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PACE: Can we sense the Holy, even in difficult moments?
Lyn Pace
Lyn Pace - photo by Special Photo

What’s it like for you when you have to do hard things? We’ve been talking with our 8-year-old a lot lately about this very subject. Doing hard things, for him, often comes with some big feelings. Me too.

The students I work with at Oxford College are in full swing now and many are starting to settle into a routine. The first few weeks, though, like any new year, come with big feelings for some of them too. They may have flirted with their independence in high school, but now they are married to it. Some of them hit the ground running while others need time and counsel to find their way. A few, oftentimes just one or two, decide to return home. This is a hard moment in their life, as are many of the moments that include major life transitions.

My son’s piano teacher has been offering him lessons on zoom and then in person for over a year now. A few weeks ago, she invited him to play a postlude duet of Henry Purcell’s “Trumpet Tune” on the organ. 

His fascination with the organ stuck from day one of in-person lessons, which means he gets to noodle around on it at the end of each piano lesson now.

He’s been practicing for several weeks now, and the big day was this past Sunday. Big feelings and a dose of nervousness accompanied him to church, though he hid the feelings for the most part until later that day. As we made it to the choir loft and he stood waiting for the final hymn to finish, I noticed him edging closer not knowing when the hymn was going to end and whether he should be sitting on the organ bench yet. I was behind him, steadying my hand and ready to hit the bright red record button.

He slid next to his teacher and a minute later the hymn ended. It was time. She counted off for him, and they began playing the majestic tune as people exited the church. A few people stayed and then others came back from outside once they realized what was happening. 

In only the way time slips through our firm grip, the moment was gone. I had successfully recorded it, which in and of itself was a miracle.

On our way home we talked about this important moment. I asked him how he was feeling. “I messed up,” he replied. Puzzled, I asked him what he meant, so we watched the video when we arrived home. He pointed out the mistake. It was at the very beginning, and I could see it in the video. His posture changed, and he looked at his teacher wondering what to do now. But, with her calm guidance, he kept going and all was well. 

In the end, I suspect that he and his teacher were the only ones who knew what had happened.

He was fixated on the mistake and when I tried to reassure him, those big feelings came to the surface as tiny lakes in his eyes. 

Later that night, I wrote to his music teacher thanking her for gifting him this opportunity and telling her about my interaction with him. She was quick to reply the next morning, “Yesterday was fabulous for a first public performance. The normal adrenalin rush threw him off just a bit, but people listening weren’t aware. Friends were happy and amazed!”  

Then she finished with, “And to us it was a holy moment.” 

What’s it like for you when you have to do hard things? 

We all know that life is full of difficulty; we can certainly attest to that in the last year and a half especially. 

I wonder, though, where the holy breaks into our lives? Is it just in the easy and simple moments? Or, if we pay attention, does it also happen amid difficulty? 

Sam’s teacher was right, they shared a holy moment. Thanks to her, I made sure to remind him of that before he started his new school week.  

The Rev. Dr. Lyn Pace is a United Methodist minister and college chaplain who lives in Oxford, Georgia, with his spouse and 8-year-old son.