Lately, I have been listening a lot to Dave Brubeck and Paul Desmond. I hope you know who they are; but if not, you need to. They are jazz masters. American classics. In fact, here’s a taste; what is probably their best-known song, “Take Five.”
You know how some people live life on a whim? Whatever they feel, they do. Whatever strikes them in the moment becomes the moment. Frankly, this is the musical equivalent of setting a three-year-old loose on the piano. It isn’t going to sound very good — and it isn’t going anywhere.
On the other end are those who live life with very little spontaneity. These are folks whose lives look remarkably the same week to week. It’s Monday night at 8:00, and they are in front of the TV set — because that’s what they always do on Mondays at 8. It’s Friday night, so you know where to find them — because they always eat at the same place on Friday night. This is the musical equivalent of a kid who has learned to play Chopsticks on the piano. And so he plays it over and over and over, not changing a thing — because, well, that’s the only way he knows how play the song.
But jazz is different. It is not a musical whim, where the artist plays whatever she wants. But neither is it musical rigidity, where the notes are on the page — so they must be played exactly as they appear. Instead, jazz is what I would call intentional spontaneity. It begins as real notes and a real tune. But because the master jazz musician knows the music, he can let it flow. He can take the notes on the page and riff on them. In other words, he knows the music so well he can make it come alive.
I think this is what jazz and faith have in common. As Christians, our lives aren’t purposeless, led by the whims of the moment. But neither are they rigid, rule-following day-followed-by-same-old-day. Instead, faith in Jesus is about knowing him so well that we learn to live out that knowledge in a daily-changing, daily-growing relationship.
And those who know Jesus get to know others who know Jesus. And we learn to make the music that is life, together. Where we play the same notes together, but differently, as we play them day-by-day. With Joy. And Expression. And Life. Something like intentional spontaneity.
So, maybe you don’t like jazz. Maybe it’s not your kind of music. That’s ok. I’m not asking you to like jazz. But I am asking you to live a jazz-like faith. One that knows the music, and the Master, and His people so well, that you know how to play His tune — freely, joyfully, with life — everyday.
P.S. If you want to see Brubeck and Desmond do the same song, differently, click here. It’s an older version of Take Five. Dave Brubeck’s hair is shorter. The song is longer. But it’s the same song — played differently, but never losing sight of the melody. A lot like life. A lot like faith.