“God, I can’t do this. Are you sure you want me to? Really really sure?” That was my plea bargain when someone asked me to play the piano for church service for the first time. I had barely passed my piano examinations, was struggling with all the flats and sharps in the kids church songbook, and played ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ like a funeral march. I had never done piano improvisation either, but playing for service required that skill.
Oh and did I mention it was for Chinese service and my command of Mandarin was super CMI? I could barely order my cai fan by pointing and asking for the price. (For the curious, that vocab would have been 这个， 那个，青菜，肉，多少钱？). How was I to understand what the Pastor was preaching? How would I know when to repeat the chorus? And sound systems are notoriously poor for the people on stage. How was I, a half-deaf girl, to catch the cues and know what was going on?
God doesn’t call us to kingdom work because we have the best qualifications or prep-skills.
A half-deaf, struggling, pianist with lacking language skills. Awesome profile for a church pianist’s CV eh? I wouldn’t have “hired” myself. But that’s how God rolls. God doesn’t call us to kingdom work because we have the best qualifications or prep-skills. In the upside-down logic of our awesome God, He has “chosen the foolish things to confound the wise” (1 Cor 1:27).
Fast forward a couple of years, and I was playing for the main English service. The scariest bit about service is the offertory, because it is a solo performance and everyone can hear every single tiny mistake made. I played ‘Jesus Loves Me This I Know’, and a little child sang out loud until she (or he) was shushed by a mortified parent. Through the simple, rudimentary music that I was producing, God was encouraging even the little children to think about the words.
Few years on and I was asked to take over the kids’ choir. Let’s just say there was a discipline issue, and kids church songleaders had a ready supply of lozenges. And then to take the reins of the adults’ choir, receiving the legacy of people old enough to be my parents and teachers. Ever tried teaching your parents how to use a computer application? This felt like that, x10,000. The crowd of children and adults were not my children nor my parents…
Every week, I’d go into choirs thinking “I can’t do this”. I was young, my experience was little, and I had no idea how to manage or teach. Despite all this, God still chose me to be His instrument. Through my weaknesses, He showed His patience and love for sinners. Through whatever music I was producing, God used that to draw others closer to Him.
Fast forward more years, and I was in a different church, playing the piano and teaching the choir IN MANDARIN. As if leading a group of teens, adults and grandparents wasn’t enough… IN MANDARIN SOMEMORE. God was mad. God siao liao. Why put this kentang to torture the Chinese choir? But of course, God had other plans and I served there for 5 years. With much translation help from the younger ones in the choir, God ministered to all of us.
Today, I am a much more experienced church pianist. But I have not forgotten the “miracles” that God brought about in my life’s ministry. Without God, it would have done no good to grit my teeth and get down to things. Without God, it would have been impossible to touch others’ hearts with a simple children’s song. Without God, I could not have gone on playing the piano and teaching songs week after week. Without God, my work and ministry would have been powerless.
My life speaks of the upside-down logic of a powerful God. What does yours sound like?