The Beginner

For my thirty-sixth birthday, I decided I wanted to learn the fiddle.

So I went and I rented a violin from a local music shop, got an instructional book and some good tutoring, and started practicing.

I’m not unfamiliar with music in general. I played a wind instrument for a very long time and, indeed, almost majored in music in college. I loved playing, played a lot in church, and in ensembles as well as solo. I can read music well and I have a pretty solid understanding of music theory.

But here’s the truth: I am a beginner’s beginner with the violin.

I can play three scales right now, and that is mostly all. Nothing about it feels familiar to me. I went through a brief fit of playing guitar, so I am at least a little familiar with strings, but other than that, I got nothin’. I forget how to hold the bow when I play. I hold it too tightly. I find the positioning of the bow against the strings mildly bewildering until I’m comfortable with it, and then I immediately forget how to do it the right way two seconds later. Learning the posture and manner required to play the violin feels like learning the posture and manner to play golf: wildly unnatural and deeply awkward.

I play my little scales. Sometimes they are mostly good, and sometimes they sound like a mess. I coaxed a tiny seven-note melody out of it the other day, and managed to feel pride and cringe simultaneously. I know what good music sounds like, and I know I am not making it. Yet. But I’m learning.

There is a lot to be gained from learning something completely new, especially for the believer. Setting about a new task is a reminder of how big and wonderful and enriching God’s world can be. It’s a constant humbling that is very much needed at a stage in life when you tend to feel quite skilled at most needed things. It is a challenge. And it is a delight.

I encourage you to go do the thing you’ve been wanting to do for a long time. You will be a beginner, yes. You will probably look and sound a little foolish. But you’ll have a wonderful time. And whether you stick with it or not, the simple practice of doing something you’re not comfortable with, or an expert at, will stretch the soul.

We all have to start somewhere. And sometimes it’s good to start at something just to remember that.

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