Later that first day, I also helped with piano practice. (Nice to have a former piano teacher as a grandmother.) Silas is far more advanced than any student his age I ever had, and it is a joy to listen to him. The way his little mind picks up instruction is another pleasure. After just a couple of thirty minute sessions, his playing was cleaner and his interpretation more mature.
Judah has just begun. His problem is confidence in his left hand. He showed me his method book and went through about 8 pages lickety-split, but always using only his right hand, even when the top of the page clearly showed the left hand fingers needed to play the bass clef notes. He even had to think backwards to get the correct notes played because, if you haven't noticed, your hand is a mirror image of the right. Your thumb is your first finger on each hand and the finger numbers go from there. So playing a note with the fourth finger of the left hand requires playing that note with the second finger of your right hand in order to play the correct note. Thinking backwards was easy for him, but he steadfastly refused to use his left hand. He may not have said it this way, but he clearly understood that his right hand was dominant and his left the off hand.
Whenever I suggested he try it with the left hand, he compressed his lips and shook his little head. Finally, this teacher of nearly forty years' experience figured out what to say.
"Do you remember how hard it was to play with your right hand the first time you started? But now that you have practiced it, your hand is stronger and you can do it much more easily, right?" I finally got an oh-so-slight nod. "So if you start using your left hand, it will get stronger, right?" No nod this time, but he was still listening. "And when your left hand gets strong too, you will be able to play Foosball better and maybe beat your big brother."
Now you could see the wheels spinning. "How about giving it a try?" I asked.
"I will sometime."
"How about if I leave for a minute?"
I didn't really get a nod, but I left the room and before five seconds had elapsed I heard the piano. He might have played a little more hesitantly than with the right hand, but that left hand played every single piece whether it was written for right or left hand. Do you know why that worked? I gave him some motivation that meant something to him.
Do you think God doesn't give us the same thing? You can find what my college Behavior Modification class called positive and negative reinforcement on practically every page of the Bible. From "in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die" (Gen 2:17) to "and he shall wipe away every tear from their eyes…" (Rev 21:4).
God finds the motivation that means the most to the people he is dealing with. Sometimes we seem to think that we should be doing things "just because" and that will make us better than anyone else. Please find for me any place that says that. Even when it seems that way, there is an unspoken prod somewhere in the context—gratitude, fear, love, something that will help us accomplish the task. Even Jesus was given motivation: "…who for the joy set before him endured the cross…" (Heb 12:2).
Sometimes we misinterpret the motivation. All those descriptions of Heaven as a place of magnificent wealth? God is not appealing to our greed. Remember who he spoke to. Those people understood what it meant to pray for their "daily" bread. They didn't have well-stocked pantries, grocery stores on the corner, bank accounts, life insurance, stock portfolios, or any other of the things we have. He was appealing to their desire for security. A place so wealthy that gold and jewels were used as building materials and pavement meant they would never have to worry about keeping their families fed and cared for. Walls so high meant they did not have to worry about Barbarians coming over the mountains to raid their villages.
As with all motivations, we hope to mature so that someday we can motivate ourselves with something a little less mundane. As our spirituality grows, so should the incentives we use to succeed. Someday I hope Judah will use his left hand at the piano so he can be a better pianist, and not just so he can beat his brother at Foosball. But for now? Whatever works.
Find what works for you. Don't be ashamed when you need a little help along the way. If you need a metaphorical Mt Gerizim, find it. If you need a Mt Ebal, give yourself a little tough love. Motivation is not a dirty word.
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal 3:10).