I love C. S. Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. I think they’re not only good literature, but full of fruitful ideas. One is the idea that Aslan, the Christ-figure, is not safe, but good. God is not in the business of wish-fulfillment or comfort or convenience. Not that all wishes, comforts, and conveniences are bad, but that sometimes there is something more important. God’s purposes and ways are higher than ours, and can be quite dangerous to us in an earthly sense, but we can have confidence that whatever he brings our way, he will carry us through it, and all things will work together for our ultimate good (Romans 8:28).
I have been thinking about the upcoming Cranberry Gathering, a festival for mountain and hammered dulcimer and for autoharp. I will be teaching two classes, and my friend Rick Davis from North Carolina will also be teaching. He’s arriving next Wednesday evening, so that we’ll have some time to practice for a piece we’ll do at the Friday night coffeehouse concert, and we’ll also spend Friday morning playing out on the Commons before heading to Binghamton for the festival.
That means that I’ll have to tune on Wednesday, and hope that my dulcimer stays sufficiently in tune for the whole weekend. With the weather being somewhat various lately, especially in terms of humidity, that hope seems really thin.
So what, right? If you were me, you’d just tune it again; Friday between playing out and arriving at the festival, and maybe again Saturday or Sunday sometime. And that’s what all the other dulcimer players will be doing. At least all the ones who care about being in tune and who are not raw beginners.
I’m not like those people. I can’t seem to ever tune in less than an hour and a half, and my average lately is just over two hours. And that’s not even all in one sitting; I get stressed enough that I generally have to take at least one serious break and sometimes two. I typically set aside a day for tuning, and work on it in bits throughout that day.
My reputation is at stake. I’m a professional performer. And I’m actually teaching some of these workshops. If my dulcimer doesn’t stay in tune, what will I do? I could leave it alone, or I could try to adjust it and hope that it doesn’t take too long, or I could try to adjust it and burst into a crying fit if it’s not cooperative. What will people think?
I’m dreading this.
Yesterday afternoon I was thinking about it. I was reminding myself that generally my dulcimer sounds pretty good to other people even when it sounds off to me. And that in the past my dulcimer has indeed stayed quite reasonably in tune for weekend festivals. There was one time when I did some visiting in Virginia before heading over to the Upper Potomac Fest in WV, and I had to retune in WV, and had a terrible time of it, but then the rest of the weekend it was fine.
Still worried, I tried the opposite approach, instead of trying to dismiss the fear, facing it head-on: what’s the worst that can happen? My dulcimer will sound awful, and I won’t be able to use it to demonstrate the things I’m teaching. I’ll try to tune it, wasting the entire class time, and having a panic attack, maybe even going into a rage and hitting someone or smashing my dulcimer. Everyone will think I’m absolutely crazy, or a fool, and that I have no right to be there at all, participant or teacher. I’ll never be able to go back. In fact, I’ll be blacklisted from all the other festivals, too, and wherever we go once the husband has finished here at Cornell, I’ll never again be able to play or teach dulcimer in public.
That’s pretty dire. But not the end of the world. Do I really care more what the dulcimer community thinks of me than what God thinks of me? Isn’t God big enough to provide for me even if I lose this career? I’m not saying it’ll be easy or that it won’t hurt a lot. But surely I can trust that God is good even when I’m a fool and humiliated?