Work Hard Play Hard

I come to this page like a school girl, timid and reticent, not because she is shy, but because she has been caught skipping class. With a head bowed in obsequious submission, and eyes diverted from curious and eager glances, she slips into her regular seat, pulls out her book, and finds a middle page. She raises her shoulders, inclines her head towards the professor, and then in the quietest and most unsuspecting way, she unfolds her most ingratiating smile. She is bolder than you think. An unforced twinkle in her eye doesn’t hurt. No one asks her whereabouts or escapades, and a slow steady release of a long-held breath speaks her gratitude. And so the student resumes her work. No questions asked.

I am that school girl. The idea of writing and studying feels somehow out of sync after a hiatus. I flip to a middle page, any page, and wonder what lesson are we on. What did I miss, and do I care? What did I learn in my truancy? Did I learn more there, than here? What is ahead? With summer upon us, and a wide open agenda, I find myself struggling with the ideas of discipline and the call for spontaneity. Straight and narrow on one hand, left turns off the highway on the other. I am built for one and long for the other. One is a hanging on. The other is a letting go. I wish I could find that perfect balance where both play together like a symphonic harmony, that is heard while lying on your back in the tall grass.

I am that girl in the hard wooden seat, half listening to her lessons, with one eye out the window. Discipline demands my attention. I know it is the master that shapes each note, each chord, each refrain of the symphony I want to hear. Without discipline the music will be flat, empty and lifeless. But it is the view from the window that inspires it.

In any work of art and life too, first there is practice, then precision, and then play. Play with abandon. It is at this crossroads that joy comes. It is hanging on and then letting go. It is a Picasso painting. It is improvisation. It is trained then untrained. Am I old enough yet to cast off the training wheels and go for a ride?

I think so. Jesus said it would be ok. He slept in the boat without a care in the world while the storm raged round about him. Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, instead of helping in the kitchen. Jesus walked off into the wilderness, when he needed a left turn off the highway. I think it is ok. More than that, I think it is called “faith”. I think our best work is the play that comes after the hours of discipline. So let us work hard, but let us play like we know what we are doing, without having to read the music or look at our fingers. Let us play with the abandon that comes when God is in charge. Then we will hear the music drifting up over the hill on top of the breeze.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

“You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
 the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.” Isaiah 55:12