It started with the accordion. I began music lessons in 2nd grade learning to play that portable squeeze box from a man who could polka with the best of ’em. I began to learn notes and how music comes together. I later took piano lessons and found I really loved the instrument, but I really hated practicing. I had this ability to “hear” the music and play it back (with a little practice), and this became a vital asset to me. The problem I have now discovered is that I learned music and piano without really learning how to count the rhythm. I would hear it and play it back without really knowing if I had played a quarter note or a dotted eighth. So far, so good in my musical life. I have coasted on one ability without developing the other, but something has changed in my mind about my ability to coast.
It hit home with me a few weeks ago when I went to California to record my album. I had written my songs–music and melody, and hired a friend to make sense of it all by arranging it. Manuel, my friend and producer would then take my melodies and create musical lines using different instruments in order to create the arrangement. He knew how long each instrument should hold each note. He knew which instruments should play when and where in the song. As I sat there musing, “This is why I hire professionals”, I realized that this knowledge was available to me too if I wanted to learn it.
I have always thought of musical notes as pieces of furniture that have to fit in a room. Just give me the room size and I will cram whatever furniture I can into it and try to make it look nice. I’m not the kind of person who usually measures first. I’m usually the personality that cuts things out to make them fit. An epiphany hit me the other day when I was talking with my daughter’s piano teacher. I confessed my inability to count rhythms in music, much to her surprise. That’s when she said something that really impacted me. She said, “Once you know the notes and their rhythms, you will read them and know exactly what they are supposed to do. Instead of you trying to guess and fit them into a measure, they will tell you their measurement.” LIGHT BULB!!!
Much like my relationship with notes and measures, I find many people view God in the same way. They have heard a lot of stuff about Him. They have enough knowledge to make them sound like they know Him, but their relationship with Him is really just a combination of rumors of Him combined with their own or other’s experiences. God is just a big room and they cram their furniture of knowledge about Him into it. The thought that they can know Him is a foreign thought. If our experiences and ideas about our God are what shape our image of Him, then we are actually the ones trying to define His character and intentions.
What is needed is the discipline of learning. You and I must read His Words that declare who He is. We must study His notes so that when we see them at work they define themselves and we are not left to create our own God. The fantastic news is that He gave us the ability and opportunity to do this. By reading His Word. The Bible tells us who God is and how He has revealed Himself. There is enough information in those 66 books to define the character and nature of God and His relationship with us so that we don’t have to make up our own versions.
So, guess what? I signed up for music lessons. I am learning to count rhythms, and honestly it makes me feel a little dumb and insecure. It isn’t easy for me, at least not yet, but I am encouraged by the fact that I can learn it and internalize it to the point that it will begin to tell me what it is. I am looking forward to knowing what fits in a measure of music and what doesn’t. I won’t have to saw off the legs to a piece of furniture to make it fit!
I want to do this in my walk with God as well. To be immersed enough in His Word that it tells me who He is, to not coast on what I know from others or even my own experiences, to live by His definitions–that is my goal. The good news is: He can be known!