The Metronome Messes Me Up

The Metronome Messes Me Up

It’s every musician’s dream to make their living entirely from the sale of their music. However, this is rarely the reality (even for the big name musicians you hear on the radio.) Most of us need to find an alternative way to pay the bills. I do this by teaching music lessons during the week, among other things.

I really do love teaching. I love that moment where everything a student has been learning for months or even years clicks into place and they just get it. It’s like witnessing a lightbulb turning on right in front of your eyes. However, there can be a lot of frustration leading up to that tipping point.

One of the hardest concepts to teach a student is rhythm. To some, it comes naturally, and then there is everyone else. There are many ways of teaching rhythm, often we’ll count the beats out loud. Sometimes I’ll snap my fingers, sway back and forth or tap my foot to set a steady pace. The goal is to be able to hear, see and feel the rhythm at the same time. Once a student progresses a little I’ll use a tool called a metronome, which clicks a consistent tempo and keeps us locked into a set rate of speed.

No one likes playing with a metronome, at least not at first. After you’ve gotten used to it, however, it’s an amazing tool which offers a sense of consistency and reassurance. But until then, it’s most student’s worst nightmare. Audible moans are released when I say the dreaded words, “Ok, let’s try that with a click.” Torture.

One of my favorite protests I hear during metronome or counting time is, “Counting is messing me up.” To which I usually reply, “Well, no, it’s actually showing you where you weren’t playing it correctly to begin with.” Because that’s the truth. They thought they were playing it accurately until something more accurate comes along to show the difference.

Counting or playing with a metronome plainly reveals the inconsistencies in our natural rhythm. It shows where a beat is missed, or where we get faster while playing louder, or slow down while getting softer or some other combination of error. Even those with natural rhythm have variations in their tempo and can benefit from playing with a metronome. Because no matter how good we are, nobody’s perfect.

I was thinking about this the other day and how similar it is to our need for God.

Some of us have pretty impressive spiritual rhythm naturally. We’re the good kids, the ones on the honor roll, who study on the weekends and consider hitting up the coffee shop on a school night “going wild”. Some of us have little to no natural spiritual rhythm. We’re a hot mess from beginning to end. The more the teacher snaps their finger, the more blatantly our lack is seen.

But the truth is that both “students” lack. Whether that lack is great or small, there’s still a lack. Before we knew Jesus, some of us looked pretty good and others very obviously struggled – but none of us were perfect, the metronome (or the law, as the Bible puts it) made that very clear.

But the Bible tells us that, unlike piano lessons, the law was never intended to be something we were capable of keeping perfectly, it was only meant to show us how incapable we were. Now, left right there, that sounds incredibly depressing, but thankfully, there’s more.

Whether in the Old Testament or New, God never meant us to be our own perfection, and it’s a good thing, because we never could obtain it. Instead, he gave us clear standards as a sign of our need, then stepped in and filled the gap for us.

It’s really quite beautiful, especially for those of us with some sense of “natural rhythm. It would be easy to look around and say, “well I may not be perfect, but I’m better than them!” But God doesn’t measure us by their standard, we are measured by His! When lined up against His metronome we can agree with the Bible, “There is no one who does good, not even one.”

This is why Jesus’ sacrifice of Love is so amazing, it’s equally powerful in the life of the one who seems to need it most as it is in the life of the one who seems to need it least. Because we didn’t need God to make us better, we needed him to make us alive! The Bible says that we were all dead in our rebellion and sin, but Jesus came to give us life! That’s something a metronome or set of laws to follow could never do.

I’m so thankful Jesus never demands we work up our own perfection, instead He gives us His! And that makes today a good day.