{Don't} Pratice Patiently

Practice Patience. A sign posted in the kitchen as a reminder to grandma, who didn't really need reminding of many things, noted in yearly birthday cards and recollection of my favorite athlete and what books I was reading in grade school. But a small play on my grandmother's reminder has greatly changed the outlook I have for practice. Practice patiently?

A 2009 study published by Robert Duke titled It's Not How Much; It's How has created a small crisis regarding my misreading of Grandma's sign. In a Time piece by Anne Murphy Paul, Duke's study is shown to videotape advanced piano students practicing difficult pieces from a Shostakovich concerto. Duke and colleagues ranked the students' performances and found no relationship between the excellence of the performance and the amount of time spent practicing. What separated a good performance from an excellent performance was how the students handled errors during practice.

Duke noted that the best performances were by students who addressed their mistakes immediately in practice sessions. Duke's research insinuates that "perfect practice makes perfect" is most true when mistakes are addressed instantly.

The theme of Duke's findings carry over into the social sphere aswell. When God's people practice Christianity patiently in the pew, hoping for change and reform, their practice is perfected for the sanctuary. However, if God's people actively practice faith in the secular world, addressing mistakes and conflicts immediately, they will be able to greater reflect the Perfect Creator.

This theme is integral to retaining the successes today's culture has enjoyed. The frabric of the modern world has been knit with the thread of Christianity, and in order to retain the social integrity of this culture, the threads of Christianity must be reinforced.

This theme of girding a Biblically-based view of culture can be seen in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter written from jail in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. King, an outspoken leader for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960's was encouraged not to release the letter for fear of isolating the Civil Rights Movement from some Christian brothers and sisters. King wrote the following exhortation and called-out his fellow believers practice of Christianity:

...My Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice...Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.


Dr. King's frustration is reinforced in Phillip Cary's Good News for Anxious Christians. Cary identifies the bewildering look of college students in his university classroom. Cary, seeking to encourage young evangelicals writes:

It really is a labyrinth in there, in our hearts. For nearly every good thing we could do, we have mixed motives-some good, some bad, many of them obscure, and lots of them tangled up with each other...You have to give up poking around in the inner labyrinth of your own mixed motives and ask about the realities outside your own heart. You have to be able to tell what's good and bad out there.


Cary identifies a common obstacle for practicing faith in the college Christian. A primary challenge for the maturing believer is a fear that their motives are not correct. This fear of "duty vs. love" has led many young Christians to resort to pew practicing Christianity, avoiding conflicts in the secular world out of "love". Cary writes:


So what really results from trying to do good things out of love, not duty is that you do them out of guilt. Indeed a good many of our efforts at Christian love these days are really forms of guilt assuagement, attempts to convince ourselves that we're going good, loving Christians, the way "we as Christians" are supposed to be. The old-fashioned notion that you should do your duty is much less likely to make you feel guilty, and much more likely to lead you to Christian love. That's why it used to be so central to Christian morality-which, as I said before, has fallen on hard times recently. 


Principal Isaac implored students to practice their faith daily at Hillcrest. His recent chapel message called Hillcrest's young men to practice spiritual leadership and defend and protect those they're around. He called the young women to create habits of devotion and live a life reflecting the purity and holiness of Christ.

Mr. Isaac highlighted the reality that students won't always practice this perfectly, however with a heart set on knowing Christ their lives will genuinely make Him known through impatient practice of their faith, addressing faults and failures immediately through repentance and received redemption in Jesus Christ.

Hillcrest Academy