Saturday, December 12, 2009

No Good Thing Will He Withhold


When I was in high school, I was not yet born again, but I was desperately looking for meaning. Much of my alone time was spent trying to find the one true God (and praying that He actually existed). In my junior and senior years, I sacrificed many, many things that were very precious to me, because I wanted to show God that I desired Him more than all those things combined. I thought that doing this would be a good way to get His attention, and that perhaps as a result, He would consider revealing Himself to me.

One of the things I gave up was the French Horn. I was an extremely talented horn player. I played the horn from fifth grade all the way through my senior year of high school. Not only that, I was the section leader for all those years. I was good - but I am convinced that the main reason I was able to excel was not because I worked hard at it, or because I wanted admiration from my peers. I was good at it because deep down, I truly, truly loved the horn.

1992

The French horn has the reputation of being the most difficult orchestral instrument to master. I don't know if that is true or not, but the instrument's reputation certainly helped to boost my own reputation. It's one thing to be good at an instrument. It's quite another to be good at an instrument that is rumored to be the hardest known to man. By the time I reached tenth grade, my "legend" had already begun. Still among the underclassmen, my band director made it clear to everyone that I was a force to be reckoned with, a person whom all should strive to emulate. By senior year, the attention I was getting upset me a great deal. I had to make some decisions as far as what I wanted to do with my life. Truly, I didn't know what that was. I did know that I loved the horn, but I did not want to live the rest of my life high on a pedestal. It made me feel guilty to take credit for that glory. I never asked to be talented. I knew that my talent came from somewhere outside myself, and due to the extreme measures I was taking not to anger this God that I was searching for, I knew I could not earn a living as a professional musician. To me, that was prostitution, and I wouldn't do it. (I went to college to study Theatre instead, which I also quit later on for similar reasons.)
2009

In August, I put aside this blog for a while to concentrate more on what God wanted to say to me, rather than what I wanted to say to my readers. During this time, God revealed to me many latent sins which reside in my heart, but He also gave me a bizarre command: "You need to play again." I am always obedient to the voice of the Lord, but I do an awful lot of complaining about it. My immediate response was, "Father, you have got to be kidding me. I can't! Think of all the painful memories of what I used to be! Think of all the ugly, horrible, self-glorification that is involved with that! I can't do it. I just can't!" But He simply said, "Trust me."

So I rented a horn from a not-so-local music shop (I had to drive an hour and a half just to get one) and I started the work of getting back into shape. I felt like an idiot. Where the heck was I supposed to play? I didn't know anyone in the music community in Central Florida. Even if I was still in New York, it had been seventeen years since I was involved with the music community there. I was lost, and so I emailed my worship pastor for advice. All he wrote back was, "That is VERY interesting."

As it turns out, my church was planning on staging our first ever musical production for Christmas. The worship pastor was in search of musicians for the orchestra. With only 90 days to prepare, I was assigned the 2nd horn part. We had two rehearsals. TWO. I thought certainly this was going to be a nightmare, but miraculously on our first rehearsal, it all came back to me as if I never stopped playing. Last night was our closing performance, and all I can say is that it was glorious! One person after another approached me and said, "Wow, Jen! I didn't know you could play!" They were amazed. Years ago, this sort of attention would have made me uncomfortable, but this time, I was easily able to redirect the attention back where it belongs: "Yes, I haven't played in 17 years, but praise God, now I am going to play for Him!" I whispered a quick prayer of contrition, asking God to forgive me for thinking this was an idiotic thing for me to do, when my senior pastor approached me and said, "I absolutely love the French Horn. Maybe you can play on the worship team." I couldn't believe this was happening! Of course I want to play on the worship team. This is the whole reason I've been given this gift! It seems too good to be true, but I have once again fallen in love with this beautiful, beautiful instrument, and I don't feel one shred of guilt about it whatsoever.

