A Fine-Tuned Life*

in , , , , , by sarahmfry, August 21, 2019

I sit here mesmerized, baby on lap, watching Heifetz play a Bach Chaconne.

What a combination – the power of Bach played by an all-time master. The idea pressing itself into my mind as I listen… is control.

Every note – every nuance – is perfectly balanced. The double stops punctuate, the spicatto bowing passages are crisp, brilliant and effortless. Yet the melody is the most powerful – always rising and soaring to the top in spite of the technical gymnastics being articulated.

Yet his music is marked with a certain wild abandon – a heart and soul that elevates the Chaconne above cold perfection to the warm Divine.

There is no doubt in my mind that this music is eternally linked to the heart of my Abba.

This single performance that fills me with awe on a snowy Thursday morning has required almost unspeakable dedication. A lifetime of days. Hours of commitment and practice as the body posture, hand formation, finger precision, bow weight are perfected and perfected again. The music has become so much a part of him that he needs not pause as the cameraman calls out “take one.” He begins with only the imperceptible prep breath that comes when the music has become part of your internal rhythm.

It is one thing to listen to such beauty and power and precision. Yet how unspeakably more it is to feel it in your fingers – the notes pouring out from muscle memory earned by the tedious aching hours. The bliss of the spicatto as it bounces in perfect balance.

There were days that I chaffed under the relentless pull of the music. The dedication required seemed too hard a task master – requiring too much. I wished to waller in the undisciplined freedom around me. But the pull of commitment and investment are powerful, and the practice room became my friend.

I remember, too, the days when I chaffed spiritually. Feeling frustrated that the walk, the dedication, seemed so difficult to master. Wishing that it would be easier. Wanting so desperately to hold perfection. But muscle memory only comes from practice.

Sometimes, in this walk, the commitment and investment keep us going. We press toward the goal that seems unattainable. This holiness – becoming like Christ – is surely farther out of our reach than the Bach Chaccone is to my pre-twinkling 3-year old right now. Were it not for grace.

The discipline of the holy life – discipline in every area – the “coming under” of ourselves to a Higher Power – is an absolutely necessary element. This, and only this, allow us to be fine-tuned to the place where we might enjoy the thrill of a life that sings with a holy brilliance.

Why is it that youth so often whispers to us that if we were truly committed enough, in love enough with Christ, that we would no longer need the discipline of holy living? Have we forgotten that the daily trying of our faith bringeth forth patience…spiritual muscle?

On this instrument, wild abandon alone will not get you far. My one-year-old has wild abandon. Minus the commitment. Minus the discipline, the sounds coming from his cardboard violin are less than holy, indeed.

But passionate worship, combined with the disciplined life, lets us experience the music that soars above the mundane. Having put in the daily hours of refinement, we gain “muscle memory” – the place where we no longer have to think about and analyze every movement. And the Holy Love that draws us passionately paints and colors and brings every note alive. And oh! What joyous freedom – to let His music move our practiced fingers.

Is this the point of arrival? The ultimate experience of holiness? Oh no, what a small God that would be!

I remember one – only one violin recital in 26 years of playing - when I finished feeling like I had played masterfully...almost. That’s the nature of this instrument. It is impossible to outgrow.

The more we learn - the more finely tuned our hearing becomes - the more we are aware of our need. And we practice on, that His music may sing through us more beautifully.

Dear Abba, would you fine-tune my life? Would You discipline my fingers, that their clumsiness will not get in the way of your song? Would you train my hearing, that it may discern what is truly beautiful? Would you bring me once again to the place of practice, that I may relish the freedom of being completely under your control? I worship you for your Music. I am in awe that you let me in.

*repost from the archives


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