It began with a dream I had in which a huge angelic archer, flying above a city alongside me and the rest of our soaring army, drew his bow and shot an arrow, which curved around and cut a wide and exhilarating swath through the approaching enemy lines of the demonic horde.
The dream intrigued me, and soon I’d bought a compound bow, with a sight and all. But lately I’ve retrogressed to a recurve and instinctive shooting – and I love it. One of the reasons, I suppose, is when I play music I often love to fly by the seat of my pants and play instinctively, improvising, soloing by the feel of the moment. It’s exhilarating when all goes well.
But I’ve quickly realized a commonality between archery and music; faith is not only a necessary ingredient – it’s the very channel through which mastery flows.
In improvising a solo during one of our tunes, I have to make the choice to believe, against all the times I’ve missed the mark (even if a moment ago), that “this is the one.” I’ve watched Alison Krauss and Dan Tyminski do this with their singing and playing; I’ve seen Jerry Douglas do it constantly, and Barry Bales, though he doesn’t solo, has the same faith-attitude as well. If they fall off slightly for a moment they jump right back on it again. It’s a letting-go of what is past and straining toward what is ahead. “This one’s going to hit dead center.” Confidence. Assurance. Faith.
The same is true in shooting a bow. Hitting the mark is determined by the level of concentration, the way in which we block out all but the spot we’re aiming at.
When I aim generally and don’t concentrate well, I hit generally. When I aim specifically at that little X, and really believe, deeply faithe that this arrow will hit that spot, my shots in the center go way up. While I don’t hit the X every time, I hit a lot closer around it. A key component in concentration is faith. The choices of faith bring an attitude of faith which causes the action of faith; that internal choice changes what happens in the external world. The body conforms to the inner choice, and with the practice of faith, we get better and better at music, or archery, or whatever it is that we love.
Now, this faith is not presumption. A person can’t just pick up a bow and nail the X every time just because he believes it. As with any sport, or music, or our walk with Christ, technique must be built. But faith, as we practice, causes our soul/body to progressively conform to the inner desire of the spirit. A friend and I were shooting baskets the other day, something I haven’t done in years. I was terrible, lost a game of Horse in short order – until I began to faithe. My shots improved drastically as I set aside the past (“I’m no good. I’ve not played in years”) and took an attitude of faith toward what was ahead. Before each shot I’d will it to go in, believed it would – exercising my faith-will. I didn’t make every shot, but the difference was remarkable.
That’s a common link between those who perform at a high level. And a musician, athlete, or artist with that attitude ends up going a long way toward hitting the mark.
Phil 3:13-14, “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Faith pushes on, forgets what’s behind, takes forgiveness as a ‘given,’ moving on into the abundant life Jesus promised us. Faith knows I am dead to sin. Faith knows I am dead to having to be holy by my own steam. Faith knows a life of holiness, of love-for-God-and-others, is possible, and relies on Christ to hit the mark. Faith looks in the mirror before a Bible study, a concert, or in the morning before making breakfast for the kids, and knows Christ lives in me and will change lives today through me.
As we exercise that faith, continually forgetting what is behind and living in that Now moment, we gain sufficiency. We take aim, faithe, and release that Now arrow. Hamartano, “missing the mark,” begins to give way to hitting it more consistently. We see Christ come through us again and again, and begin to come closer and closer to the mark, instead of always missing it by a mile. 2Cor. 3:18 says “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” When we practice faith in the power and love of Christ within us, seeing Him in the mirror, He progressively changes us into His image. By one sacrifice He has perfected forever (because His perfect life is in us) those who are being made holy (by this process of faith in that indwelling Perfection).
That’s faith. It’s fulfilling, fun, and many times through adverse circumstances is tough and gritty work. But it’s the only way to a high sufficiency in Christ. Those who faithe are those who grow.
Winner of 147 Grammys (or so), Ron Block is the banjo-ninja portion of Alison Kraus and Union Station. When he's not laying down a bluegrass-style martial-arts whoopin' on audiences around the world, he's taking care of his donkey named "Trash" and keeping himself busy by being one of the most well-read and thoughtful people we know.