I love music. I've always loved music. But when I started playing a musical instrument in fourth grade I had no sense of rhythm. In fact, it took me many years to develop that sense. My mom and I would drive a half an hour to my private violin lessons with Mrs. Small, a tiny lady who used to be my mother's music teacher when she was young, and who insisted that now that she was over 85, she was allowed to subtract a year from her age for each birthday. I can still remember her asking me, week after week, "Are you counting this?" and "You didn't count this week, did you?"
The truth is, counting was something I reserved for math class, and I found the process of counting to four repeatedly, while playing the violin, to be very difficult. My mind didn't seem to want to do those two things simultaneously, and honestly, I didn't really see the point of it.
I was well into my high school years, I think, before I really began to develop a sense of rhythm. How did I survive all those years of playing recital pieces, and playing in an orchestra?
I used external cues. If Mrs. Small was accompanying me on the piano, I would listen for her to play a specific note/chord, and then I would know it was time for me to come in. If I was in an orchestra, I would often wait for the violinist next to me to lift her bow, and then I would know it was time to start playing. Of course, neither of these techniques were very good, and often resulted in me starting a fraction of a second too late, because I would hear, and then play.
As my sense of rhythm developed, it was not because my mathematical abilities improved (I was an award-winning math student and competitor, so counting to four over and over produced no mathematical challenges for me!), but because I started to feel rhythms internally. My toes started tapping, and my fingers started drumming, and my head started bobbing. And the more I felt those rhythms physically, within my body, the less necessary it became to count.
When playing with an accompanist, I didn't need to listen for a note to happen; I could predict when it was going to happen. If I was in an orchestra, I wasn't watching and listening for my neighbor to come in; I could feel the right time within my body.
Counting, under these circumstances, becomes something you do to help you understand the structure of a particular piece of music, rather than something you do because it's the only way to keep time.
I realized that this is very similar to my life as a Christian in this world. At first, nothing comes naturally. My behavior is not internalized. To know how I ought to behave, I watch the people around me to see what they do, and I take my cues from them. It's not internalized.
But God wants the Christian life to be internalized. This is why there are repeated statements within the Bible that say God wants to "write his word on our hearts, rather than on tablets of stone."
The process of internalizing the Christian life is very similar to the process of internalizing a beat. At first, it all feels unnatural, and you end up mimicking others in order to "fit in," but as God does His good work in your heart, what was once externally motivated becomes internally driven, because your character and your heart are more and more aligning with the one who was born with a perfect moral rhythm.
Where are you in this process? I'm not talking about what your behavior is; I'm talking about what drives your behavior. Is it driven by a follow-the-leader mentality? Is it driven by a desire to fit in? Or is Christ steadily (albeit perhaps slowly) transforming your heart, writing the rhythm of his own heartbeat onto yours?
Oh Lord, change my heart, make it ever true. Help my heart to beat in perfect synchrony with you!
Having a six-month old child in the house is very interesting. One of the things that fascinates me is the way he studies us. If he can't see us, he's always turning his head to try to find us (finding Mama is a higher priority than finding Dada, but he does look for both of us). And when he finds us, he watches everything we do.
And he's started mimicking us.
If I blow a raspberry (I call it an "air zerbert"), he tries to mimic the sound (and has become quite successful at the task!). If I click my tongue against the roof of my mouth, he tries to mimic that as well (so far he has been unsuccessful; the closest he comes is to make a smacking sound by sucking his tongue against his upper lip).
He also studies the way we eat, and now that he's taking some solid food, he's quite eager to open his mouth for the spoon.
I realized this morning that I'm recycling myself. I'm taking the ideas, behavior patterns, and attitudes that make up who I am and -- whether I like it or not -- giving them new life in the next generation.
My son won't become a mini-me, and he won't become a mini-Laura; he will be his own person. But so much of his behaviors and ideas will be a recycling of things he sees in both his mama and his dada.
It makes me think pretty carefully about what Paul says in Philippians 4:
If I want my son to develop good and godly qualities in his life, I'd better make them an integral part of my life as well, because whatever I dwell on will get recycled!
And Paul follows up that verse with a bit of recycling:
What about you? What are you recycling to the next generation? I want to be able to say to my son -- and all the other people I come in contact with -- "Whatever you see and hear from me, it's okay to recycle it in your own life!"