On Sunday mornings I begin the day by playing classical music on the piano for an hour or so. Last Sunday I was playing a sonata when I hit a tricky passage full of “grace notes”—extra notes added as embellishments though not essential to the harmony. I noticed a footnote in the musical score, and at the bottom of the page a commentary on the passage began with this line: “Grace is not compatible with haste.” I stopped playing and contemplated this unexpected lesson in spirituality from Beethoven’s editor.
I’ve thought about that sentence often this week. When I’m trying to get off the phone and return to work. When I eat too fast without even tasting the food. When I’m anxious to end a conversation with a “hanger-on” at church. When I race down the canyon on my bicycle and fail to notice the plucky little evergreens growing on snow-laced rocks. When I’m tempted to fire off a response on social media without giving it more calm thought. When I get sucked into the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. When I focus more on the future than the present. When I’m praying.
I remember reading C. S. Lewis’s description of Jesus-followers in “Mere Christianity”: “They will not be very like the idea of ‘religious people’ which you have formed from your general reading. They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less….They will usually seem to have a lot of time: you will wonder where it comes from.”
I’m learning where the extra time comes from: a daily awareness that grace is not compatible with haste.