REFLECTIONS: Forcing What Doesn't Need To Be Forced

Nicki Black

May 31, 2016: I write this on the heels of ministering to a Mom whose daughter is rejecting piano lessons, though the Mom says she has a real gifting for the instrument. The Mom called her daughter's refusal a heart issue. Because the Mom asked for insight, I shared my experience. But I also respectfully let her know how differently I saw things because of my own story, and how I was shaped because of labels, being forced, and because I wasn't given room to move forward at my own volition, of what felt right.

Before I say anything else, let me emphasize that I'm not, in any way, saying that lessons are a waste of time. On the contrary, they're part of a very important foundation in not only music, but education and a full spectrum of the arts and life across the board. I took instrumental, voice, and art lessons myself, and from those lessons I learned much of what I'm applying now in both my professional career, and in ministry. But there's more. There's just much more to it than what lies at the surface.

I needed to relate a piece of my heart to this Mom before I bridged through to the lessons. I really believe that term "heart issue" is used far too frequently as a blanketed label when intentional listening lacks a presence to bring to light a deeper dialogue. Whether this communication is between mother and daughter or strangers in a social media forum, relationship - or better yet, the follow through of respecting someone else - doesn't act in malice. I see over and over again (and from personal experience) that "heart issue" carries a sword not of the Holy Spirit, but of the decapitation of a valuable piece of somebody, marked as a failure as a developing human being. We need to stay in the Word and we need accountable and wise fellowship, in part, so that we don't fall into the trap of labeling, dividing, and writing people off. Identifying differences and disagreements as "heart issues" is never an honorable way to measure. Genuine relationships are undergirded with a willingness and intention of time and love to get to a place of understanding, even when viewpoints don't agree.

Here's the simple crux of what I went on to offer about the concept of forcing someone up against a wall: It doesn't work, even when the intentions are good.

My compassion is stirred over what the other Mom was trying to accomplish. I understand the desire to see a child be all that they can be, but sometimes I think we forget that as parents that we need to step to the side and let God do the heavy lifting. He breathes the passion into our being, and is delighted every time we find the beautiful a-ha moments as we walk our passions out over our lifetime. As parents, we pray, we equip, we counsel, and we wait, hopefully with the patience and peace that releasing prayer gifts to us, in so many unknowns. We beam with pride when our children make it to the other side of questioning, into trying, into knowing, into becoming. And while we wait, we have to remember to encourage without the strong arm of being rigid and forceful, and to not weigh our children with words or suggestions that take a focus off of their identities in Christ.

I think placing labels and forcing a hand rot in the same basket, and have the same brutal overhead in skewing how we see our own worth, and that of others. I believe that a parent should never take away all options to push their child into music or other creative and skill-oriented outlets, especially. When cultivated with mutual agreement to flourish and bloom, God-given passions of pursuit fill the soul with gladness in accordance to the freedom allowed therein. The worst case scenario to the mandate that this Mom was putting on her daughter, which was to take lessons or else, is that the daughter will respond with a hardened dislike for her instrument and/or gifting. The other very real detriment is that she may very well delay finding the connections to people and places, and just so many other facets, while creating music, prompting her to walk away and dust her hands of it for a long time, just as I did. I took piano lessons when I was young, instructed by a lady who neither had patience, nor compassion for my mistakes. A wrong note on her piano would win me having my knuckles slammed with a ruler, and her berating me to tears. Under such constant pressure, I got my hands hit pretty much every week. I was also forced to continue lessons by my Mother, who wasn't on site during any of my lessons, as I walked to the teacher's house after school. I'm pretty sure that she didn't realize what was going on because I wasn't able to fully articulate the level of my stress to her at that age, or the fact that I just wanted to play by ear sans the lessons, because I could "feel" the music in my spirit, and thinking it through with every metered and boxed-in note was agony for my brain.

Sadly, the consequence was this: My Mother eventually took pity on my weeping while I practiced, and she finally allowed me to quit piano after many really difficult years with this teacher. With my painful piano lesson experience behind me, I then switched over to play flute to fill the void, but I never felt that the flute was a true extension of who I was. I pressed on playing flute and piccolo throughout middle and high school, in addition to singing, even though I was still suffocating inside the music, feeling very much like a caged bird.

The desire I had toward the piano before my lessons was well-suppressed until I was in my early 30's. Tripp knew my longing was resurfacing, so he bought me my first little keyboard, A KORG N364, which we affectionately now call "Tink" for "Tinker Toy", because I've long outgrown it's gentle, barely-weighted 64 keys. When I got Tink, I was pretty much starting all over again, but this time, the music was like a waterfall onto the keys. I got to just sit down and play, like I had wanted to all along. So play I did, by ear, and a lot of waterworks, in a lot of ways, poured out. The songs were very far from being technically perfect as I found my cadence, but I was free. Free! Being forced as a child as a round peg into a square hole undoubtedly rerouted 20-some years of my life where I wasn't walking out my DNA. How could God have used those years with me playing piano I will never know, but I do know without hesitation that He redeems all things to His glory (which He has, and I am grateful.)

Romans 8:28 - Amplified Bible (AMP)

And we know [with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose.

I also want to relate something that isn't always popular within the circles of musicians and music, and that is that lessons are not the end all to be all. Yes, yes, I can absolutely agree that they are incredibly beneficial, and when you're fortunate to find really wonderful music teachers, you are indeed richly blessed! That hasn't been my tapestry, though, so I write my words in my own voice, from heartache to healing. By letting go of the regret and those lost years, I have learned the release and perfect peace in fully rendering my worship to the flow of the Holy Spirit from the rawness of my intercession, and the return of His Word back into my revelation. What does that even look it? The only way I know how. I sit down and I just play and write what is burning in my heart. That fire often spills out for hours at a time, most of it completely off any kind of written music. I know when I'm done when I feel the unction lift from the Holy Spirit, in the same way the pressing in lifts when you intercede for something or someone. I remember when I had the epiphany that soaking was my "home". It's one of the facets of why I was created. Worship is my life! Truly, that is really why God created music, as worship to Him, from us, His Beloved. David wrote the Pslams in his darkest place, in his deepest of fears. What more can the Lord use when we are light in our step, without coercion or chastisement, and faith is soaring?

Timing can't be forced. If we indeed possess a talent for any gifting, then it will come to fruition when we are ready and willing to pursue it. That kind of freedom is the glue that won't be undone by anything we do as we learn and hurdle obstacles along the way, or by anything Man does to criticize or derail the process. Passion needs freedom of discovery. Passion needs the education of mistakes. Passion needs the embrace that it's ok to go where the road is less traveled.

Let us not forget how the powerful reminder in Romans 8:28 can heal up so much of what we've had to let go in our lives, when our circumstances are out of our control. I've had to fight through a lot of hard transition over the years. When I felt like I was drowning and didn't know who I was or why I felt so far away from my destiny, God led me right back to these words: All things work together. ALL things work together. I am a testimony that this is truth, and I'm pretty sure that you are, too.