Learning to Play the Dining Room Table
Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will stand in the presence of kings.
Talent is greatly overrated. Talent is a God-given gift. But skill is the honing of that gift by dogged, daily discipline.
We Christians can get uneasy talking excelling at a skill. For one, our faith is founded on what God has accomplished for us – without our cooperation and effort. The
beauty of God is that we don’t work our way up to heaven, but that he
comes down to us. If you work for something, you get a paycheck. But a
gift is free. Jesus gives us the gift of eternal life.
But, secondly, striving for excellence sounds suspiciously like pride – which is a particularly ugly sin.
Both of these cautions are legitimate. We can’t get to heaven by working hard, and pride bugs others and rots our soul.
But working hard to develop the gifts God has given us pleases him. The paradox of faith is that we are not saved by our works, but we are created by God to do good works.
God does not give gifts so that we may gloat in our distinction over others. God gives gifts so we can serve others.
I’m not impressed by your natural talent, or my own. The real question is: how hard are you willing to work to develop that natural talent into excellence?
Rosalind Russell was one of the most famous movie stars of her day. She
says she gets letters from people who say they have talent – their
teachers think so, their mothers think so, and they were a hit in the
school play. Russell’s responds, “Fine, but do you also have
self-discipline?” She claims the ability to work hard is the key to
success in show business.
Schweitzer’s talent as a musician was obvious at an early age. He was
performing in church by the age of nine. By his late twenties he was an
internationally renowned concert organist.
During World War I, he was interned as a German citizen in French occupied Africa. He was sent from his home in Africa to a concentration camp at Garaison in the Pyrenees. Schweitzer
had no access to an organ, so his fellow prisoners watched for hours
while he would pretend the dining room table was his organ. His feet
would work the imaginary pedals as he would perform chorales and fugues
from memory. Hour after hour.
When Schweitzer was released in 1918, after years of confinement, the world was stunned he still retained his virtuosity at the pipe organ.
His fellow prisoners knew better. He had been practicing the organ all the time. It just looked a lot like a dining room table.