Updated on September 30, 2015
My eyes get in the way…
I play piano. I learned from my mom, who tried her best to get me to learn music theory. But third kid stubbornness won out. I just wanted to play. I didn’t care about theory and couldn’t see it’s relevance to just playing that song I really liked. I didn’t want to bother with plodding out the rhythm, so I would ask her to play the music first. I would listen to her rhythm and watch which notes her fingers started on so that I could get started without figuring it out first.
She eventually responded to my requests with “you figure it out”, I suspect realizing that I wasn’t learning to play so much as I was learning to mimic.
All these years later, I still don’t know theory. I couldn’t tell you what key a song is in or how to change keys. But I am learning. I have recently taken up scales. These musical exercises that seemed so booooring as a kid, are actually pretty relaxing now. As I increase my hand strength and finger placement ability, I realize yet another thing.
Reading the music is getting in my way. The more I look at the music, I realize I am not actually looking at it. I use the first note of a string to indicate where that first not should be, but I ignore the rest of it. Now, my progressions are moving at a quicker speed where I simply close my eyes and focus on the sound. I know I hit a wrong note because it sounds wrong.
But here’s the kicker: this eye closing is an extension of the prior issue. Yes, I might be learning theory now and practicing scales now, but I am not also reading music. I can read music. I am just choosing to rely on my ear and my finger muscle memory instead. This works for scales. It does very little for increasing my ability to sight read a new piece.
And such is the life of faith. your go to might be your gut check reaction. And most of the time, it might be right. But what happens when your gut is wrong, or worse, quiet? Have you built other skills, other approaches to faith that can fill in when the gut fails? Or maybe you fixate on studying the scripture to the point where you’ve drown out the Spirit. What do you do in that moment when you haven’t a scripture memorized that will assist?
Using the music example, here is what happens. I play piano. But I cannot play piano for church. One, because I do not believe it is my calling. But secondly, I simply can’t. My nerves at not being able to sight-read, my need to practice so much that ear and muscle memory can be relied upon, and my inability to ad-lib- fill in if the song leader take too long to come in result in panic disaster for a church piano player. The same is true in faith. If you only build or rely on one set of skills, you will only have those available to you when the situation shifts. God gives us many methods of seeing, hearing, approaching, and engaging with Him.
I still love music, and I still play piano. And I do so relying on my natural inclinations toward it. You can still approach the Father in your natural inclination. But remember we are at war. And sometimes the enemy purposely wages the battle in such a way that you need to use a different set of fighting to attack. Don’t be caught with only one tool of warfare. Use them all. Practice them all. And you’ll find yourself ready when a new battle arises.