Midweek Musing for 12-28-2024 Muscle Memory
Beyond the season of Advent and Christmas, any football fan will also tell you it is bowl season. If I counted correctly, there are 43 Bowl games this season. Now some folks will say that is far too many games but for me the ability for college kids to get a chance to celebrate their hard work and success is a good thing. Plus, it puts something on TV that I enjoy watching.
Of course, to get to a bowl game you have to be successful in the regular season and win at least as many games as you have lost. And every coach will tell you to be successful on gameday you have to practice hard and with precision. All coaches are clear that success on Saturday afternoons has everything to do with what has happened in practice the days and weeks before.
All great coaches however know it's more than time spent working hard; it is also time spent doing the work with precision. Position coaches work on little things that fans don’t even see. Footwork and hand placement, body position and correct stance. Coaches have players do these things over and over and over again. Through repetition they are seeking to build muscle memory, so that it becomes so natural you don’t have to even think about what or how to do it when the pressure is high.
Now sports is not the only place where muscle memory is built. Firefighters, police officers, paramedics, surgeons, nurses and so many more professions work on creating precise muscle memory to achieve great results. This is why surgeons-to-be practice precise techniques with non-human items and pilots practice emergency scenarios in simulators. It’s why dancers and musicians may do a short part of the dance or musical score again and again until it is literally ingrained in them.
For me, I am able to put a work order in our computer system at school or look up a student’s demographics even while talking to someone on the phone. No thought about those keyboard clicks required.
My freshman year of college my roommate was a piano major. Even just sitting around talking or watching TV his fingers were in constant motion, subconsciously practicing whatever masterpiece he was currently working on.
Sara Speed in her poem below notes that muscle memory is actually a part of creating a strong faith. We don’t call it that, we call it ritual and habit. And sometimes they seem repetitive to the point of absurd. Why worship weekly, why pray daily, why read the same stories over and over again from the Bible.
Well one reason I believe is because when life gets hard and painful and storm waves are crashing all around us, we hear those words and promises in our heads and hearts without even having to reach out for them.
When our home was burning many years ago now, I remember distinctly watching the firefighters do their thing and thinking – “In life or in death we belong to God.” I do not know where it came from. There were thousands of other things going on around me but having heard it in church, beginning with singing “Jesus Loves Me” to Bible studies and especially in worship, it had simply become part of my DNA.
Friends this is why all of the things we do to grow closer to God are important.
And when someone tells me “I don’t go to church because it doesn’t do anything for me,” I respond with “well that’s not really the point of worship…but I promise if you do go faithfully, it will do something to you that will make all the difference, especially when you need it most.”
Blessings for your week,
By Rev. Sarah Speed
When the world falls apart around me,
when the rug is pulled,
and the house is on fire,
when all I can do
is swallow the cry in my throat,
take me to the table.
Tell me how people have fed each other.
Tell me how they’ve torn the bread
with wrinkled hands
and children’s hands.
Tell me how they’ve said, This love is for you,
as they looked you in the eye.
Then take me to the font.
Float my hands in the pool.
Let me feel weightless.
Tell me to leave my burdens there.
Then take me to the front doors.
Remind me how we throw them open.
Take me to the creaky pews,
pews that have held the straightened spines
and silent prayers of so many.
Take me to church.
Move me through the rituals.
Tell me why it matters,
so that next time,
when someone else’s world falls apart,
I will have the muscle memory to share.