I can’t remember when I took my first piano lesson, but as far back as I can remember, practicing the piano daily was a part of my routine. In my elementary school years my teacher was the traveling variety. She came highly recommended, gray haired, thick-rimmed glasses, and very old. Once a week I would sit at the piano with her and try to demonstrate that I had made some kind of progress in the six days of rehearsal between this lesson and the last. She was what you might call a “hands on” teacher, always grabbing at my fingers, stretching them this way and that, correcting my fingering, not with a word or two, but with what I thought was brute force. My mother sat on the couch at my back. Sometimes I would put my hands behind my back and rub and sooth my poor fingers just to show my mother that I was not a happy musician. Eventually, like most kids, I won out and the lessons stopped. I remember crying though. It’s funny how we know we are going to miss something, even when we have fought so hard and finally won.
In high school I decided to give the piano another try. I had a wonderful teacher. Each week my mother would take me to her home where I would take a lesson in her lovely studio on a shiny, black, grand piano. She taught me how to practice and she taught me to love the piano. My mother was a stickler for daily practice. I got up before it was light and practiced before early morning Seminary. During this time I made great progress. My practice was consistent and I experienced the joy of working until I really felt that a piece of music was not perfect, but was “coming right along.” One of the pieces I worked hard on was by Bach. It was one in a series of Two Part Inventions. It was fast and challenging.
I haven’t spent much consistent time at the piano for many years. I still have my copy of the Bach piece and one day, just for fun, I gave it a whirl. Let’s just say it was only slightly better than if I had never ever laid eyes on it. Not long after, I was preparing to teach the Gospel Doctrine Lesson. The subject was decidedly important but one that would be very familiar to my students. I wondered as I sat preparing the lesson, “Why do we have to go over the same things time and time again?” Then my Two Part Invention by Bach came to mind.
That Sunday I opened the class by announcing I had something very exciting I wanted to share with my ward family, a little introductory musical number. I told them that it was a piano piece from my youth and that I remembered working and working on it hour upon hour for months.
Well, of course, it was terrible! I pretended utter embarrassment, came away from the piano and back to my teaching position. I explained that the constant review and practice of Gospel principles is critical to our progress. What we once knew has to be constantly renewed. Without repeated study and self-examination we not only quit making spiritual progress, we actually regress!
Alma puts it this way, “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” (Alma 5:26)
According to the prophets, in order to maintain and deepen the progress we have made toward Eternal Life as we have applied the principles of the Gospel, we have to continue our devoted application of the principles that have blessed us thus far.
The same truth that holds true with Gospel principles in general also holds true to the application of the 12 Steps. Without continued practice my answer to Alma’s question will have to be, “No, I cannot feel so now.” I’ve had people ask me, “Nannette, Do you have to live this way the rest of your life? When can you say you’ve “recovered? When do you graduate?” My answer is that I strive to live every day in recovery, in a recovered and growing relationship with my Heavenly Father and my Savior, Jesus Christ. There is no graduation, at least not in this life.
If I stop practicing these principles, my progress will eventually be as rusty as my resent Sunday school recital. Most of us are familiar with the old saying “Practice Makes Perfect.” I have to admit that as of yet my practice has never made anything perfect. I vote we change the saying to “Practice Makes Progress.”
By Nannette W.
Posted Friday, April 3, 2009
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