Every December our church community sponsors a Christmas potluck. A hall is rented and festively decorated, and around 100 people gather to celebrate.
An old upright piano with ivory missing from some of its keys is badly out of tune, but in the spirit of this event, no one has ever mentioned its poor condition, and for years they've played it anyway.
By age 9, our son was getting pretty good at playing the piano. He worked hard to prepare a special Christmas selection for the big event and was looking forward to playing it for his family and friends.
With the hall full and everyone enjoying the festivities, the children began to perform. When our son's turn came to play, he walked to the waiting piano, looked at the keys, and while standing, fingered it enough to determine its condition. He then turned to the audience and announced that he couldn't play on this piano, and off the stage he walked.
Some were amused, and some amazed. I was embarrassed. Nothing I said would convince him to play, so the festivities continued without his performance. This action was so unlike him. He is usually a generous and caring little guy.
His dad and I were caught off guard by his behavior until we spoke with him after we returned home. That's when we got a whole new perspective.
In Sunday School our son is learning that the good qualities he expresses are not merely personal talents, but that he reflects them because of his relationship to his Father-Mother God. He knows that the beauty of music and his ability to express that beauty are God-given treasures, gifts to be honored.
We have taught him to thank God before each performance for the qualities he is about to express and to acknowledge that God is in control of his expression. He has done this since he first started playing at age 4.
Although his sudden refusal to play might have struck some as immature, his motive was not to be arrogant but to honor God by doing the best he could. He explained to us that if he played out of tune, he would be "abusing my gift." And he couldn't do that at such an important event and in front of such special people.
A few days after the party, we had our home piano tuned. I told the tuner about the old piano and our son's behavior.
He responded: "Good for him. He knows his worth. It takes courage to hold to a high standard and stick to it in front of all of those people."
He went on about the importance of the condition of a piano if you are going to show what a composer was trying to convey in a piece. I was given quite a lecture about not being hard on our son, but instead being grateful for his courage.
As our son matures, he may discover that playing on an old piano would not diminish his talents but might offer opportunities to use other talents such as flexibility or creativity. He will naturally discover more of the good qualities inherent in his relationship to God and the joy of expressing those qualities.
The next year we rented a piano for the party, and all of the pianists were grateful.
One's worth isn't at the mercy of material conditions or human opinions. It comes from God and is safe in His care. God loves and maintains what is good and lasting in each of us.
Our good and worthy talents are forever and can never be taken from us. Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her primary work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures": "Citizens of the world, accept the 'glorious liberty of the children of God,' and be free! This is your divine right" (page 227).
Whether we're looking for a job, doing the laundry, or performing at a Christmas event, understanding our true worth helps us appreciate the qualities we reflect from God and to appropriately and creatively express them.
The song our son didn't play that night continues to make me smile and reminds me to cherish our worth.
It is God which worketh in you both to will and to do
of his good pleasure.