided it would be easiest to run from The Call. Doors began to open for me to improve my musical skills and for me to play for more events than ever before. And, like Jonah, I tried to get out of it.
If there was any indication that there might be a more qualified musician at the event, I started looking into that one-way ticket to Tarsus. Maybe people didn’t see the talent I had been given but they also couldn’t compare it to someone else’s. Maybe I couldn’t win but I was determined I wouldn’t lose.
My stormy night of realization came at a music conference. I found myself in a place surrounded by the crème de la crème of Pentecostal musicians. There were big names and little names alike – all with ranges that would make the Serengeti wildly jealous. I decided that, since musically I didn’t belong, I would do my best to blend in by looking the part on the outside.
It was my catch-phrase of the conference. I dressed the way it seemed the best musicians dressed and carried myself with the most sophisticated air I thought I could pull off – not snobby, you know, just sophisticated. “There’s a difference,” I repeatedly reminded myself. In the classes, I took notes with sophisticated posture and a sophisticated pen. I tried to revel in sophisticated elegance as I ate the hamburger provided to conference participants. And, most importantly, when the church services rolled around, I discovered the most sophisticated way to worship was to sit with graceful posture and to clap gently – not too rigorously since that most definitely would not be sophisticated – or to sit perfectly still and watch others in their more fervent praise.
After all, I was convinced I had to be sophisticated. Otherwise everyone would see me for the charlatan I was – an OK musician who could play in a small handful of keys and was just learning to throw in a seventh here and there to make the fast songs sound more jazzy.
The Still Small Voice tried to move me beyond mere sophistication but I would have none of it. I bottled up the tears that tried to escape as waves of worship saturated the overflowing tabernacle and I squelched the dance that tried to make those perfectly-shined stilettos tap. And I accomplished it. I looked the part.
Then a hush calmed the beat of the drum and heads bowed in reverence as a wave of silence ushered in the presence of the King. I sat trembling, suddenly painfully aware of the fact that, though my sophistication had been nearly perfect, my worship had been found wanting. The words that filled the room were in a foreign tongue but somehow I felt their weight even before the interpretation was issued:
“I have visited this place with my presence and you have not noticed. Where is your worship? Since when have you become so sophisticated that you can no longer bow at my altar? Give me your fragmented dreams; place them at the foot of my cross. I never asked for your perfection. All I have ever required of you is your brokenness.”
Unsophisticated tears flowed in precious harmony with the sobs that racked my ruined posture as I obediently knelt to offer up each fragment of my imperfect talent to the Master Conductor. From that moment on, I made Him the promise that my offering – my sacrificial worship – would be just that: my many imperfections.
It has been a several years since that thoroughly unsophisticated evening. I have made countless mistakes, musically and otherwise. Still, though the perfectionist in me often criticizes, He sees only the melody of my offering, never the sour notes.
No matter how insignificant your talent may seem to you, offer it to Him. He desires only your willingness. He specializes in molding broken pieces into priceless works of art. On my own I played notes on a piano. When I surrendered my perfection, for the first time in my life, together the King and I composed a symphony of praise.
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 edition of the Texico Harvester.