Lesson From a Piano

WHEN I was fifteen, my mother gave me a copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy. My mother wrote an inscription inside, adding a quotation from the book itself that has always seemed to me like a special message about God, divine Love, that she wanted me to have: ''Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way'' (p. 454).

Over the many years since then, I have frequently pondered this sentence, but never more than the time a piano and I became good friends. I was in a foreign land, serving in my country's military some years after World War II. On Sundays I'd take a train to a large city near my base to attend church. A member of that church one day heard me mention an experience I'd had that she felt would interest others. She asked me if I'd speak a few words some Sunday afternoon to ''just a few people.''

I was very hesitant. Who was I to do this? I didn't even speak their language. My friend said she'd translate for me every few sentences. She was so persuasive that I finally promised to do it. When I walked out to give my talk, there were nearly three hundred people sitting in the hall. I glanced in terror at my translator. I was so frightened I could not look up from the floor. I remember holding my knees to try to stop my legs from shaking. Why had she told me only a few people would come?

In my moment of great fear on that stage, I began to pray to God, and turned my thought entirely to God and His great love for me and for all mankind. The First Epistle of John in the Bible assures us: ''There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear . . . . He that feareth is not made perfect in love. . . . And this commandment have we from him, That he who love God love his brother also'' (4:18, 21). I looked about for something to see as an example of God's love. In front of me were nearly three hundred examples of that love, but I was still too frightened to look at the audience. So I looked to my side-and saw a piano.

It was shining, highly waxed, immaculate. Then I saw it had one leg missing. It, like so much else, had been badly damaged in the war. Where the leg should have been, the piano was held up by some orange crates. The beautiful bouquet of flowers that sat in front of the piano was not an attempt to hide its missing leg but was a symbol of love, an expression of welcome to all. Love alone filled my entire being at that moment. I felt the love this proud, old piano seemed to radiate, the love from the flowers, the love, finally, of the audience reaching out to me. The piano seemed so brave. Couldn't I be brave, too? At that moment, I thought of my mother's inscription, and that sentence from Science and Health, ''Love inspires, illumines, designates, and leads the way.''

I was introduced and began to talk. The translator would put what I had said into her language after a few sentences. It all sounded very disjointed to me, awkward. From time to time I'd glance at the piano for courage. But I could not look at the audience.

Then the fear was gone, and when a strong thought came to me to look up at the audience at last, I saw half of the audience were in tears, their faces shining, they were so moved by what I was saying. There was so much love and joy in the room that it felt like something one could touch. I knew no personal gift of eloquence was involved. I felt as if someone had ordered me to take a message to some people in the next room.

How does Love inspire, and fear retire? Because fear is always the lie about something. Love is always the deepest truth about everything. We never need to be afraid to serve as divine Love's messenger, no matter what the circumstances. We are always capable of doing whatever God bids us to do, since the necessary skill always comes from Him.

Mrs. Eddy has written in Science and Health: ''Mind is not necessarily dependent upon educational processes. It possesses of itself all beauty and poetry, and the power of expressing them. . . . We are all capable of more than we do'' (p. 89). When we let divine Love in-spire us, we are God's messengers for that moment. We are obedient to our promise, carrying out Love's purposes perfectly.

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