My life’s greatest regret happened when I was about 12. My mother offered to arrange for a tutor to teach me piano. We had a good piano, though it hadn’t seen much use except for my older sister who didn’t seem to have the gift for playing, judging by the strange, repetitive sounds it often emitted – sometimes quite loudly!
Sadly, I thought playing piano was for girls! What did I know at 12? (Elton John and Billy Joel hadn’t started their runs yet) There wasn’t much discussion; I was offered a tutor, I considered much too briefly and decided ‘no’ – it wasn’t for me and that was the end of it. Soon someone came with a truck and took it away! Clearly, there was no second chance!
Sometime later, I realised that I was musical–I had an ear for music, I could sing in key, harmonise, and enjoyed music… still do very much. Life has been kind to me, but learning piano has never really showed up again in such a favourable way as when I was 12. I dearly love piano, and keenly listen for its unique and versatile contribution in all kinds of music – especially now as we have ‘keyboards’ that can cleverly mimic almost any other instrument.
It’s recently dawned on me that the reality of my regrettable piano tale is much bigger than I thought.
My mother offered to pay. I would not need to pay; the tutor would be paid in full for as long as I needed. All that would be required of me was to pay attention and practice – to put in reasonable effort and do my best. Back then, I would have felt some expectation to give it the time it deserved and to make progress. Money was tight and this was a generous offer. But there was no expectation that I would need to play concertos; certainly, my sister had taken that concept off the table! So, no pressure!
As someone who enjoys writing, this piano incident still lingers in my mind – the regret has not faded. But there is more, much more, to the story. The regret is no longer just remorse, but also a treasure exposing a greater reality which affects all Christians. A reality that impacts every moment of every day.
You see, God has offered us all a grand opportunity. By sending His Son, Jesus the Christ, our debt has been paid in full. There is nothing owing, nothing we need to pay – ever. All sin is paid for. All humanity’s sin is covered, paid in full – past, present, and future. In fact, we could not pay if we wanted to – we cannot contribute from our pocket-money, there is no place for it to go. The debt is non-existent!
All we are asked is to do our best – and God provides for that too.
it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.Philippians 2:13
Notice that God is the one calling the shots. He is at work – bringing our ‘will’ into line with His AND enabling the ‘ability’ in us to accomplish ‘His pleasure’.
He doesn’t make us do His will, He creates the desire and the functional application which results in good works.
Jesus gives the beautiful and profound example of ‘rest’ in him.
Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Matthew 11:29
I was offered a free ride with the piano lessons – all paid for so I could focus on the music! God offers us every moment to focus on Him, on His perfect will for us, free of concern for ‘how will I pay for this?’ I could trust my mum. If she said it was all paid for, I didn’t need to give it a second’s thought. I didn’t need to feel like I owed something or was under some kind of obligation – she offered in love and out of selfless thought for me.
We should trust God in the same way and stop attempting to please Him by doing things or making amends for the times when all goes wrong—the times when we feel distant from Him because we have let Him down and now we somehow ‘owe’ Him again.
Jesus said to ‘learn from him’. He trusted God with his life and asks us to do the same. Like the song “In Christ Alone” goes, “No guilt in life, no fear in death”. He has our life sorted, just like He had Jesus’ life sorted – not just the 33-year life, but the eternal one after that.
We are asked to do one thing – trust. We don’t have to pretend, making out that we do when we don’t. We remember the father who said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” And we pray similarly.
“…But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”Mark 9:22-4
For whatever reason, God in His magnificent wisdom has made each lifetime a journey. We don’t get to be a great piano player in one afternoon after school – it takes forever. He births a tiny little trust in us and creates opportunities for it to grow; we practise and do our best and it grows some more. We experiment and try on our own sometimes, and a wheel might fall off and we slip back a few places – like playing ‘Snakes and Ladders’.
But most importantly, when you feel like you stuffed up and God is disappointed, don’t hide like Adam and Eve did; go straight back and tell Him all about it! Jesus knows what it’s like, and with the Father, loves us unconditionally.
When I was 12, I didn’t want a piano tutor, or feel I needed one. I’m sorry for that poor, immature decision that altered my life’s course. But I now know that it’s OK, because God has my life sorted. Whenever I choose poorly, He calls me back every new day. He is at work in all of us—for His good pleasure! He wants us to have no room for fear or guilt or despair or worry – or even regret. What He is offering is rest, peace and a still, quiet understanding that all is well—even when it seems like it’s not!
It doesn’t get any better than that!