I started taking piano at 4 years old. My fingers honestly weren’t big enough to learn to play, but I wanted to so badly that my family gave in, got me a teacher, and the hell began.
It looked so fun at first, one’s fingers moving across the notes and this rich, beautiful sound coming out. And my mom and aunt always looked like they were having so much fun while they were doing it!
That isn’t how it happened in my world.
I didn’t realize that to be able/capable of having “fun” with it, the amount of work that would be necessary would carve out a nice hunk of my “fun time” in life.
My parents were sticklers about practice. Every day, an hour. Summer meant double.
In hindsight, if I’d likened it to someone playing for a sports team or being gifted in gymnastics, dance, etc., I would have understood. Time into something brings returns on the tail end.
There were types of songs I liked to practice, to master. Religious songs, songs on the radio. But my teacher kept giving me “skills” books. Drills making me work on the rapid and precise movement of my fingers on the keys. I hated those exercises. I’d put them off til right before my lesson. But if I didn’t master it, my teacher would simply make me do it again for the next week. Why couldn’t I have an afterschool activity like cheerleading with all my friends?
The older I got the more I hated the lessons. I didn’t mind playing, but that practice every day was for the birds.
Flash forward 40+ years.
When hired to be the associate pastor of Williamson’s Chapel they needed someone to oversee/work with the music at their non-traditional service. That turned into multiple music things over the years, one being serving as the keyboardist at the Saturday night worship service.
When I stepped into that responsibility, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I’d been playing for 40 years, surely it couldn’t be that hard.
Playing in a band as ONE part is a very different thing than playing piano. It takes a completely different level of skill and attention. And it took me a long time to figure out the “how.”
I had to let go of a lot of what I’d been taught about playing. Relying strictly on sheet music, the piano being the instrument that drives everything . . . those things didn’t work anymore.
One night, out of an act of desperation, I gave up on the sheet music and started using chord charts. It’s what all the other band members used, I figured I’d try it too.
Throwing away some of the practices I’d used for 40 years ended up being the best thing that could have ever happened.
What did I learn?
All those hours of practicing drills etc. taught me foundational, rudimentary lessons that would be there innately when I needed them.
When my brain saw “C” or “Bb minor” . . . somehow my hands knew what to do. I couldn’t “tell” you where my hands should go, but once my thumb found the root note, the rest of my fingers knew which notes to play.
I’m still fascinated by that because it makes no sense. Other than it is “drilled deep” in there somewhere.
So many similarities between this and our faith life.
Having to unlearn some things so that we can fully embrace new, better things.
Getting to that deep foundation requires much self-work, that oftentimes we aren’t very interested in, but it is necessary anyway . . .
How would you describe your journey?
Are you creating that foundation so that when you need it, when you have to throw away safe things, you have the one thing that will hold you in and through all things?
We will be exploring this and more on Sunday.
I hope you can join in at 9 or 10!
Until then . . .