What I Learned From All This

So what is the moral of the story? I believe there are two. The first is never, never look back. I have been tempted during these past three months to dwell on what could have been if I had never stopped playing. Let me tell you, it is good that I stopped. I played for eight years with a few bad habits and my new teacher is helping me to correct them. Had I been playing for 25 years straight, I wouldn't be able to correct those habits as easily. As a result, I believe I am eventually going to be better at the French Horn than I ever was before!

Sometimes, we withhold good things from ourselves.The second moral, I believe, is found in Psalm 84:11: "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly." I've often been told that if something is being withheld from you, it is for one of two possible reasons: either it isn't a good thing, or you're not walking uprightly. I have learned that there is a third possibility. Sometimes, we withhold good things from ourselves. God tells us that to obey is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). As born again believers, we do not have to give up any good thing in order to get God's attention. We already have it!

I can tell you that it feels so good than to be playing my horn again. Is there something in your life, a good thing, that you have given up when God has not asked you to? What good thing are you withholding from yourself? Seek the Lord and ask if perhaps your "sacrifice" is unnecessary. As long as you are obedient and walking uprightly, He will not withhold any good thing from you.

6 comments:

Natasa said...

I am so glad for you.

Sarah said...

Yay, Jen! I am so glad to hear the concert went well. How neat you are beginning to play the horn again. Keep at it!

Sarah

Renee said...

Jen

I've been reading through your posts here on this anger / mid-life crisis / pick up and play the french horn again and I find your progression interesting.

We all in time have to grow up and learn to accept ourselves for who and what we are - the good, bad and the ugly.

One thing I've learned in life is that sometimes we set ourselves up to a standard that in a lot of ways - God doesn't even expect of us. Not that He doesn't take sin seriously - just that He knows far better than we do the extent of the pervasive corruption evil has brought onto this created order.

As strange as this may sound - I think it's fair to say that God really expects nothing of us. And the reason I think is because He knows there aint no way any of us would ever be able to deliver on even the smallest expectation He may have. That's what "total depravity" is all about.

As for being angry, hating and finally coming back to some part of yourself that you'd abandoned somewhere along the road - I'd hope you'd come to see that everything God has given us (even the aspects of ourselves that we don't like) is part of us for a reason. It's part of being made in the image of God. As marred as that may become in us! What man uses for evil - God meant for good.

Even the things we shun as "bad" (or those we see as "good"): Fear, anger, greif, joy, talent, gifts etc are all part of the make up of being human. Even Jesus cried, got mad, was afraid (afraid of the wrath of God and being forsaken by his Father - we read about this terror in the Psalms). When we try to hide from ourselves what we really are - we end up feeling empty.

Don't be afraid to be human - God already knows what you are!

Jennifer said...

Thanks, Renee. That was very encouraging. Discussing my flaws on the internet is one way of demonstrating that I'm not afraid, although I used to be. I used to work very hard to hide my flaws (which is just an extension of pride) but I've come to accept the good, bad, and the ugly, but of course, I'm trying to work on increasing the good and decreasing the bad and the ugly. The only way I know that is possible is that He must increase and I must decrease.

I think you have an interesting perspective, one that is necessary for us to look at ourselves honestly, and to allow others to see us as we truly are: depraved sinners loved by God. I just don't want to make the mistake of being too comfortable with my shortcomings that I do not work on becoming more like Christ.

Thanks again for sharing your encouraging thoughts!

Renee said...

Hello again Jen

Well, I'm glad to see that you are growing in grace - (just like the rest of us who claim that grace).

One thing I'd like to encourage you too is not to worry too much about whether or not you are getting "too comfortable" with your shortcomings. But for the grace of God - that won't ever happen to any of us. That's what "perseverance of the saints" is about. God is faithful and true to secure our sanctification just as He is to secure our redemption.

I know I'm paraphrasing here - and I can't remember the exact verse reference - but God is faithful and true to complete that work which He started in us unto the day of Redemption. (i.e. day of final resurrection.)

So fear not - when we are faithless - God is still faithful!

Anonymous said...

I am blessed by your testimony. I had put, "No good thing will He withold" in my search, wanting to find where the verse was, but the way you presented it made it a double blessing for me.
God bless you as you serve Him.