Devotional: Learning to Practice

Learning to Practice

Listen, children, to a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight; for I give you good precepts: do not forsake my teaching.
 When I was a son with my father, tender, and my mother’s favorite,he taught me, and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.  Get wisdom; get insight: do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.  Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.
Proverbs 4:1-6 NRSV

Are we devoted to the teacher or the teaching? Do we just listen or do we apply what we have learned? When I was a little girl, my mother offered to pay for piano lessons IF I would practice. Each week the teacher faithfully came to the house and taught the lesson. I was fascinated by the teacher and how well he could play the piano… If only I could play like THAT, all would be well. From where I was starting to where he was, as an accomplished musician, seemed like such a long distance.

I listened to the teacher, watched him play, and received my assignment for the next week. Life crowded in and my good intentions to practice translated to a hurried practice thirty minutes prior to the next lesson. I liked the teacher and listening to the lesson. I did not like the work of the regular practice, of implementing and applying the lessons he taught. My teacher wanted me to do well but, perhaps he wanted it more than I wanted to practice. I neglected to practice the piano; the lessons stopped; and, sadly, my piano knowledge is about a 2nd grade level today.

We learn spiritual lessons by listening and then practicing. If we are to grow in our spiritual life, we need to practice learning to be loving, learning to be prayerful, and learning to be forgiving. We can be inspired by good teachers and good lessons. But, when the teacher leaves, will we practice? Will we grow or be stuck? Maybe the distance between where we are and where our teacher is seems too far away. Maybe all we can do is ask for strength to take the next step.

Dear God, We have so many good teachers. We have so many good intentions. Help us to shift from intentions to actions. We need You in places where we are weak. Please strengthen us today to grow in love, in goodness, and kindness, even if all we can do is the next step. Amen.