Do you ever suffer from performance anxiety? You know, the clutching feeling inside that comes because you are afraid you can’t do something as wonderfully, as perfectly, as you wish you could, or as you think others expect of you. I sometimes have that anxiety in me, and when I catch myself with it I have to work to let it go. I know from experience – and perhaps from the perspective that time gives us – that after all, failing, or “falling down,” is not such a terrible thing. Thank God that, by the grace of God, we get to keep trying. We might even learn something along the way. I’m encouraged by Ellen Anthony, a librarian, who tells us that, like babies learning to walk, it is our job to fall down and get up again. Here in her wonderful words is a moment she recalled from her experience in the library:
“… one young man prepares for a piano concert in the meeting room. He takes lots of breaks, fumes about ‘butchering this stuff,’ and throws away yet another crumpled page of the Liszt that he loves to hate. I resisted saying anything because I know how satisfying self-torture can be. But the other day I broke down and said, ‘Forget how terrible you think you play. Think of your friends who want to hear Liszt. Hear you. Imagine loving them with this music. Do the best you can, and then have lemonade.’ He actually plays very well and loves this keyboard and the delicacy and fury of the Romantics. I wonder how it will go… Fall down, get up, fall down, get up. Drink lemonade. I get to keep trying…” *
So many of us struggle in the same way as that young man, torn between desire and frustration, disappointing ourselves with efforts to be perfect that only cripple our joy. Ellen Anthony’s words spur me to ease up a little on the self-torture and to say to my friends: “Forget how terrible you think you are at this thing you call your life; forget how stumbling your efforts feel to you. Think of the people who only want to love you as you are, none more than God. Imagine loving them with this music that is your life. Do the best you can, then have lemonade.”
I believe that God is not all that interested in finding fault with us. God wants only our best efforts at loving Him and our growing joy in life as we love each other. That’s why we get to keep trying. So – I am going to try to enjoy my life more, free of false guilt and useless despair. I’m going to try instead to love God with my life, doing my best and accepting the mercy and love God gives me. After all, we all live by grace, all the time!
May you experience the freedom and joy of God’s abundant grace today, and share it with your friends!
*from Ellen Anthony’s article, “The Candle Factory,” in Weavings, vol. IX, no. 1, p. 23.