I see music as a metaphor for many different things and certain periods of life. Sometimes I am like "The Bumblebee" all crazy and anxious when I am trying to think, though I would rather be logical and resolved like Bach's use of counterpoint. Other times I'm skipping through life joyfully, like a certain nun through Austrian hills singing about whiskers on kittens and warm woolen mittens. But sometimes I realize that I box myself in.
I have a brilliant little student. Let's call her So-Amazing-She-Could-Be-A-Jazz-Musician-When-She-Grows-Up. Or let's just call her La, for the 6th interval. (6ths are cool. So is she.) So La (no solfege humor intended) is amazing. She has an incredible ear, and we usually start the lesson with her playing the songs she has made up during the week, or the songs she has heard others playing and wants to replay for me. She takes great joy in sharing these with me. Usually her songs include 7ths and 9ths - did I tell she's amazing?
So where does the box come in?
I box-in myself through my lack of planning La's lessons. We get into her lesson book every week and she plays me her songs. But I sometimes forget to introduce her to new things apart from her book, or connect what we've been learning to a great piece of music. In doing so, I miss opportunities to create moments to be fun and creative with music. I often forget to connect it to what makes the necessaries - like scales, her disdain - meaningful and how that meaning brings joy to playing the song. I get so caught up in the mechanics, in staying on-track in La's lesson book, in having perfect tempo and nice notes. And I forget about shaping the phrases, about the colors and tones. I forget about the joy of playing and making music. My music teacher-friend reminded me of this last week. She was telling about two of her students, one who is so concentrated on each note that he misses the phrase, and the other who, despite being younger in age and skill, sees shapes and phrases when he plays, not only the individual notes. When you get past the anxiety of concentrating on each note and focus on the phrasing, you make music. It's like me focusing on every single word when I speak (think. Star. Wars. my. reader.), instead of speaking in sentences and paragraphs. Which would you rather listen to?
When she told me this, it hit me hard. Can I raise my hand and sound a giant Beethoven chord? Ah, yeah, that's me. I get so concentrated on the providence I am currently experiencing that I forget a very true truth: it won't always be like this. Even if you were to repeat the same note for 20 measures, eventually it will change as the song moves on (unless you're playing some incredibly odd piece of 20th century music that repeats only one note the entire song; that song doesn't count for this metaphor) .
I box myself in because I don't trust God has good things planned for me. I am guilty of being distrustful when my bitter providence seems like one repeating note and is slow to change. Usually during such times, I fail to realize it's a part of a larger phrase (phase) of my life. To overcome that, you have to plan.
I have been challenged again and again by Piper's sermon series and book about Ruth. Strategic planning for strategic righteousness. It is during my planning that I discover the plans He has for me, Proverbs 16:9. I mean, if Ruth hadn't committed herself to God and Naomi hadn't planned to go to Israel, what would have happened to them? We don't know the answer. I'm grateful she made plans and went forward. We can't always see the next measure of the music. Sometimes all we have is the one note we're staring at. But this is when we have have faith and trust God: to be thinking ahead, anticipating for the next measure. I'm not talking about worry or anxiety. I'm talking about planning. Music is always moving, and so is our lives.
So what about me and planning? Well, I have discovered my lack of planning stems from this thought that too much planning is sin. I realize that is not scriptural. Planning is not a sin. Not consulting the Lord and disobeying Him is the sin. If I make plans apart from Him and do not heed His direction, then I sin.
The other faulty thought I have is, if it's risky, it isn't God. This isn't always true. There are foolish, unwise risks, it's true. But consider Naomi's plan for Ruth to approach Boaz during the night. How daring! How trusting and risky of them both! I'm still trying to sort through Naomi's counsel and Ruth's actions. And yet, it reminds me that God so often leads us through some daring circumstances and risky actions to accomplish his will for us. There is not enough space to recount the numerous events in the Bible where people took great personal risk and how Christ was glorified and they were joy-ified (my new use of the word) by their risk and trust (check out Hebrews 11). I think about the times in my life when I took risk. I knew God was leading me and I trusted Him. These experiences were such joy for me and glory for Him that I keep them documented in my journal to remind myself of His goodness when I'm going through those repeating note times.
I think about La and how she is a little risk taker. Does she realize the risk involved in sharing her songs with me or playing the piano in front of me? No, because she trusts me. She knows after this many months that I even if she plays a wrong note, my correction is only to make her a better pianist. And even after the corrections, we are always going forward towards more and better and great. I am always happy to see her and have her share her life and music with me. I believe that so it is with Christ, although it is His life we share, not ours any longer. He is happy to see us. He told a parable once about the servant who kept back his talent because he knew (or perhaps mistakenly believed?) that his master was a hard, harsh man. His master reprimands for it, because even if he were truly that way, the servant should have still taken action, whether for fear or joy, he should have done something with his talent. Honestly, I think that if his master truly was hard and mean, would he have entrusted his servants with so many talents of silver to invest for him? Perhaps I am not thinking of this parable biblically. But I think that if God was truly harsh, he would not entrust us with talents of silver to invest. We are in trouble if we draw back in fear and don't move forward. We are wrong if we view God as harsh and unmerciful. He is concerned with his glory, but also our joy - and the two depend on each other exclusively.
Perhaps these metaphors don't help. Perhaps this is a terribly weak, terribly lengthy piece of writing. And perhaps it's all just bad theology. Despite that, I am challenged to place my trust in God, prayerfully make plans, and wait in anticipation during the repeating notes and phrases of my life.