In my previous post on repetition and memory I explored the concept of returning again and again to the things that are important to us; things such as prayer and how the church year is already perfectly set up so as to help us as we grow in our spiritual lives and come again to each cycle of prayer with fresh eyes and a new heart. Today I came across an Amish proverb, which I used as the title of this post:
A task takes as long as it takes,
and it got me thinking some more on this subject. When we memorize things and repeat them over and over, we allow what we are memorizing to become part of us. This applies to actions as well as words. I recently listened to a great talk by Jenny Rallens about incorporating liturgy in the classroom. She talked about the traditions and rituals that she purposely makes part of her classes which help to begin to form students' affections, and she mentioned how the things that we do become the catalyst that determines what we will love. It makes sense that if we repeat a prayer or Bible verse so many times that it becomes part of us, then we begin to love what is said and the words have more power for us personally because they are part of what makes us who we are.
This is evident in all the years that I've spent playing piano. I play a piece time after time and my fingers begin to know it without conscious thought on my part. The piece gradually becomes part of the makeup of my being and I love it because I know it and because it has begun a work in my soul that shapes who I am.
This kind of practice is something that takes place without a thought for how long it will take. The intent is mastery, not completion. The end result is the driving factor, but the process is what brings the result about. The task may take days, or it may take years. Technical mastery can come about quickly, notes or words can be learned easily, but the shaping and changing of the heart only comes after living with a piece of music or poetry or prayer for a long time. Not a predetermined amount of time. There is no formula to be applied. Mastery takes as long as it takes and there is no need to rush it or to be agitated because it's not "done" yet.