I had students ranging in ages from 4 to 80, and I usually found that the students on the extreme ends of that range were the ones who took most of my energy. I once had a 70 year old from a town 30 miles distant. He was a real joy because of his intense interest and zealous practice. He studied his theory lessons so hard that he regularly came to his lesson with a list of questions that took nearly half his allotted time to answer.
Once, when we were studying chords, he despaired at ever being able to instantly play one from its symbol alone. Memorizing the difference between an A7, Am7, Adim7, AMaj7, as well as the standard A, Am, A+, and Adim took him several minutes and a lot of concentration.
“You do it!” he once said in exasperation, pushing the theory book my way on the rack, and I calmly played them one after the other simply by reading the symbols.
“How long till I can do that?” he grumbled.
I reminded him that I have been at this since I was 7, and had four years of college theory under my belt, too. It would be a shame if I couldn’t do it.
That reminded me of Heb 5:12-14: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.
We apply that principle to life without thinking, as he did to his music lessons, but we want to make excuses when it comes to spiritual matters. My student, because of his diligent practice and meditation on the theoretical aspects of music and harmony, had come a long way in a short time. Though he might have been impatient with himself, when I asked him to go back to a piece he had struggled with the year before and he found it simple to play, he could recognize his growth and improvement. He “trained himself with constant practice” and was ready for some pretty solid food in the way of piano compositions and music theory.
It is easy to look down on yourself when all you see is your failings and others’ abilities. If you became a Christian later in life, not having grown up with the Bible narratives taught in every children’s Bible class, not having heard sermon after sermon for years, it will be a struggle for you to catch up. If you have simply sat on a pew handed down as if it were an inheritance, and only wakened to your commitment to the Lord as an adult, you might be behind, too.
There is a wealth of information in the scriptures, and as you get older, learning seems to take far more effort. For me numbers especially become more and more confusing. I remember passages because I memorized them as a child. Start calling out numbers to me now and they will leave my mind immediately, or, if somehow remembered, will come out transposed.
Don’t give up—just practice more. If a 70 year old man can learn chord symbols, if he can play thirteen major scales, and thirteen minors in all three variations, if he can become one of the best music students I ever had, you can certainly do the same for God. And if you ever despair, take a look back a year or so ago. Don’t you see the improvement? Don’t you see the fruit of your effort? You know more, you understand more, you can even answer questions you could not have comprehended when you first started.
That is, you can, if you have been working at it.
Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress, 1 Tim 4:15.