Sculpture, bass playing and sabbaths...

Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure 1957, cast c.1959-61 © The Henry Moore Foundation

Working Model for Unesco Reclining Figure 1957, cast c.1959-61 © The Henry Moore Foundation

I don’t know if many of you have a favourite sculptor...but mine would have to be Henry Moore.  Here’s why...

Most of the time we treat space as the absence of “something”. It’s the bits between the real, tangible, important stuff. Space is what is left after you’ve placed all the other pieces in.  But Henry Moore used space in a different way - for him it was a thing in itself, a medium or a substance to be intentionally crafted and shaped.  In some ways, the stone, steel or wood of his sculptures is the stuff that remains around the space.  So his works often seem to defy gravity.  A few tonnes worth of granite should feel bulky, cumbersome and immovable.  But his work seems alive and fluid and light because of the way he has formed the space in and around it.

But I don’t really want To talk primarily about sculpture.  

I remember the paradigm shift when I applied this mindset to my bass playing.  The nature of bass has the tendency to be bulky, heavy and dominating - it can easily smother other elements of the music.  But I was challenged to ‘play the rests’, rather than just leave them.  To intentionally weave space as a feature throughout my bass lines.   Suddenly the groove popped, and the guitars sang and the keys breathed a sigh of relief!  And the notes I chose to frame the space with became far more “important” and articulate in the scheme of things.  I’d really encourage you to give this a try, whatever instrument you play - and particularly if you’re playing in a congregational setting.  We don’t often rehearse with the congregation there, and our tendency can be to fill out the sound as far as we can as musicians.  So when we then join with the congregation, we can smother or dominate them with a wall of sound (and I’m not just talking about volume here).  If we intentionally craft space into our arrangements in our rehearsals, we leave the door open for the congregation to join in.

But I don’t really want to talk primarily about music!

I’m having another paradigm shift at the moment...this time in focus and time management. (Yep, this seems totally off thread...but stick with me). I’ve been really challenged reading Deep Work by Cal Newport to think about intentionally giving my best time and focus to the most important things and activities. But I realised that as I schedule and chart up and time manage away, I can so easily approach rest (in a biblical ‘sabbathing’ sense) the same way as we often do with physical space or music rest - I treat it as what’s left over after all the other important stuff has been put in place.  But that was never God's intention...

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
— Deuteronomy 20:8-11

This rest that God has given us is to be holy, set apart, devoted to God. A priority, an essential 'thing in itself' and not just the left overs around the other stuff.  When I'm prioritising this rest, I proclaim to those around me (and myself!) a dependence upon God's sovereign love and provision.  This rest exalts God's character, grace and worth, and it humbles me.  In not doing things, we do something of eternal significance - we worship! 

But this isn't natural or easy for us. In a culture that celebrates our own self-sufficiency and hard won achievements, it's easy to think that our ministry success hangs upon our effort and hard work.  With God's help, we need to be intentional about our rest. 

We all know we need rest from work, but we don’t realize we have to work hard just to rest. We have to plan for breaks. We have to schedule time to be unscheduled. That’s the way life is for most of us. Scattered, frantic, boundary-less busyness comes naturally. The rhythms of work and rest require planning.
— DeYoung, Kevin. Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem (Kindle Locations 1097-1099). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

So next time you're tempted to keep pushing through, remember Henry Moore and bass lines, and "play the rest" for God's glory!