Cynthia Fletcher is one of my wife’s adult piano students and brought this piece to her lesson one day. Cynthia wrote it as one of her weekly devotionals for Pine Hill Baptist Church, in Pine Hill, Alabama, where she is a member. This piece intrigued me because of Cynthia’s unique perspective on reading music. In the Lord’s providence, I was raised in a musical family, church, and school, reading music from as early as I can remember, and it never really occurred to me how written music might appear to non-musicians. Only recently, as Nichole and I have been privileged to teach music to a variety of students, have I realized how rare this ability – and upbringing – truly is.
I am grateful for my experience, but I am also grateful for Cynthia who has decided to continue growing as an adult and to show us all the rewarding work of learning to read, not only music, but the Bible as well. Maybe most adults won’t experience the rewards of diligently learning to read music in their later years, but I believe all Christians who spend any time learning to read the Scriptures better will find it time well-spent. I think Cynthia would agree; she blogs at “She’s Got a Pen.”
Please enjoy “Music to My Eyes.”
Ashley and I have been taking piano lessons for about two years now. It has been a life long dream of mine to be able to play, and I finally was able to begin the journey to make it a reality. That Ashley wanted to join in was a surprise, though a welcome one. Along the way, I’ve learned some lessons that can be applied to other parts of life too.
When I first began to study music, I saw lines and circles. Basically, it was a foreign language, gibberish before I learned to decode it. As time went on, practice enabled me to start to make sense of the lines and circles. But it was very slow going. I had to read each note individually, figure out what note it represented, and convert that to a place on a keyboard, before I could consider how to play it. It really was like learning to read. Now, I’m a little more proficient, and can recognize notes more easily, thought it’s still not second nature just yet. One day, hopefully, when I look at a staff, I will “see” music, like I “see” words and sentences when I look at a page of text. One day, I hope to read music fluently. But the only way to bring this dream to life is practice, and a lot of it.
Reading the Bible is a lot like learning to read music. At first, there are a lot of words and ideas that don’t really make sense. Born again, propitiation, sanctification, substitution, sacrifices? You struggle through them, look up unfamiliar words, and try to make sense of things. It is slow going. As you keep reading, getting more familiar with passages, they begin to make sense. And eventually, you begin to tie ideas and events and people from one book of the Bible to others, and it comes alive. Instead of disjointed stories, you have a richly illustrated tale. But it takes practice, and a lot of it. And it takes the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
I’ve also learned how very important timing is to music. You can change the entire feeling a song gives simply by changing the timing to which you play notes. If you play “The Old Rugged Cross” to the timing of “Amazing Grace”, you will have an entirely different song than either of the originals. It’s crucial to pay attention to the timing.
Timing in the Bible is vital too. Understanding what was going on in the country, with the rulers, and in the Israelite nation makes it much easier to understand why people acted the way they did, why God did the things He did, and how it all fits together. Events happened at a certain time in history. Why then? That’s where it helps to know what else was happening at that time.
Finally, one of the hardest things I’m learning is how important it is to see patterns. When I play hymns, I see Cs and Gs and Es. And B flats. There’s a lot of B flats in hymns. But my teacher sees patterns. She glances at it and sees an inverted V7 chord. And it changes the way she plays the hymn. I’m always awed by this, because I don’t yet see what she sees. I can take it note by note and eventually see it when she points it out to me, but I don’t yet recognize the patterns on my own. And so I continue to study and practice, and pray that one day I’ll see.
Patterns in the Bible are important too. Jesus is a sacrificial lamb? Hmmm, seems like a sacrificial lamb is a theme in the Bible, a pattern. Jesus was in the tomb for three days? Let’s see, didn’t Jonah stay in the belly of the fish three days? Could that be a pattern? Wait, they are celebrating Passover in the New Testament? Didn’t that start in the Old Testament? If you really want to see a clear pattern, look at the failure of the Israelites, and God’s forgiveness of them. Or examine how many time Jesus told his disciples what was to happen to him, and how many times they didn’t get it. Or, look for the pattern of Paul being thrown in jail, and his preaching to his jailors, and their coming to Christ because of it.
Music makes life richer, but learning to read it, play it, live it takes work. The Bible is critical to our Christian walk, but learning to read it, understand it, and live it takes work. The results are well worth the effort.
Totally agree. Thanks, Cynthia!