Monday, June 4, 2007

Lessons from Mozart

It's been years since I saw the movie Amadeus, but I have to remind myself of some lessons I learned from it at least once or twice a month.

If you haven't seen the movie, here's a brief synopsis. In the beginning, Salieri is an up-and-coming composer who thinks he is writing beautiful music all for the glory of God. Enter Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a vulgar young man with few morals or redeeming qualities--but with talent that Salieri knows he will never have. Streaming from Mozart, Salieri hears the kind of music that he wanted to write. But why would God give such talent and success to this horrible "creature," instead of to him, who wants to dedicate his music to the Lord?

That question eats at Salieri, until he eventually declares himself God's enemy. He manages to ruin his own life and Mozart's through his bitterness.

It's easy to condemn Salieri, but I have often felt the seeds of those same bitter thoughts starting to grow in me. Have you ever read a book or seen a movie that affected you so deeply that you were astounded by its beauty? That you went around thinking of it for days, feeling it resonating inside you, and yet--you knew it wasn't really worthy? You know the kind I'm talking about. The stories that leave you grabbing for the Kleenex and rooting for the man to "follow his heart" and leave his wife for his mistress. Or maybe the story is noble, but the writer is an appalling mess.

Sometimes I want to ask God--okay, sometimes I do ask God--why do you allow people with such harmful messages to have such talent? I would love to serve you with my gift, and yet it's so paltry by comparison. Why would you allow "them" such success?

And then I remind myself of Salieri. I have to wonder, if serving God had really been his desire, would he have reacted the way he did when he couldn't be the best? Did he really desire God's glory, or his own? And then comes the really tough question--are my motives any more pure than his?

Do you ever ask yourself these kinds of questions? How do we have the necessary drive and ambition to succeed in this writing business, and still keep our focus on God? Have you ever experienced something similar, when you felt that God was clearly choosing the wrong person to carry his message? (In other words, not you!) How do we respond if, even temporarily, God holds us back and chooses to gift someone else?