Apr 29, 2013
Playing the Scales of My Salvation
I knew I'd need to rearrange furniture when my husband signed up for piano class. His dad had a fifteen year old, giant Yamaha keyboard in Texas and it didn't take long before it was in my living room, taking up precious real estate in the light-filled stretch between two windows.
But it grew on me immediately.
It was no grand piano by the fire, but it added a little artistry to the room. I felt more cultured just by the look of it.
The first time we were alone, me and the keyboard, I slid onto the stool and switched it on. It came to life with a red light and buzzing hum and I stretched my fingers out onto the keys.
I remembered being a smaller me, seven years old, sitting on the hard stool in front of my grandmother's organ in that room where the carpet was always so freshly vacuumed into a perfect pattern that I'd have to scale the wall to avoid making footprints. The organ keys were labeled with numbers and colors so a kid like me could flip through the colored, numbered song book and play anything. One Christmas I played Greensleeves until my family finally asked me to stop.
The present-time me felt muscle memory longing to have it's way and I played Greensleeves right there in my living room, without missing a note.
I was pleased. Mostly because my husband was going to be so impressed when he was struggling with his scales and I cleared my throat, said "do you mind if I try?" and played a perfect, effortless tune. Which I did, exactly like that, but with a little sassy look back at him like, "Oh, you didn't know I played?"
He was impressed, but not fooled.
I don't know a lick about piano. Never have. I've just memorized one song so well that even forgetting it couldn't make me stop remembering it.
My husband, on the other hand, was starting from scratch. He would sit late nights in front of that keyboard, long after I'd gone to bed, and I'd hear him banging out a simple tune with awkwardly slow tempo and misplaced notes.
My Greensleeves sounded so much better than his roughly repeated version of Happy Birthday, but my Greensleeves wasn't real.
He was reading music- deciphering the code marked out on paper and transferring it, slowly and painfully, into a real song. He was learning at an elementary level, but his was a process that would build and improve and, most importantly, the paper code could change and he would still be able to play the song.
I had no process at all. I had perfected a surface-level production of a song through rote memory and repetition, and no matter how smoothly and precisely it was was executed, it was still just an illusion of understanding.
I was just an actress of sorts, he was learning to be a musician.
We are alone again, me and the Word, and I crack a match, light a candle, watch the Word buzz and hum to life in the flicker and glow.
I stretch my fingers out over the pages like it's something grand and instrument-like.
I'm reading something about Jesus, something he has said, and it seems out of place and strange. I've heard sermons about this before and I see even the commentary at the bottom of the page and I feel muscle-memory longing to have it's way- to go with it, to move on, to dance over it nicely with only but an illusion of real understanding. To just repeat the tune that's impressed deeply into my habit and feel pleased.
It's prettier, less messy. But it's not really engaging with the words on the page. Its not really real and I know it.
So I go back. Way back. As far back as I need to go, into something more basic and foundational and I start there instead. For months, I've been starting there instead. I bang out some scales with an awkwardly slow tempo and misplaced notes and thoughts and I struggle through making this real.
It's not comfortable. It's offensive to some.
It doesn't sound like real music, not yet anyways. I know that my attempts at deciphering the words of Jesus and transferring them to my life are imperfect. Some of these notes are going to be wrong.
That's okay if this sounds a little funky right now. I'm not after that illusive form of Christianity that sounds pretty and fits easy.
It's played out.
I want to learn that realest code, that language of the Spirit in me, that is is real and true and never changes. I want to to be able to turn the pages of my Bible without that nervous sense of hesitation and inadequacy that feels disconnected from the words and stories inside.
I want to connect. I want to engage. I just want this song to be real, whatever that may mean.
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Linking up today for a Concrete Words Abstraction on "Piano", with Nacole at Six in the Hickory Sticks! Come see what others have come up with!