Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Small Hands

This is a Facebook post written by my daughter Erica. I share this (with her gracious permission) not because she makes me sound like a really wise dad -- she actually gives me credit for being much more articulate than I actually was in the conversation -- but because I think Erica has nailed something really important here. Enjoy!

by Erica Krogstad on Monday, April 4, 2011 at 3:40pm

The day was Friday. The setting, Dr. Johnson’s office. I was in the middle of piano lessons, struggling to reach an interval. I exclaimed in frustration that my hands are too small to play piano. Dr. Johnson vehemently shook his head, then stopped and looked at my pitiful wingspan. “You… your hands are…” He looked again at my right hand, which was struggling to reach a major ninth. “You make the best of what you have,” he finished awkwardly.

I found the whole incident funny, because I’m not at all sensitive about the baby-carrot stature of my phalanges. Reflecting on this exchange later, however, I grew slightly bitter. My fifteen-year-old sister has gloriously long and agile fingers. God created me knowing that I would love piano with a passion. Why could he not have used the same DNA pattern which he gave to my sister? I cannot remember ever meeting a full-grown individual with shorter fingers than mine. Most of my musically illiterate friends could easily reach a major tenth, and many could reach much farther than that. So why me? Obviously, this no “thorn in my flesh,” no ailment that threatens my life. But I know there have been days when, after hours of sitting at the piano bench and practicing, I lean against the piano and cry out at God. Why must I train my hands to stretch as far as my skin will hold just to hit intervals that most people wouldn’t consider taxing? Why must I learn techniques to “cover” and “make up for” the fact that I have to adapt nearly every piece I play? Why am I so passionate about an instrument on which I may never be able to achieve technical mastery?

Last weekend, I related Dr. Johnson’s funny quote to my dad. He chewed on it for a moment. His next statement caught me completely off guard and simultaneously triggered my defenses. “God did that on purpose, you know. He meant to create you with tiny hands.” I laughed and replied that no, it must have been a mistake. God needs to read the fine print more carefully before he signs on the dotted line. But Dad had a response ready. He told me that he knows that when I was younger, my dream was to be a concert pianist. As I have grown, and my hands have not, that dream has been replaced. God, he told me, has a different plan for me. God didn’t close the door; he made my fingers stubby to prevent me from going toward the door. And as I have pursued my replacement dreams, I have found new passions and talents and opportunities. I have met people and learned things I would have never discovered if I was pursuing a dream that required me to practice by myself for five hours a day.

I believe this story is universal. Something about you, something you cannot change, is just not good enough. For whatever reason, you don’t make the cut; you yourself are not good enough for what you want to do. That does not mean, though, that you are not good enough. You are good enough for God. In all your intricacies and imperfections and deliciously messy complexity, God looks at you and calls you beautiful. He calls you his handiwork. Do not call anything impure that God has made clean; others may label you, or perhaps you may label yourself, but know instead of those labels that God has a perfect plan for you, suited to your specific and delightfully haphazard quirks.

I do not let what can be perceived as inadequacy deter me from pursuing something I love. I will stretch my hands to the major ninth, and I will learn pedal techniques to cover awkward chords, and I will pursue God’s dream for me instead of one that doesn’t fit anymore. Yes, I have short fingers. But I don’t let that stop me from making the best of what I have.

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