1 Timothy 4:15-16 Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. When my daughter was 5, she decided she wanted to play an instrument. Being musicians ourselves, my husband and I were thrilled! So, did she want to play guitar like her father? Maybe flute or piano like dear Mom? No. Her instrument of choice? Violin, one of the most difficult to learn. So we invest in a tiny pink violin and jump into two years of lessons with gusto. Sadly, two years would be the extent of her violin career, as she soon lost interest in the endeavor. The problem? She wanted to be an instant virtuoso. In her mind, she wanted to jump straight to playing like a pro, but without the hindrance of time-consuming practice. Her disillusionment led to giving up the challenge completely. As I was spending time in bible study the other day, I was prompted to reflect on qualities I am trying to become better at: patience and forgiveness. I need to PRACTICE patience, I need to PRACTICE forgiveness...my wandering mind drifted back to the days of the pink violin and it suddenly clicked into place. See, when the Holy Spirit tugs at my soul, indicating an area of my life that needs work, I kind of expect immediate change. I mean, if it’s brought about by God, and I’m all in and asking Him for help in making it right, well...why shouldn’t I be rewarded with a sudden lightning bolt of forgiveness, or maybe an instant shower of patience? Poof, I’m fixed. What’s next? Here’s what I’m slowly learning (because when it comes to matters of the heart, that’s my apparent learning style), just like my daughter didn’t INSTANTLY become a violin virtuoso, I am not going to INSTANTLY have infinite patience and forgiveness on hand. Rather, it’s going to be a process. Sure, the desire to change is there. But desire won’t travel far without dedication, hard work, and—you guessed it—practice. Anytime we learn a new skill, whether it’s cooking, playing an instrument or sport, or even developing a fruit of the spirit, without practice we will never develop the skill enough to really use it. Then disillusionment sets in: Why am I not changing? Why did I mess up AGAIN? There must be something wrong with me. I give up! So here’s where grace comes in. God knows I’m a work in progress, and He’s okay with that! Why am I being so hard on myself when I don’t immediately change for the better, or when I stumble and forget what I’ve learned for a moment? It’s a new skill. I’m still in the PRACTICE stage. And I know that eventually I will get there. Forgiveness and patience will come more easily because I’ve mastered the skills, under the tutelage of my Divine Teacher. Allow room for mistakes. Don’t abandon the effort. And when you’ve finally succeeded, all the hard work will be worth it. That helps me breathe a little easier, how about you? Sweet music to my ears.