I once had a student who, by the time she reached her high school years, had convinced herself that she could not memorize music. We discussed the various types of memory—muscle memory, aural memory, visual memory, and intellectual memory, all of which are involved in memorizing music. All of our competitions involved memorizing, and though I always gave my students a choice about participating, she wanted to do so, even though the process of memorizing seemed to elude her.
She would only attempt one type of memorizing—muscle memory. “That’s the only way I can do it,” she said, over and over as if it were a mantra. The problem with relying on muscle memory alone is that when you are nervous, you tense up and suddenly everything “feels” different. She wouldn’t even try to work on the other methods. So I took things into my own hands to prove to her she could.
Every quarter we had a class instead of a private lesson. For that quarter class I arranged learning stations. The students moved from station to station, accomplishing tasks in the various areas of music, keeping track of their scores as they went. As one student left a station, another took his place.
At one station I placed an eight bar piece from a beginner book on a music stand. They were to sit and study the music making mental note of beginning notes, the way the music moved, and the rhythm pattern, then try to play it without the music, having made use of both visual and intellectual memory. I stood at this station since I had to be the one to look at the music and tell them if they got it right. If it was correct the first try, they got 10 points, the second try they got 5 and the third they got 3. If they still did not play it correctly, they got 1 point for trying and then moved on. This was a class of teenagers, students who performed at the moderately difficult level in the state competition, so playing this simple five finger melody with a two chord accompaniment was like asking a college math professor to do the multiplication tables. Only one student took 2 tries and it was NOT the young lady in question. She accomplished the task on her first attempt.
“I know what you were trying to do,” she said afterward, “but you’re wrong. I can’t memorize that way.” I wanted to scream at her stubbornness. I had just proven that she had the intellectual capacity for more than basic muscle memory and she was still arguing with me.
I imagine God must feel the same way about us sometimes.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, Col 1:12.
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, 2 Thes 1:11.
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Tim 1:7.
Who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Pet 1:5.
“Yes, but…” I hear you saying. It isn’t me you are saying that to—it’s God. It’s his power that has been granted to you, to endure, to overcome, to fulfill every good work, to last until the end. It’s the same power, Paul says in Eph 1:20, which raised Christ from the dead. That power will enlighten you, give you hope, wisdom, knowledge, and a rich inheritance; it is “immeasurable” (vv 14-19). To deny it with a “yes but” is to call God a liar.
Maybe the problem is that we want God’s power to do it for us, with no effort required on our parts. It doesn’t work that way. We must patiently endure. We must do good and stay faithful no matter how difficult it becomes. That is what God’s power, not our own, enables us to do. And that means, “I can’t,” is no longer a valid excuse.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Eph 3:20,21.