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.
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.)
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.
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.