Last night Jay and I had the awesome privilege of watching and hearing Australian guitarist Tommy Emmanuel work his magic at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. There is simply no way to describe how brilliant an innovative he is. (Check him out on YouTube.)
I have never seen or heard of anyone doing the things he did to get the instrument to erupt in such splendid sounds and bend to his will the way he did. The effect was mesmerizing. Even Jay, my predominately sports-minded husband was impressed. At one point he leaned over and whispered in my ear, "If this guy would practice a bit more, he could be really good."
But since I play the guitar like a dyslexic third-grader learning to read, all I could think about was how good he actually was and what it took for him to get to be the best ever.
Obviously the starting point had to be a God-given talent. But he didn't hold his talent up to God and ask Him to magically do something with it-- like I am so often guilty of doing. ("Oh God! You gave me this gift, now make something happen!") He practiced. Then he practiced some more. He practiced every day. He worked and honed his craft. For years.
I'm sure there were times when his fingers were sore and bleeding and yet he continued to practice. You can't watch someone like him and not realize that he had to have become obsessed with the instrument, with making a guitar do things no one had ever made one do before, with creatively experiment- ing with all sorts of ideas and things that were outside of the proverbial box. With participating in his gift.
Yet as he was playing and practicing and honing his skill, as he played in countless small venues, I'm sure he wondered when his big break would come. After all, shouldn't fame and fortune--or some kind of recognition and kudos--come to those with the talent and dedication of his caliber? Like an Olympic athlete he was someone who had sacrificed so many other things in order to be the best at one thing.
Man. It was all I could think about during the concert, on the drive home, as I fell asleep, when I woke up this morning and as I've gone through my day. Not the fame and fortune, mind you, but the sacrifice and dedication it takes to be the very best at something.
I kept asking myself what it is I want to be known for by those who know me. What I wanted to be known for being that good at doing. My claim to fame. My unique calling. And just as importantly --or maybe more so--I've had to ask myself what am I willing to sacrifice in order to see that greater goal reached?
Because the truth is, I just want it to be easy. I want God to smile His big God smile and have it all rain down on me like sugar-coated gumdrops at Easter.
I don't want to work and sweat and toil and hope and be disappointed and start all over again and be in despair and pray and pick myself up by my bootstraps and have things fall apart and pray some more and kick the devil and lean on my friends to keep my spirits up and cry and deal with frustrations as I watch the years roll by and...
Well, you get the idea. I don't particularly like anything about "hard."
But God has been serendipitously working lately to change my thinking. It is hard, and it takes a lot of work and dedication to reach our goals, even when He's in them. In some ways, that's the most surprising thing of all.
All I can say is, "OUCH. I still want the smile and the gumdrops." But I am learning that if we will take our God-given talents, lift them up to Him and be diligent and willing to do the hard work, He will open doors and make things happen and bless our efforts and teach us and love us and create the character of Christ in us in the process.
I still want to slap Eve when I get to heaven, but until then, I'm going to make every effort to use the gifts God has given me while asking Him to lead and bless my efforts.
If you do the same, maybe we can help each other accomplish the tasks He has set before us. And then we will have the joy of knowing God is smiling because we have been willing to succeed in not burying our talents and to be active and to persevere at what He created and called us to do.