Instrument of the Heart

I don’t know the woman’s name. She’s fairly new at Morningside Assisted Living, an elderly woman whose family must have decided she needed to not live on her own anymore. She seems fairly active, always out and about the facility, no walker or cane needed.

In her short time there, she has taken an apparent aversion to me.

I’ve been going to Morningside twice a month for about twenty years, always with my pastor, to offer a morning of music and devotions. I play songs on the piano to draw folks in, then we sing hymns, taking lots of requests for the ones they know best. Pastor Mike prays and reads Scripture. We welcome all residents to join us.

Following our program a month ago the woman told us she came from a Church of Christ background, and expressed her dissatisfaction with our use of the piano for our gatherings. She said she couldn’t worship with piano music.

I’ve tried to be sensitive to her, playing softly, trying to sing at least one song a cappella. It wouldn’t be fair to the other residents to eliminate the piano music they seem to love.

But the woman has taken a strong disliking to me. Last week, when I came in, I greeted her with a smile and a cheery Hello! She harrumphed and looked away. That same day, I was back in the evening to accompany a group from my church in serenading the residents with Christmas carols. The lady made a point to sit right in front of the piano, her fingers stuck in her ears as a not-so-subtle message to me. I immediately placed my left foot on the damper peddle to soften my music, while she spoke with every other church member that came in, I assume saying to them the same thing she said to my husband: “Please make her stop playing! I hate piano music!”

As I was leaving when the program ended, I spoke with several residents, but not the woman. Her dislike of me was so palpable I kept my distance—even wanted to run in the opposite direction.

The incident put a damper on my day. I love to play the piano. I view my talent as a gift from God and my playing, as an act of worship to Him.

I have wrestled in prayer with this for the past week, knowing I would return to Morningside today, one last visit before Christmas. I have prayed that God would help me run towards, rather than from, the woman, and that He would help me to show her the Face of Jesus. I knew I needed to talk with her, to listen to her concerns. I had no idea what I would say in response; I was leaving that to God.

I went in this morning, expecting, like last week, for her to be the first person I saw. She was not there. We went through our entire program without her walking in (or out when the piano was played). I played the Christmas hymns that I love, relaxed and filled with joy. All the while, I prayed for the woman and asked God to show me how to love her well.

God may have worked in her heart just as He worked in mine, and she stayed in her room to keep from spoiling others’ enjoyment of the music. Maybe she had gone to be with family for the holidays, or maybe she was sick in bed. I have no clue.

All I know is that God worked in my heart this past week. And maybe, just maybe, the only heart that really needed to be changed was my own.

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