...at least thatʼs what my piano teacher used to tell me. I began taking piano lessons when I was six years old. And from what I remember, I really enjoyed playing but not “practicing.” I liked to play the songs that I liked and the ones I was good at. I guess thatʼs normal. Iʼd venture to say most of us prefer to do the things we feel we are good at as opposed to things that are difficult and challenge us. As I continued taking lessons (for many years), and as I matured, I began to see the wisdom in those words – “practice makes perfect.” As the musical selections became more difficult, more practice was required to master them. Even so, sometimes there still seemed to be a disconnect between my brain and my fingers. It took purposeful effort and concentration, and sometimes breaking down Bach Inventions into one measure at a time, or moreso, one hand at a time, to really play each rhythm and note correctly.
You may be wondering how in the world this is relevant. Well, at our last event, Stefaney and I referenced a book, The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter. The entire book is based on Colossians 3, taking off the old and putting on the new virtues we receive through our relationship with Christ. Here is an excerpt from chapter five:
“...I believe Scripture is clear that virtuous living requires effort on our part. As Dallas Willard so insightfully says, ʻGrace is not opposed to effort (action)–though it is opposed to earning.ʼ When we take the chisel to the stone of our old natures, thereʼs one piece in Colossians 3:9 that adds practical instruction for us: Paul says to take off the old self with its practices. We practice things all day long without always realizing it. The question becomes not are we practicing, but what are we practicing? Itʼs easy to get stuck in the pattern of our old lifestyles when we donʼt change our practices. Without coming at this from a legalistic perspective, we must make some tangible changes when weʼre learning to walk in the Spirit.”
So, if the statement “practice makes perfect” is indeed true, we could become masters at things weʼd never intend. I donʼt want to be “good at” gossip. I would never consciously select selfishness as a worthwhile pursuit. Or anger. Or bitterness. Or... (you fill in the blank).
We need to be careful and very intentional with what we practice. Knowing what the Scriptures say about the virtues (compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, love), and that because we have been chosen we can now wear them, doesnʼt always make them easy to put them on. Just like the seeming disconnect between my brain and my fingers while learning a new piece of music, there sometimes seems to be a spiritual disconnect between my brain (knowledge) and my heart (practicing) when it comes to daily wearing my “new” wardrobe, designed by the Maker Himself. I am not a new believer; I came to Christ that same year I began taking piano lessons. Yet all these years later, Iʼm still a work in progress, and with His help, a work in practice.
With Christmas only a week and a half away, letʼs be mindful of what we are practicing. Letʼs practice patience when weʼre standing in the long line at the check-out. And how about practicing kindness to the cashier who may have been on her feet all day? And letʼs try humility when someone cuts us off in traffic; are we really in that big of a hurry? There are lots of practical ways we can show Christʼs love this season, and the benefits will far outweigh any negatives. Come back here and share your experiences as you are practicing. You may just encourage someone else along the way.
I hope you have the happiest of holidays as you spend time with family and friends and as you celebrate the greatest gift the world has ever known – The Light of the World, The King of Kings and Prince of Peace, our Emmanuel.