In Junior High I decided I want to play a musical instrument. I chose trumpet.
From the informational night where we got to try making a sound through the instruments, all the way through my first year playing, I loved learning trumpet.
My best friend at the time was also playing trumpet and many nights during that first year playing, we’d get together at his house and toot and squeak and sometimes even play something recognizable. We traded first chair back and forth (whatever that means for beginning band members). It was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed being a trumpeter.
At some point during my second year, the practicing stopped being fun. It became a chore. A duty. A dreaded bit of homework. I still got together with my best friend. I still enjoyed playing trumpet. I especially loved learning the theme to Superman. I just didn’t practice as much as I had when I first began.
First chair honors came fewer and farther between. My individual test scores became more erratic. My rapid learning slowed and the time I should have been spending in class tweaking what I had been practicing became time to learn what I hadn’t practiced.
I struggled though a second and then a third year of band. My practicing didn’t improve much and when it came time to transition to High School, I set the trumpet aside.
After the initial excitement learning something new (remember I’m a Learner), maintaining my interest was difficult and my skills didn’t improve. I stalled and it all came back to my unwillingness to put in the time with the instrument.
You have to practice if you want to grow. you have to practice if you want to improve. you have to practice if your skills/talent/knowledge/expertise is to develop.
In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, Gladwell explains the 10,000 hours rule. In short, Gladwell offers a compelling list of examples that suggest to become an “expert” at something, a person needs to log 10,000 hours doing whatever it is they want to do really well.
It seems the key to success is practice. Lots and lots of practice. 10,000 hours of practice as a matter of fact.
I stopped well short. Which explains at least in part why I’m not a world-famous trumpeter.
Well what if what’s at stake isn’t playing a musical instrument, but living the fullest life possible? What if I want to be a disciple of Jesus Christ? Not just a fan, or someone with a passing interest, or someone who can appreciate Jesus as a good guy with some good things to say.
What if I want to be like Christ?
I need to practice. I need to keep at it. I need to read and pray and give. I need to share and love. I need to worship. I need to study. I need to sacrifice. This is some of what “practicing” to be like Jesus includes.
Now I could check off my hours up to my 10,000 so I could say I’m a Jesus expert. I could see practicing as a necessary hardship until I get to do the good stuff of playing the first trumpet part for the Superman theme. I could, but I’d miss the point.
All that practice is formational. Practices in the spiritual sense are means of grace. Engaging in these practices is how God is revealed to us and through us.
Again, the season of Lent invites us to consider our practices; how we are practicing.
Am I spending time in prayer?
Am I reading scripture devotionally?
Am I seeking opportunities to serve others?
Not to become a spiritual expert after I log my hours, but to become more like Jesus. Not to fil out a practice log, but to become more loving.
Just like my initial experience practicing trumpet, practicing with others makes a difference. Will you practice with me?
Life is better together,
Check out what a few of my friends taking this journey with me think of this word…