WHAT??!! I have to learn a NEW song?! Don’t get me wrong, I like new things, especially songs…but as much as a learning-lover as I am, starting with something completely new, foreign, and unfamiliar and trying to LEARN it gets less easy as time goes by.
So, one time, as a guest singer in our local community, at a retirement home, I arrived without any knowledge of what the music or worship plan was. On that day there was, for the first time in my memory, a hymn chosen that I was COMPLETELY unfamiliar with. I stood to lead and asked if anyone there knew the song…blank stares and shaking heads. I turned to the pianist, she also said she did not know it either. I turned back to the congregation looking at me, searching for leadership.
“Let’s embark on a journey together,” I said, “and see how well we do…it’s always good to sing a new song.”
Now, I can read music but do NOT have perfect pitch, NOR do I have perfect eyesight. To get the notes with the words (both being new to me) and assuming leadership (along with the pianist) to lead a group…all of whom are relying on the two of us to teach and lead…well, let’s just say it was a fun time. We finished all four verses, getting louder and more confident with each repetition. We, (deservedly) applauded ourselves afterward. Then everyone settled in for a short nap…as I preached.
Seriously…as I was singing, I thought of the wonderful lesson the Spirit was teaching in the process: singing a new song (starting a new way of life, beginning a new job, etc.) may be joyful…but there are things to observe about the process and NOT take for granted.
- Sometimes it’s good to start slowly and carefully. I find myself, at times, leading a group of actor/singers as we rehearse music, dance and drama for an up-coming production of some sort. Some people are familiar with the music (they’ve HEARD it before), and a few people usually have performed the show before…but all together, this is NEW stuff and we all need to start slowly. As BELIEVERS & FOLLOWERS, the Spirit is leading/teaching us into all truth constantly. We don’t need to SEEK to learn. Our daily lives, if we indeed are “following”, will present us with scenarios where our behavior and choices will “teach” us; life itself becomes both the lesson and the test. We never cease to learn, no matter how old we are or how long we have been endeavoring to BELIEVE & FOLLOW. So, when a “new thing” happens (a new leadership position or life-situation for us, etc.) sometimes we need to take it slowly the first time, and step carefully. It’s that way with relationships at first, and with jobs at first. No wise person steps into a new position, pulpit, or relationship, believing that they already know everything they need to about that “new song.” Or, perhaps they do, and learn very quickly that they don’t.
- Over-confidence leads to mistakes. The one thing every musician/artist wants to do is learn it the right way/practice the right way. If one learns a song with wrong notes and keeps practicing the wrong notes instead of the right ones, then the song is still being played or sung inaccurately. One way to avoid that, at the beginning of the learning process, is to proceed with caution even the second and third repetition. I noticed that the second verse of that new hymn I was leading yesterday sounded a bit louder, more confident. As I approached musical phrases I had sung in the verse before, I didn’t look as closely, I relaxed…and I made mistakes. And as I made mistakes, I led the congregation into those same mistakes. Any new endeavor we try, any new thing/truth the Spirit leads us to, needs practice and attention. Just because it’s going well doesn’t mean we can let our guard down TOO much. My piano teacher always taught me that if I played a piece perfectly once, then instead of moving on to something else, I needed to play it perfectly twice more…three times through, without mistakes, was needed to get it into my head and hands.
- The journey IS the joy. We didn’t sing that new hymn perfectly, that day, but we sure sang the fourth verse better than the first. And the JOY wasn’t that we got to the end, but that we sang the whole thing together, wrong notes/words and all, and arrived at the end together. And when all was done, we had learned a new song. The youngest person there was in their forties, and the oldest was one-hundred-and-one…and it was new for all of us. The “journey” transcended our ages and bound us together.
Learning/doing something new takes individual fortitude and concentration. But when the Spirit leads us to Truth, and to that “new thing” together, the entire community (the Church) is made stronger, more joyful, and progressive.
“Singing a new song” isn’t always easy, nor is it something that is required of us every day…but it would be ridiculous to think that the “God who makes all things new” would have us going along the same paths, to the same places in the same ways as we’ve always gone.
So, be prepared, whether we want to or not, if we are BELIEVERS & FOLLOWERS, we will all be learning “new songs”.