The Measure Of Success

I’ve never followed American Idol or any of the other talent shows. I know that some people have found stardom by winning the contests, or even by progressing far into the competition. I’m sure they are talented, but I’ve never been keen on these kinds of competitions. I have seen a few parts of episodes where contestants have been bounced, and I don’t like seeing disappointment in people. Many of them really are not very polished but have been encouraged by well-meaning friends and family members, only to find out that the world of competition is cold and cruel.

As a musician myself, I understand the desire for fame. When I was young I wanted to be a famous musician, playing on stages the world over and composing songs that would move peoples hearts and create memories. I did get a little look inside the world of the music business and I could see that there would be some sobering compromises involved. Still, I thought it might be worth it for all that money and all that fame. There was a little window of opportunity that opened for me back in the early 1980s. In retrospect, I believe that if I had made that my entire focus and pursued it hard, I might have found a place. Other circumstances presented, though; I chose marriage and motherhood instead.

In the back of my mind I thought I could continue to pursue my musical dream later. The marriage was certainly rocky and ended badly. I continued to write a few songs here and there, and played locally with a few groups. As time went on the dream began to disappear, but then I was very suddenly and unexpectedly swept into church. I had these neighbors whose children played with my daughter and upon learning that I was a musician, they invited me to church. I kept politely trying to get out of it, but then relented. I’ll go just one time, I told myself.

In one day (Sunday, June 7, 1992 to be exact) I was transformed from a rudderless ship to a woman called for a purpose. I kid you not; I woke up that day in one condition, and went to bed that night in another. Not only was the dream recreated, as was I; the variety of styles involved in playing for church challenged me to become a more proficient musician than I ever thought I would be.

That’s when I met satisfaction. Fame and fortune mattered less as my focus shifted toward storing up treasure in heaven. Over the years I developed and grew. These days arthritis has slowed me down a little and presented new challenges, and I am adjusting. I still wouldn’t trade what I have now for what I thought I wanted back then.

I struggle at present with some cognitive dissonance about the quality of the music I play. On one hand, I am all for people worshiping Jesus in song, but I miss the challenge of reading music and playing songs with written accompaniment (as opposed to lyric sheets with chords printed above the words without a clue as to the melody line or the rhythmic pattern). I have been playing for two contemporary services but will soon be shifting to one traditional and one contemporary service. I pray that God will rekindle my desire to stretch myself again and learn new skills, or even to sharpen skills that have been shelved for awhile.

All in all, my idea of success has been completely reinvented over the years. As a church pianist I have experienced a level of spiritual development and satisfaction that would never have been found in the music business. While I might welcome an opportunity to play publicly in a secular setting, within certain parameters, my heart will still be singing, “O to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be!”



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