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My Patient, Persistent Piano Teacher

Posted by Daniel Fang on

 

"Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”- John 4:37-38, NIV

Sometimes life as a Christian can be disappointing, especially when it seems like God isn’t doing anything or my efforts aren’t bearing fruit. When I feel this way, I think about my piano teacher, Mr. Masluk, who modeled perseverance in faith.

Mr. Masluk grew up in eastern Ukraine, studying music all his life before immigrating to the US after WWII and settling down in my hometown. There he set up a music studio and dedicated his life to bringing up the next generation of musicians.


Copyright : Dmytro Vietrov / 123RF

I still recall walking into that music studio twice a week and seeing the mountain of sheet music, books, and manuscripts spread out across several bookshelves. A nine-foot grand piano filled one side of the room while the empty space on the other side was used as a seating area for concerts and rehearsals. A second upright piano sat in the corner. Mr. Masluk was serious about teaching music.

Mr. Masluk was also a serious Christian. As a non-Christian, I found him to be excessively, unnecessarily vocal about his faith. Almost every week, we would have the following exchange:

“Daniel, have you thought about God today?” Mr. Masluk would ask.

I grew up in an agnostic home so, no, I didn’t think about God.

Then he would ask, “Did you eat today?”

Yes, of course I ate. People eat.

And then Mr. Masluk would respond, “Well, just like you need physical nourishment every day, you need spiritual nourishment every day.”

As an antsy teenager, I thought our back-and-forth on this topic was completely irrelevant to his role as my music teacher. Our interactions annoyed me, and I thought he was weird.

Mr. Masluk was my music teacher for ten years, from second grade to my last year in high school.  Despite his awkward devotion to his faith, he was a stellar music teacher. He taught me the discipline required to excel in classical piano, and his own love for music inspired me so much that I almost pursued this a music major in college.

Over the years, I learned how serious Mr. Masluk was about his faith. He lived simply, gave generously, and was very involved in local churches. In the summers, he did missions work in Ukraine. He prayed for me frequently—before concerts, before piano competitions, and whenever I shared about my challenges.

As a non-Christian, I found all this to be misguided. I thought he took his faith too seriously.

Before leaving for college, I had one last piano lesson with Mr. Masluk. He told me he had been praying for me regularly for the past ten years, sometimes before and sometimes after our weekly piano lessons. He told me that he frequently asked God to watch over me and for the Holy Spirit to lead me.

I didn’t know what to feel or think in response, and I didn’t feel particularly touched or moved. I politely thanked him. Deep inside, I tried my best not to judge him for being so unnecessarily Christian.

Then, in my first week of college, I became a Christian through a meaningful and mysterious encounter with God. It was a transformational experience that remains vivid in my mind fourteen years later.

I went home that summer. I was excited to see Mr. Masluk and share all the things God had done in my life that year.

When I saw him, I told him I had decided to become a Christian. He smiled and expressed excitement for what God was doing in my life in his reserved way. Then, I learned he had been recently diagnosed with end-stage colon cancer and was now in hospice care.

Surprised, I didn’t know how to respond. No one close to me had ever been in hospice. The only thing I could think to do was ask if we could pray together. For the first time in eleven years, the two of us shared a prayer.

Mr. Masluk passed away shortly after.

Those who were present at the Christian fellowship gathering where God found me probably credited the message and altar call for my salvation. And they would be partially right.

What wasn’t obvious the night I became a Christian—what no one, not even Mr. Masluk could have seen—was the fruit from ten years of prayer. No one saw my piano teacher’s quiet and patient intercession on my behalf. No one saw God sowing seeds of faith and laying the foundation for the slow, steady work of the Holy Spirit. These were the hidden parts of my transformation, seen only by God and revealed only in his time.

I’m deeply grateful for the privilege of knowing Mr. Masluk, for witnessing someone live out a vibrant and strong faith life. I’m glad Mr. Masluk and I could share one last prayer together, as two Christians, before he passed away.

Whenever I think of this story, I am reminded that God’s timing does not always match ours. His expectations are different than our expectations. The work of the Holy Spirit is often slow, steady, and unseen, but through perseverance and relentless prayer, we transform lives and move the heart of God.

 

 

 

Daniel Fang is married to the wisest and most beautiful woman in the world, Marie. He came to faith in college and has been attending The River Church since 2012. There he volunteers in small groups ministry and the worship team. In his spare time, Daniel eats, runs, reads, and rants about systemic imperfections. He enjoys spending time with his golden retriever, Sobe, who is perfect.

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