If this were an episode of “Jeopardy,” the question would be, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Yes, it’s an old gag, maybe unknown to several generations younger than me, but true none the less. To get really good at anything, one must practice, practice, practice. Modern sports medicine talks about “muscle memory,” the almost unconscious way we react to a situation. The term has found its way into any number of disciplines as we learn to react without having to first mentally process the action.
This happens in virtually every aspect of our lives. In many situations, we talk about “default” positions, and learned responses. This is especially true in our emotional and spiritual development. How did we learn to experience the world? Is it a basically safe place, or not? What about the early authority figures in our lives? Were they loving and graceful, or judgmental and arbitrary (for some, even cruel)? How we experience the world is a product of many of these questions. Changing these early learned attitudes and behaviors is hard work, especially because we have a tendency to revert back to “default” emotional reactions when under stress.
No different from catching a pass or learning to play a musical instrument, we have to work on our emotional/spiritual muscle memory. This is why you are encouraged to engage in the spiritual disciplines: Prayer, Bible Study, Worship, Self-denial, Service, and Intentional Faith Development. To become mature people of faith, we have to reset some of our “default” settings. How? Practice, practice, practice.
Will God only love us if we do “two a days,” or give “110%?” Is God grading us on our effort? Of course not. You have been loved by God since before you were you. God’s love and grace are offered to you without precondition. But—yes, there’s a "but,” practicing the spiritual disciplines and thereby changing your “default” settings, will enable you to navigate about anything life can throw at you with grace and peace. But, it takes, wait for it; practice, practice, practice.
On this World Communion Sunday, the day Christians around the world celebrate the Lord’s Supper to demonstrate unity of purpose, we will look in on Israel in the desert. In Exodus 17:1-7, they are confronted with an existential issue, water. Having not yet reset their default position from slave in Egypt to God’s own people of the covenant, they fail their pop quiz. Not surprisingly, however, God is faithful and trustworthy.
See you Sunday,