I absolutely love the piano. I love the grandeur and subtlety of the sound, the evocative and rhythmic range and the feel of the smooth keys. I love the roar of the lower octaves and the tinkling sweetness of the higher ones. The piano can make me dance and cry and sing all at once.
But it wasn’t always this way.
I was born uncoordinated. I was forever walking into things: smashing into doorframes, bumping elbows on table corners, tripping over nothing. This grave inability to safely conduct myself through any room gave me an innate fear of musical instruments.
It gave me an innate fear of musical instruments.
‘Keep those away from me,’ I would tell music teachers, ‘Or else I might break them–or myself.’
In retrospect, I suppose it sounds silly, but I remember being profoundly concerned for the welfare of any musical instrument in my vicinity.
But I loved singing, so I assumed I would just be one of those singers who would never play an instrument. (Though it wasn’t for lack of trying. I had both guitar and oboe lessons at school. I was not good at them.)
But God had other plans.
God had other plans.
When I was seventeen, a friend of mine prayed for me. I remember it because he was about to move away. He was a person whose godliness I held in great esteem. He was also a pianist.
As we prayed together, he uttered these words, ‘Steph, everything I have, I impart into you.’ Naturally, I assumed his Godly wisdom and spiritual maturity would be imparted into me. But no. God had other plans.
From that day onwards, I experienced an inexplicable and irresistible pull toward pianos and keyboards. It was like being drawn by magnets. And no one was more surprised than me. I started playing around with them, tinkering on them, mucking about with the notes.
No one was more surprised than me.
I began playing chords, badly at first, but the clunkiness wore off as I practised. I took church songs and tried to play them. My very first song attempt had two chords in it. I tackled three- and four-chord songs next. As most church songs have a grand total of four chords, I could now play most of them.
The Holy Spirit started challenging me. He would say things like, ‘Now try to play the little melodic bit’ or ‘Why not try it in another key?’ I learned the songs by heart. I found I had a good musical ear and a knack for modulations. I could listen to any song and play the chords in any key.
I never had a single keyboard lesson. It was 100% Holy Spirit. Over the years, he continued to stretch me in my playing, inviting me to try trickier songs with complex or fast-moving chord progressions. To my utter astonishment, I found I could play most things, if I tried.
It was 100% Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit continues to challenge me in my playing. When I am on stage, ministering to my church, I often sense him nudging me, making suggestions like, ‘Play octave unison here’ or ‘Try the melody right here’ or ‘Go for it!’
Sometimes I nail it. Sometimes I mess it up. He is always encouraging about it. ‘Try it again next time,’ he whispers.
It’s funny how God can take our weaknesses and fill them with his creativity. I never would have guessed God would give me the ability to minister to others through the piano. But I am glad he did.
Has God ever given you the ability to do something you could not otherwise do? What gifts has God given to you for ministry to others? Share your story. Let’s have a countercultural conversation.