A few months ago, I wrote an essay for Deeper Story called In which I am practicing. It was born out of a turning point in my own life, and I wanted to mark it by writing about it.
After it was published, I was surprised – and so blessed – by the behind-the-scenes response to it. Email after email from readers and friends and strangers, all saying: YES. Yes. That is exactly what I want, too.
And then Sarabeth Jones decided to perform it at her church.
She’s a talented actress and creative soul from northwest Arkansas’ Fellowship North. On the Sunday of the performance, I was crazy excited and nervous, and I wasn’t even there or involved in the least! It was all her and her team. She changed some of the words to reflect their community’s unique needs. Then, with her lovely friend playing Bach’s Prelude in C alongside, she performed that crap out of that essay.
After she was finished, the church swung right into Matt Redman’s 10,000 Reasons (which I’ve linked below as well), and they had a time together.
I asked Sarabeth if I could share the audio with you and she graciously agreed. It’s available here as a free download just below. When I listened to her perform it, it felt like every word was new to me. (Maybe it’s her lovely Arkansas accent.)
Sarabeth, thank you again so much for this gift and honour!
So here you go – just click the link below:
In which I am practicing
I have practiced cynicism, like a pianist practices scales, over and over. I have practiced being defensive – about my choices and my mothering, my theology and my politics – until I was on the offense. I performed, with repetition, outrage and anger, the victim of someone else’s god, I jumped, Pavlovian, to right every wrong and defend every truth, refute every blog post, pontificate to every question. I called it critical thinking to hide my bitter and critical heart, and I wondered why I had no real joy.
It didn’t take long for my proficiency in cynicism to become obvious to others. My aptitude didn’t take a lot of work, I’ll be honest, it seemed to come rather naturally to me, maybe I was a prodigy. I practiced poking holes, deflating arguments, identifying the pill in all of the jam. My response to it all was, “yeah, but…” and I set up my piano on the border between Funny and Mean, playing sarcastic scales in the name of wit, you might be surprised by how much snark you can fit into 140 characters. And over and over and over again, I practiced and practiced, but no one liked to hear me play.
Give me just a moment here, follow me outside. I’m done with this grand piano, with this glossy stage. I’m done with the concert proficiency at Being Right, I’m ready to be Beloved instead. Here, now, let’s head for the Canadian wilderness together, I’ve got just the spot in mind, and wouldn’t you know it, out here, in the sunshine, there’s a battered old thrift store piano, just for me.
Look at me, clumsy, and learning to practice goodness and truth, like scales all over again, it’s like I’m born again. I want to practice gentleness and beauty, over and over again, until my fingers find the keys without thought. I am performing the bare basics, once more and then one more time and then again, boldness, discipline, silence, prayer, community, again and again.
I want to practice faithfulness, and practice kindness, I want to fill my ears with the repetitions of wide-eyes and open hands, and innocent fun, holy laughter. I want to practice, with intention, joy. I won’t desecrate beauty with cynicism any more, I won’t confuse critical thinking with a critical spirit, and I will practice, painfully, over and over, patience and peace until my gentle answers turn away even my own wrath. I will check the notes, ask for help, and I’ll relax my shoulders, straighten my spine, and breathe fresh air while I learn, all over again, the gift of grace freely given and wisdom honoured, and healing, and when my fingers fumble, when I sound flat or sharp, I’ll simply try again.
I’ll practice the ways of Jesus, over and over, until the scales fall from my eyes, and my ears begin to hear, and soon, my fingers will be flying over the keys, in old hymns and new songs, and on that day, when I look up, I bet there will be a field full of people dancing, beside the water, whirling, stomping their feet and laughing, and babies will be bouncing, and I’ll be singing and singing and singing the song I was always and ever meant to sing, the rocks will be crying out, and the trees will be clapping their hands, and the banquet table will be groaning with the weight of apples and wine and bread, and we’ll sing until the stars come down.
One design company made a little graphic for their office.