Keeping the Beat
“Mom, I want to play the drums.” The first time my son said those words to me I thought he was just having indigestion or some other momentary malady affecting his thinking, and secretly I hoped he was. My sister and I used to joke about buying drum sets for each other’s children for Christmas, but we never really considered the possibility of actually having percussion instruments in the house. However, as several weeks went by, my son just kept bringing the subject to the surface, washing away my notion that perhaps he was suffering a temporary affliction of mind. So, after a thorough discussion about the cost and commitment involved in playing a musical instrument, I conceded and enrolled him in drum lessons.
We are now a few weeks into this process, and I am pleased to say that Matt is doing quite well with his new musical undertaking. He is quickly catching on to the elementary techniques of drumming such as how to properly hold the sticks and how to correctly strike the drum heads. He has only one level of play at this moment and that is loud, but dynamic training will come soon, or at least that is what the teacher keeps promising me. At last week’s lesson, the topic of discussion was listening to the beat and counting. Matthew understands this concept and does it very well……..for about 2 measures. After listening to the music and counting along for a couple of bars, he feels he has done that long enough and can then fly through the rest of the song without giving it another thought. As such, what starts out as music quickly turns into mayhem as his strokes take on a life of their own, completely leaving the “beaten” path of the accompaniment track behind. As I am also a musician, this “rhythm gone wrong” is painful for me and I find myself compelled to flag him down and point him once again to the true cadence of the music. Thankfully, after pausing for a moment to listen, he is able to once again catch the beat and continue on with the song.
Last week during drum practice, Matthew and I once again found ourselves in this discussion over the need to pay close attention to the beat of the song from the first note to the last. I had no more than finished this all-too-familiar discourse, and God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of this Scripture.
Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40)
To examine means to inspect or scrutinize carefully. To test is closely related to examining, meaning to think through and evaluate. This Scripture implies by the word “return” that at one time God’s people had been in sync with Him but apparently now had fallen out of step and are being instructed to take stock of where they are and come back to where they should be.
What an interesting comparison. Just as my son started off in perfect rhythm with the music and then got distracted and strayed from the beat, we, too, can start off our walk with God in precise synchrony and, because of a distraction , end up meandering far off meter. That is why as Christians we must be continually listening, comparing where we are to where the Word of God says we should be. We must not only start on beat but remain on beat, and that demands diligence. It only takes listening to a foreign sound for a moment to throw a musician into rhythmical chaos, and it only takes a short time of taking our eyes off of God’s Truth to find our Christian walk drastically deviating from God’s intended course.
Truthfully, no one who is truly seeking to follow Christ ever intends to miss the beat, but being the imperfect creatures that we are and knowing that Satan is always on the prowl, looking to throw us off, it is not out of the question that at one time or another we will get off tempo with the Truth to some degree. This, however, is not a sign that our song has come to an end just because we may find ourselves to have fallen a few measures behind.
So what do we do when we suddenly wake up and realize we are no longer in rhythm with God’s purpose and plan? How do we get back in and finish our life song with the perfect unity we started it with? Amazingly, the same instructions that have helped Matt with his drums can help us, too:
1. Pause.Once we figure out that we are off rhythm, we can’t just ignore that and keep playing on. It is far better to just pause than to continue playing while being off beat. When we sense we have deviated in some way from the Plan, the best thing we can do before trying to correct it is to pause from our forward motion in the wrong direction.
2. Listen. After we have put the brakes on and come to a stop, we absolutely have to listen. We have to observe our point of reference. We have to realign ourselves with the music and feel the beat once again. Spiritually, this will involve delving into God’s Word and prayer, waiting to reconnect once more with the pulse of God’s heartbeat concerning our life.
3. Start again. Our song isn’t over because we happened to get off the beat. It has been Matt’s tendency to not want to start again because he messed up. Despair momentarily overtakes him and he wants to quit. It has taken some strong encouragement, but he has finally come to the point where he has discovered that he can rejoin the chorus and finish the song, even after committing what he considers an indefensible indiscretion. God in his magnificent grace offers full forgiveness and a fresh start for those moments when we find ourselves not quite where we should be. He desperately wants us to play again. Each of our lives are part of joyous symphony that delights and blesses his heart as our Father.
As Matt matures in his drumming endeavors, I know that his observation skills will improve and he will be less prone to end up on the wrong side of the beat. However, he will never reach the point where he can become indifferent to the music and still stay on track. Guess what. Neither will we.