It’s a sure sign that you’re beginning to learn at least a little about something when you begin to realize how very little you really know about it at all. And it’s an equally sure sign of how little you know if you allow yourself to suspect that you’re the smartest person in any room. Other folks with more sense (it would seem that anybody would have more sense) will leave the room as quickly as possible, whether the room is a coffee shop or the Oval Office.
Corollaries to this truth are clear: Never trust anyone who has a simple solution to every problem. And never trust anyone who feels no humility at all in the face of serious problems, all of which he writes off as “simple.” It takes an incredibly, and dangerously, simple-minded person to think that most real problems are simple. (It often takes a duplicitous politician of the most foolish and pernicious sort, but any of us can fall prey to this malady.)
Examples abound, but here’s one out of my own experience. I never knew how very little I knew about recording music until I was involved in the recording of four of my own albums of music. It is some of the most fun, and some of the hardest, work I have ever done. Getting ready, being sure you’re ready, takes a lot of work. If you don’t do the work beforehand, all the preparation it takes to be ready for the actual sessions, you’re wasting some expensive studio time and the time of some incredibly talented people. This also, by the way, becomes clear: you can’t have a successful project without the help of far more amazing folks than you might have thought. (I can easily count more than twenty people seriously involved in the production of my last project.) And, yes, having done this several times now, I am beginning to figure out how very much I have left to learn about, well, name any aspect of the process.
Here’s one funny little thing I’ve learned: the longest note in any song is the last note. The singer knows how long the last note needs to be held. But the music needs to be held longer. And the audio engineer is ultimately the person who punches the button that stops the recording. Wait, wait, wait a little longer, and . . . not yet . . . not yet . . . now. It seems to take forever.
And this is with professionals. How much harder is it for folks who aren’t professionals but are doing the work, usually well, of playing the music in other venues—church, for example—to learn to let the song play out, and not stop it just a second or a few nano-seconds early? Most of the time, you won’t notice much, if it stops just slightly early. But a significantly early “stop” equals what I call “audio whiplash.” It’s jarring. It almost physically hurts. If you’ve gotta stop it early, oh, please, fade it out.
I suppose some life lessons lurk in this. One lesson might certainly have to do with patience. Waiting to punch that button takes some serious patience.
Another lesson might be colloquially put, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” Like most folks, I thought this was perhaps the most famous of the legendary Yogi Berra’s quirky sayings. Google this, and you’ll find out that maybe it was, sort of, but not exactly . . . But the saying most certainly became the title of a 1991 song by Lenny Kravitz.
In any case, it’s true. The song, the story, the life, is not over until the very end. And, even then, Christ’s people are trusting their Savior for the kind of wonderful life, real life, that never ends and is only the beginning of the most beautiful song of all.
That’s worth remembering always. It is particularly worth remembering when the notes of your present “song” are sad and difficult, maybe even heartbreaking. Just ask God for the courage to sing the next note, to wait for the music to play out. The times when it’s hardest to wait are the very times when waiting is most important.
The great old Scottish author and preacher George MacDonald is pointing us to deep truth when he says, “The glad creator never made man for sorrow: it is but a stormy strait through which he must pass to his ocean of peace. He makes the joy the last in every song.”
Wait for it. The joy, the beauty—much more than you can begin to imagine—will come. No one who has trusted him with the music has ever been disappointed.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.