Comparisons are all too human.
As a high school student taking private violin lessons, I compared myself with my violin teacher's young prodigy. Each week, the teacher smiled with mild approval at my performance of an etude, and wrote out my assignment for the following week. Then, a 12-year-old boy entered the room for his lesson.
With admiration and a sense of torture, I lowered myself into an armchair to listen as the dark-haired boy performed. He was preparing for a debut recital of works written for virtuosi.
As the full chords of Bach's difficult Chaconne flowed rapturously from his violin, I thought, No matter how many years I study, I will never be able to play like him. My gift is too small. I don't deserve to be heard.
A willingness to try
Despising my gift for being comparatively small, I avoided playing my violin in worship services at my church for many years. Then I met Helen, a Christian and fellow violinist, who made me examine my attitude. Helen was one of two violinists in her church. I knew that the other violinist, Agnes, was excellent.
But Helen had no problem with that. "Agnes embodies what violin playing should be. She is faultless. But my gift has a place, too. I play in the evening service while I let Agnes's wonderful gift shine in the morning service."
Yes, I pondered. The important thing isn't who has the greater gift, but that each gift has its place. I began to seek opportunities to play during worship services in the summer, when the choir was on vacation and special music was needed. Several church members told me the Holy Spirit blessed them as I played. I grew more confident as I realized God was enabling me to use a gift he had given me.1