You Have Not Arrived

She’s asking to quit piano lessons. She loves her teacher. She practices dutifully and cheerfully. But she knows all she needs to.

All she needs to mimic pop songs from the radio. All she needs to write her own. She’s arrived.

Many years ago, after the number one plaques were hung on the wall and the nominees were announced, Billy took me to breakfast. We sat down in our booth at the coffee shop and before my cinnamon roll was even cool enough to taste he began.

“I want you to know…” he said.

In the nanosecond pause before he spoke his next words I completed his sentence in my mind. I want you to know I’m proud of you…I knew you could do this…you deserve this…you’re really good at this.

“…you have not arrived,” he said. “And apart from Christ you can do nothing.”

John 15 was a constant conversation for us for a couple years before breakfast. We are all vines attached to a branch; our fruit is the result of connection and not perfection. Apart from Christ? Nothing. And with Christ? Always more to come, pressing forward, grateful now yet hoping ahead.

“I love you,” Billy said a thousand times. Which made his words over breakfast more humbling than humiliating, more devotional than deflating.

All of this memory whooshes into my head again as she plays eighth notes on the C chord, then the A minor, the F and the G.

I want to tell her there are more than four chords in the world to be discovered. More rhythm than eighth notes alone can convey.

I want her to know I love her.

And because I love her I want her to know she has not arrived. Never will. But she’s connected, so beauty and music and power and truth will arrive in this world through her little hands. Growing hands. More and more.

Its arrival – His arrival – will grow as she grows and there’s no end to the growing, the arriving. So don’t stop small, I want to say. Keep growing the vine, pruning, tilling, fertilizing, pressing on, to stronger and taller and wider…

But instead all I think to say is “That’s great…but you’re not quitting piano.”