I have a ringing in my ears.
It’s not a pitch, or static white noise, it’s just there. I can push aside the distracting thoughts of the day—the strange memories of things I've done or, the things I have left undone, but after that clutter is gone, it's still just there humming away.
It’s kind of like when you try to make a recording at home and you realize the room is way too noisy. You turn off the low rumble from the AC, unplug the refrigerator's humming, even take the battery out of the clock to stop the ticking. You do all these things to finally get it quiet, and then you can hear your neighbor mowing the lawn.
In my life, that noise is a message that just says, “You’re not enough” or sometimes, “You’re not doing enough.”
Sure, it’s tempting to blame the culture of violin competitions, auditions, and also a distorted message from the church for this burden because without a doubt they have both contributed. If it weren't for the grace of God and the fellowship of other Christian artists, I definitely would have given up both pursuits. While both encourage doing more—whether it's practicing or praying without ceasing, the purpose was never to tally up the hours and reward the most diligent.
Performing, and staying busy however does appease this inner bean counter, as it requires intense focus and control of all my faculties. But it can lead to emptiness if it's just to prove that I am doing something, with a sort of "Look at that, I made something nice and I brought others joy" justification. The accomplishments tend to blur together, as they're quickly forgotten and must then be outdone.
But a particular performance, where God intervened, will forever stand out in my memory.
A few years ago I was playing Brahms’ Requiem, a piece that already was special to me from prior performances. But the piece is also unique because, rather unusual for a violinist, there’s absolutely nothing to play for the first movement. This forced meditative time changed my perspective from trying to deposit the right notes at the right time, to being more in tune with the bigger picture of why I was there.
On this evening, God’s presence filled me in a way that I can’t describe. With each movement, I was filled with even more peace and fulfillment.
As the music and the words of the Requiem passed through the concert, the truth that God loved me just as I was sank deeper and deeper, and I heard the truth that chasing accomplishments to prove I was enough would never actually be enough.
Performing has always been the equivalent of turning off the noisy appliances- effective, but a short term relief, at best.
Only God's overwhelming love and truth is able to completely quell the voice of insecurity and fear.
"...all the glory of man is as the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls away. But the word of the Lord endures forever." 1 Peter 1:24-25