Back when I was teaching elementary music classes, I used a teaching process called “Orff-Schulwerk.” It’s an approach to music education that involves the whole child, using play, movement, and language—components of the child’s everyday life.
Over and over in my Orff training, we were reminded that the approach was not a method. Instead, we were to focus on the process of music-making with children. In the Orff approach, “all concepts are learned by doing.”
There is so much joy in approaching education this way.
What I loved most was how each child in the room had a role to play. It was not a musical experience where only the most talented stars perform to a crowd of onlookers. Instead, it was a music-making effort in which all worked together to create something beautiful. The beauty was not in the finished product, necessarily, but in the joy of the process.
Enjoying the Process
A few weeks ago, I read a post by Anne Bogel that reminded me of my music education days.
Anne talked about how she used to set SMART goals — “the specific, measurable, actionable kind,” but then she discovered along the way something that worked better. She found she was actually more motivated in tracking her participation rather than pushing toward specific results.
When she focused on the participation, rather than the goal, she ended up enjoying the process much more.
I personally think the whole idea might just be the key to happiness.
We always seem to be shooting for pie-in-the-sky goals, don’t we? I perpetually struggle with goals for many of the same reasons Anne shares in her post.
A big lofty goal such as “I’m going to run a marathon by December 31, 2016” does two things:
- It sets itself up as something almost insurmountable from the get-go. It’s big. It’s a goal that — without small, purposeful, actionable steps — won’t happen. It’s the whole training vs. trying concept. It doesn’t matter how hard I “try” to achieve the goal. Without training, it will be impossible.
- The second thing a big goal does is make procrastination too easy. This is almost always my problem. If I know I’ve got until a certain date, I’ll put it off. I’ll surrender my everyday choices to the tyranny of the urgent, instead of making decisions based on what’s most important. And that means it’s doubtful I’ll achieve my goal, or even get close to it.
When my students used to work on a song, we rarely performed for an audiencee. We would learn our different parts and then do an impromptu “performance” during class for ourselves to enjoy. Because–again–the goal was not the finished product, but the idea of learning and growing and making music along the way. And it was always a joyful experience.
The journey was key.
Life is the same way.
The things we do daily, the small ways we live our lives and the seemingly minuscule habits and choices we make — well, these are the things that make a life. Life isn’t just the big moments of achievement. Those are only a small portion, really, of the days we’re given.
In his book, Soul Keeping, John Ortberg writes about doing life with God in the small moments. He talks about those times that take our breath away, the mountaintop experiences, when we’re amazed and in awe over what is happening, how we’re feeling, what God is doing.
And how those moments are like Easter.
Everyone loves Easter Sunday morning, when we worship and sing our hearts out and pay close attention to everything our faith has taught us. We wear our new dresses, celebrate spring, and get all excited over ham and mashed potatoes and egg hunts.
But as Ortberg says, “Every day can’t be Easter. Which is why we need to deliberately look for God in the ordinary moments of everyday life.”
The meaning truly is in all the little moments, the small things, the individual steps along the journey that end up creating a life.
It’s a lesson I wish I had known (and bought into) in my younger days. In my twenties, I believed getting married, or having kids, or owning a house, or becoming successful. . . would finally make my life mean something.
What I learned instead is this: my life meant something all along. And in the process, in the journey, with every awkward step, I was learning, growing, and making a song out of all of it.
Process over Product
The spiritual implications of “process over product” are even more significant. I alway thought–if only subconsciously–that one day I would truly arrive at a finish line. I would reach “Good Christian” status, and I’d be able to stay on that mountaintop of success forever. If I just worked hard enough, studied the Bible enough, prayed enough, served enough, I would get there eventually. I thought that’s how it worked, and it makes me chuckle now to even write those words. I’m amazed at my own naïveté.
Y’all, there is no such mountaintop.
There is no absolute point of arrival.
There is no final goal where we get to rest on our laurels and enjoy the fruits of our labor and just be done with it all. At least, not while we’re still drawing breath on this planet.
It’s the journey that counts. “Life is what happens to you while you’re making other plans.” Why can the Beatles figure this out, but followers of Jesus have such a hard time with it?
Notice the Journey
Today, just for this day, will you stop pushing and pressing so hard? Will you take a moment and pause?
- What is real and what is true and what is happening right in this moment?
- What are you feeling?
- What are you dreading?
- What are you excited about?
- Who makes you smile?
- What relaxes you?
- Where did you see God today?
These questions only scratch the surface. But as we begin to ask them, we will learn to notice, to be aware of the life we are living while in very process of living it.
The journey isn’t always easy. Far from it.
But the journey is your life. You are walking it. You are living it.
The best thing you can do is to realize it’s all about the process. Trust the end product to God, and keep taking feeble steps. And while you’re walking, don’t be surprised at the beautiful life music you create along the way.
Soak it up and enjoy the journey.
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