Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Repetition, Rehearsal, and First Response

The tips of my mother’s fingers were engraved by the marks of practicing her violin. Most people knew her as a talented musician.  I knew what that meant, a lifetime of continual practice, and the permanent indentations to prove it.  

Mom had no conception of free time.  If she was not occupied by something urgent, she was practicing.  It didn’t matter where she was, she would find a way to practice.   In the bathroom, late at night, she played with the vent fan on high to drown out the noise. Even in the car, when she was waiting for carpool or one of us to come out of an appointment, she put that time to use.  She never stopped.  Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, I would see her drumming her fingers, knowing full well that she was playing a sonata in her head.  She did not practice to become better;  she practiced that she would know the music, to be one with it.

She would work on the same piece of music for years, playing a difficult passage over and over to get it right, to make it natural, to imprint the patterns of the notes in her fingers and her mind, so that when she came to the hard part, she knew exactly how to handle it.   In a performance, when the pressure was on, she could then concentrate on the essence of a piece as a whole, instead of focusing on an obvious pot hole.   I imagine her smiling as she approached the impossible. She was ready.   Bring it on. 

Recently in an article in the Wall Street Journal (“Practice Makes Perfect – And Not Just for Jocks and Musicians,” October 27-28, 2012), author Doug LeMov stated what my mom knew all along:  “Practice lets us execute a task while using less and less active brain processing.  It makes things automatic…  What drives mastery is encoding success – performing an action the right way over and over.”

God calls us to do the same, to practice and to train ourselves in righteousness – that which is good and right and loving.  Just as highly technical passages did not come naturally to my mom, so we must repeat, rehearse and practice our first response to difficult situations and relationships, wearing a groove into our hearts, encoding what God intends.
Practice grace in that turmoil.
Practice contentment .
Practice praise.
Practice joy.
Practice kindness intentionally .
Practice love.

What does that look like?   Think it through, pray it through, and let God change you.  It is not a matter of “becoming a better person,” but letting your Biblical worldview logically impact what you do every day.

Go over and over again godly responses to your own difficult (and possibly daily) passages.  Practice until it becomes automatic, and it becomes a part of you. 

A few weeks ago, when I found myself heading into a highly charged situation, I remembered the article about practicing.  And so, even before I started to freak out over it, even before I began gathering up my ammunition, God impressed upon my thoughts:   Practice grace in this.”  He stopped me in my tracks.  It astonished me to approach that volatile situation with a different mindset and different eyes.  I practiced something new.  And God transformed a difficulty into an opportunity.

The Bible continually talks about practicing, training, disciplining ourselves, and exercising.    Deliberate effort and  frequent repetition work into us what does not come naturally that we may practice what is good and right and loving, no matter where, no matter when, no matter what. 
What is my first response?  What do I practice?  Dismay?  Selfishness?  Criticism?  What do I put into action, set in motion, apply, and fall back upon?   Do not be conformed by usual defaults, but transformed by what is transcendent.  Work it and pray it, over and over again, so when the impossible passages come, "Ahhhh, I already know that part."

May our lives be so engraved by the marks of practice. 

Practice these things,
     immerse yourself in them,
 so that all may see your progress.
                           1 Timothy 4.15

1 comment:

Laura said...

Thank you for this.