Minds are amazing instruments at processing information. Over the years I’ve discovered that learning to play an instrument takes practice and consistent effort, obviously. However, I have also experienced the need not so obvious for space and idle time as well.
When I was a teen, I bought my first guitar for $13 in Tijuana. I had a simple book with chords and easy songs. But after several weeks, I got frustrated because I couldn’t recall the finger placement for a couple of chords, no matter how much I practiced. I put the guitar in the corner for about a month. When the desire to play overcame the frustration, I picked up the guitar and tried again – and wonder of wonder, I could remember the chords. (I am discovering this same process applies in my 60’s as I practice the cello.)
I am convinced that the mind continues to work on, absorb and process information while we are attending to something else. I wonder if we need to change the instruction from “practice, practice, practice” to “practice, rest, practice,” allowing our minds/imaginations to process the input we feed it.
The “rest” we call prayer, is critical to our spiritual learning and imagination on our discipleship journey. We are bombarded with an immense volume of messages, which we attempt to absorb. When, however, we cannot incorporate (or simply remember) all of that valuable wisdom, we may become frustrated. This can lead to disillusionment, discouragement, and writing off learning as irrelevant or a waste of time.
On the spirit path with Christ, disciples (people learning the way of Jesus) also need to move from “practice, practice, practice” to ‘practice, prayer, practice.” We need to alternate between:
- seasons of engaging information and seasons of quietly listening for wisdom,
- occasions exploring new perspectives and time silently discerning how those perspectives shape our path
- periods of conversation with companions on the way and days of solitude and stillness
As we make our way into the wild with Jesus this Lent, may we find time and space to balance our practice with moments resting with Jesus, taking in the view and allowing the spirit to form our hearts.