I’ve been going through an online Bible study on RightNow Media called It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee.
A picture of surrender
On Day 2, she talks about her daughter, who is a gifted jazz musician gaining skill in improv. I don’t know if you know anything about music, but improv is probably one of the scariest things on the face of the planet.
There are no notes written down for you. You may be given chords, but there’s no written score. You’ve got to come up with a totally new melody that fits with the chords the background musicians are playing all on your own.
And you’re supposed to make it sound good.
Lee talks about how improv reminds her of surrender, and I think she’s right. It’s a new way of thinking about it for me, but it absolutely makes sense why I never liked improv — why I never even cared for the idea of sitting down at the piano and just playing by ear. I always needed music in front of me. I needed to know where I was going.
Lee says, of improv:
This is what it means to let go. This is a snapshot of what it means to trust. This is what it means to lose yourself in the song that God is writing for your life.
Risk. Letting go.
Letting the sheet music blow out the window, so you sit there vulnerable, open and ready to let God supply the chords He wants you to fit your melody into.
I’m reminded of that very familiar verse in Proverbs:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5–6, NIV)
As I said, I like to know where I am going — in playing music and in walking through life. Sometimes, when things look dark and confusing, I ask God what the heck He’s doing and what He expects me to do.
But He doesn’t often answer those questions.
And, if He does, it’s usually a word — either “Trust” or “Follow.”
Some people are better at trusting God than I am
When God called Abraham to follow Him in the Old Testament, Abraham did something that I still find shocking, as many times as I’ve read it and reread it.
Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. (Genesis 12:1, NIV)
Notice God says: “I WILL show you..and I’m not even going to tell you where it is right now. I’m just going to show you, one step at a time.”
If I had been Abraham, I would have been asking about a million questions: But what about my job here? My family? How do I know You’re really the True God, and that You’re different from all these other gods my family and I have been worshiping here in Ur? How many miles am I going to have to walk each day? You know my legs are getting older. Will we have food to eat? Enough water? What about bathrooms? Bathrooms are important…
But do you know what that guy Abraham did? At age seventy-five, an age when most modern Americans are ready to (if they’re not already) retire and kick up their heels watching Fox News and game shows and playing with the grandkids all day, Abraham “went, as the Lord had told him” (Genesis 12:4, NIV).
He just left — turned his back on almost everything important in his life (some of his family did actually go with him), and turned his face toward God.
That’s faith. I would say it’s radical faith, and I guess it is by most of our standards today. But, see, it’s not really all that special in God’s economy.
“Radical” faith is simply what He requires
Radical faith is normal faith, as far as Jesus is concerned.
He said, in Mark 8:35 (NIV):
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it.
Don’t hold on. No, really. Quit holding on. Let it go. … Okay, quit singing the song and actually do it.
If you hold on to your sheet music, you’re going to miss out on the amazing blessings that are in store for you if you just follow His lead and fill in one note at a time.
Many, many times Jesus told His disciples to simply follow Him, and they did — just like Abraham followed God.
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9, NIV)
I want to be honest
I still don’t have faith like that. I just don’t. I want to, but I’ve been holding on to that sheet music for a long, long time. I think the ink has turned to glue by now, so my fingers won’t come off the paper.
Except, God even knows how to get your rigid hold on the music unstuck…and He’s been doing that for me the past couple of years now. I know He has. I see areas of my life where I’m not holding as tightly as I once was. But I’m still not quite there.
Thankfully, His singing voice never gets tired. He’ll keep filling in the fundamental chords for me until I’m ready to quit looking at the music and sing with my eyes closed and my heart tuned in to His song. Then one of my very favorite verses in the Bible will come true:
The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV)
And I will finally be able to sing in perfect harmony with Him.