sonatina (n.) – a musical composition, a short version of a sonata, which consists of three or four independent movements varying in key, mood and tempo.
I’m at my daughter’s piano lesson. Her teacher is coaching her through her very first sonatina, and they have been replaying a tiny section for 20 minutes now. The teacher, firmly but lovingly instructs in Russian-accented English. She softly sings the melody, claps out the changing tempo, encourages, challenges, compliments…
“Your goal is to play correctly……So beautiful….Let’s grow through this phrase….Good job…..Listen…..Okay, start again. Concentrate……Crescendo will come….Just relax….Don’t rush……Good…Ok, not so loud. How will you grow?…..Again, look just ahead…..Very nice!!”
They are building upon the sections my daughter has learned in the past few weeks, and on skills she has acquired in her four years of music study. My daughter is 9, and her teacher and I have discussed this many times: the goal here is not to produce a professional musician. The goal is to foster the love of music my girl was born with, and to inspire within her a lifelong appreciation of this particular art.
Yet, my daughter also seems to have an ability for this instrument, an aptitude, maybe a gift. I don’t want her to squander it by ignoring it in favor of short-term pursuits. But in her immaturity, she goes back and forth between listening to me and ignoring me. And she has a short attention span – not long-range vision. So I remind her to, and on occasion make her, practice. Then practice a little more. See, I think she could play for her family, friends, or a church far into the winter of her life.
And this – this lifelong ideal of musical love and development – is why gentle encouragement is so important. If her teacher and I push her too hard, there’s a very real risk she’ll lose her joy for playing. And if it sounds like I’m overthinking this, it’s because I know I could so easily push my expectations and hopes onto this child, and I also know that in all likelihood, I will (or have already) said the wrong thing to her at some point. The voices she hears in her mind as she plays echo those she hears as she learns.
I’m sure I’ve failed in my pursuit to find the perfect balance between affirmation and pressure. But I keep going, believing I’m a better mother for focusing on my goal, which was affirmed for me once again in my Bible study this morning while reading these verses.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 3:12-14
The fact is – I am a work in progress. My life is about growing up and into the state I’ve been called to live in – holiness. And I don’t say that in a lofty sort of way, because I believe everyone is called to holiness. We are designed, from before our very conception, to seek union with God in Heaven, and in this life, all our other attempts to find complete satisfaction and perfection will fail. So until my time comes, I press forward, keeping my eyes on this prize.
If I were left alone to strive for holiness, I would be making even more cacophonous noise in my life than I already do. Because though I may sometimes say the right things to my daughter, for example, my words alone don’t reveal the full intentions of my heart. As a sinner, my heart and mind continue to mess up, because I stubbornly continue to rely on my strength to be a ‘good’ mother, wife, friend, or Christian.
But I’m not alone. My Teacher, the one who sings me the tunes I’m trying to play and coaxes me through endless repetitions of sticky, challenging, and seemingly redundant notes in a life that constantly changes tempo, mood, and key, is faithfully patient. Best of all, He is forgiving – endlessly willing to start with me again when I make mistakes and don’t practice what I’m learning. The Holy Spirit nudges me to pass on the treasures of these holy lessons …to a daughter who listens, albeit imperfectly – just like me.