Subtlety

It’s the word God keeps whispering to me the past several months. And it’s something my soul is stretched by. I’m the out there girl, saying it all, holding back nothing.

When I sing, it’s loud.

When I bang on the piano or play the guitar, it’s resounding.

Last night as I listened to my daughter’s choir concert, a memory flashed me. Of me being tutored by my voice coach in high school. He’d put a hand on my shoulder, tell me to focus, to restrain my voice. My problem was a strong break between my chest and head tones–so strong I fancied myself only an alto, and would shy away from those breaking notes, G or A, depending on the day.

He taught me that I could nullify the break in my voice if I quieted down.

I still sing loud. Still break at G or A. Thick headed me!

Then I remembered my piano teacher in college (don’t get any wild ideas. I’m no pianist…this was beginning piano). I’d treat every series of notes as a crescendo, pounding the poor piano to death. My teacher, an aging Jewish man who spoke with reverence and beauty, told me to relax, to breathe. “Breathe Mary. Slow down. Life’s not about getting to the end of the piece. Enjoy playing it. Don’t rush.” He saw into my character even then, spoke wisdom into me, but I resisted.

Surely life couldn’t be about subtlety? Mustn’t it always be shouted? Proclaimed? Told boldly? Painted with red and black and blue and yellow?

In the quiet of my home on the grayest of Texas days, I see the wisdom in both my music teachers. The world may listen to shouters, but they are changed by those who whisper. Who sweetly coerce. The stories that cling to soul are those unfolded gently, like a grandmother unfolds her daughter’s christening gown. Layer upon subtle layer is the stuff we are made of. To believe otherwise is to cheapen our worth.

Just for a moment, I’d love to hear my teachers’ voices cautioning me to slow down, to quiet my voice, to listen to the rhythm of life beating its hushed drum. I’d like to think I’d stop and listen. And actually heed this time.

Subtlety doesn’t weave its way through me, I know. But that doesn’t mean God can’t weave those threads through my outlandish soul. I have a feeling that will take some doing. That I’ll need to quiet myself and really listen.

And then let it be done all whispery and sweet.

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