I told my piano students tonight that I would have to write a book called “one-two-three-THUMB!” In practicing scales, I have noticed that, for some reason, the most common mistake that I see in my piano students is in the fingering of their scales. With their hands separate, and only one hand to focus on, it goes fine. As they play up the scales, their fingers play on the keys: 1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-1-2-3-4-5.. and back down again.. 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-1-4-3-2-1-3-2-1… but for some reason, when they put both hands together… and one of them is supposed to play 1-2-3-1-2-3-4… while the other one plays 5-4-3-2-1-3-2-… they lose their minds and play 1-2-3-4 instead of 1-2-3-1. I find myself continuing to holler “one-two-three-THUMB!” With the latest students to whom I taught scales, I began their scale lesson by simply having them practice C-D-E-F using their right hand: 1-2-3-1 fingering over, and over, and over again, and C-B-A-G with their left hand: 1-2-3-1 fingering over, and over, and over again, until I thought it would be possible to do it together.
Over and over and over and over.. that’s how they need to practice it in order to develop the muscle memory for their fingers to go where they need to go when the time comes.
Scales are important to a piano student (even though relatively few believe they are “fun”) because they build dexterity in our fingers, and help to prepare us to play more complicated works. Developing good scale habits positions us to play very complicated pieces of music with ease.
With only one hand to focus on, we can get it right.. but when we add another hand, our mind gets distracted, and if we haven’t committed our fingering to memory, it is likely that we will get it wrong.
As I thought about this tonight, I realized that it’s a little like focusing on Jesus. When we’re away at a spiritual retreat, or with friends or families who believe like us, it is easy to focus on Jesus. But when we add “the other hand” and the distractions of life, if we haven’t committed to the things of Jesus, when the distractions come, we may get it wrong.
With my students, the lesson that I teach them is to do it over and over, thousands of times, until it becomes like second nature. That’s what we need to do with Jesus, too. Spend so much time focusing on Him that it becomes second nature to us. Then, and only then, can we focus on Him when the distractions come our way.
I challenge you tonight, to repeat your spiritual scales over and over and over again, developing the spiritual dexterity needed to navigate busy lives. Developing our spiritual dexterity so that it becomes second nature positions us to be able to do more complicated works for the kingdom.