In music, timing is everything. Well, almost everything.
Now I know there are many other things to get right in any song: pitch relationships, dynamics, stylistic devices and textures, not to mention lyrics.
And you’ve got lots of room to improvise with each of these musical facets. If you hit a note that doesn’t quite work – hey, it was a passing tone, a neighbor note!
Now the listener might hear the mistake or not. But even if they do, the ear will forgive it pretty quickly as you move on through the song.
Timing is another matter. If you blow the timing – a rhythm that is way out of place, or even worse, if you insert unlooked-for pauses in the music – it’s really obvious. Sounds like you hesitated because you didn’t quite remember what came next. It felt like you were a moment away from the whole train coming off the tracks.
I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say a song’s timing is a really big deal.
Timing in life, however, while most of it is out of our control, is an even bigger deal.
The Right Time
This past weekend, my church presented “The Right Time”, our Christmas musical production for 2014. But what does Christmas have to do with timing? Well, quite a lot, it turns out.
At just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. …God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6,8)
God’s timing is perfect. He sent Emmanuel (which means, ‘God with us’) at the perfect time in all of human history to teach us Who He is, to invite us into a personal relationship with Him, and to be the sufficient, atoning sacrifice for all who receive Him. Emmanuel, that is, Jesus Christ, is Himself the relational Bridge for sinful man to cross and find the holy, almighty God waiting for him.
That’s the big picture.
But day to day, we will face over and over again challenges that stretch us. From strained and broken relationships to deteriorating health, from financial worries to choices of morality. It gets overwhelming.
And on top of those challenges, we have our own imperfections that slap us around: our impatience, our ambition, our ego. Often, we don’t understand why we have to wait for, well, anything. Or why circumstances invade our lives that we never wanted and always arrive at the worst times.
And the best thing for us to do in the face of each of these life stresses is to step back, take a breath, and remind ourselves of the big picture.
Working with a guitar student the other day, I was tangibly reminded of the need for gaining perspective when we’re under pressure. My student and I were jamming to a prerecorded rhythm track, a band playing an uptempo 12-bar swing blues. Sometimes he would play lead, sometimes I would. Back and forth.
But I watched him struggle a little, trying very hard to remember patterns to play while at the same time hearing all this music on the recording. It was hard for him to focus on his own playing while he heard this cacophony happening at the same time from the speakers.
I watched as he would start to play, then stop, let out a long slow breath, then start again. At first, he was discouraged. But then, as we talked through the process, he felt more freedom to let the background track keep going and not play while he figured out what to do next. He would mentally ‘step back’ enough to gain perspective, to remember where he was on the neck and think how to proceed.
And that’s exactly what we have to do when challenges come our way. Step back, remember the big picture: there is indeed a God who loves each of us so much that He sent His only Son, Jesus, to come and be ‘God with us’, our Emmanuel. To show us who we are and offer us life in Him. Mercy and grace like we’d never experienced before.
I truly hope that each of you feel refreshed and inspired this Christmas. Step out and find that God’s got your back. And He is inviting you to go deeper with Him.
As always, you can leave your comment below or email [email protected] with any questions or comments. I look forward to hearing from you!
© 2014 Steve Case