snow in the field

Yukiko Tanaka, pianist

Touched by God's Love

Right after I moved to New York, my life was very miserable. I did not have friends or a job. I did not have much money because I spent it on moving and paying tuition for graduate school. In order to make some money, I started working as a waitress, baby sitter, and housekeeper. I had never done such jobs and I struggled a lot. These jobs were physically draining that I did not have enough time or energy left to practice piano after work. I felt I was dropping out of the competitive musicians world in New York. I did not have any hope for my piano carrier and I wondered to myself, “Have I come all the way to New York only to watch my dream pass me by?” Counting the little money I had, I was crying almost everyday and almost despaired.

 

Around that time, I started going to the Japanese American United Church in Manhattan because I wanted to have Japanese friends and because I had nothing to do on Sundays. I came to know this church by an invitation flyer for Thanksgiving dinner which I received on a visit to New York when I was still a student intern even before moving to New York. When I was in Michigan, I used to play piano for a Catholic Church three times a week. I did not have any objection to playing music for a church, but at the same time, I did not have any special feeling for going to church. However, this time, things were different. The Gospel was delivered to my heart as I attended the church not as a part-time pianist but as a congregant. One day, I was reading a devotion guide in my room and one sentence, “God knows your concerns and needs”, caught my eyes. At the moment, I felt my whole body become warm and tears gushed out of my eyes. Then I felt as if somebody was standing a little behind me gently comforting me. I knew that was Jesus. 

 

I realized I had come very far from God as a result of going my own way in my effort to be happy. According to the Bible, the most serious sin is to ignore God and live your own life. I cried and apologized to God. I wanted to go back to God like an innocent child. In January 2003, thanks to support and prayer of church members, I was led to be baptized by Rev. Nathan Brownell who often shared from the following Bible verse, which deeply moved me, “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees" (Psalm 119:71).

 

I would not say that my situation dramatically improved overnight, instead God began to change me from the inside out. Since baptism, my heart has been always filled with trust and peace in God. I could overcome hardships and difficult situations because I believed God would never give me less than what was really best for me. I could be humble and accept hardships and unpleasant situations because I understood that was His plan. Indeed, all these hardships are indispensable to me toward becoming a better person. “He has made everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

 

Before I became Christian, I was practicing piano very hard because I wanted to be a better pianist and win competitions. Unfortunately living this ways made playing piano more like a burden to me. I liked piano, but I was always afraid of making mistakes in front of teachers and fellow musicians. I was filled with disappointment in myself and jealousy towards other musicians.

 

After I became Christian, I learned that I can play piano for God. Now playing the piano is how I praise the Lord. God has given each of you a talent so you can use it for his glory. However, at the beginning I was not really sure what I was doing or how I can do it.

 

Six years passed while I was wondering. One Sunday, when I heard the sermon by Dr. Keller, a senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, I realized a very important thing. God loves me if I play piano or not, if I work hard or not, and if I am good or not. Nobody is good enough to earn God’s love! Only because of His son, Jesus, we can approach to God. And Hhe already loves me. He loves me, that is why he has sent his only son, Jesus as our savior. Then I fully realized what it means to be “a child of God” which is different from being “an employee of the Lord.” What I mean is, a child is loved by parents just because of its existence, not because what and how well he/she does. On the other hand, an employee is judged based on his/her attitude and performance. Since then, my heart became filled with gratitude, and now I enjoy being a real child of God!

 

So, God loves me even though I am not always a good person and am sometimes a poor pianist. Does this mean that I should stop trying to be a good person and stop practicing piano? No. He loves me, that is why I am motivated to work harder. This sounds a little bit paradoxical. I am so thankful to Him, that is why I play piano, and that is why I show my gratitude by using my talent for good things. Once you realize a great love of someone, you cannot just ignore it. It changes you.

Now I play piano not to appeal for God’s favor, but as a natural response wanting to thank Him. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men (I Corinthians 12:4-6).” Amen.