For the first two years of high school, I learned how to toot my trumpet while walking in strange patterns, dressed in polyester green pants with a large top-hot (or sometimes a small black beret) — yes, I was in Marching Band.
Unlike many of my friends, I didn’t enjoy marching band all that much. There were definitely some fun moments, but overall, band just wasn’t my thing. (Although you should ask me sometime about the time I hopped out of formation to shake the hand of Prince Phillip when we were marching in the Prince Phillip parade in Canada. It’s a good story.) I’m sure part of the problem was that I just wasn’t very committed to being a better trumpet player, and I’m sure the other part was that marching in the fall in Oregon is often a chilly, and frequently a soggy experience.
I remember showing up for band camp for the first time, my freshman year of high school. We started camp a couple of weeks before school started and while the football players were running through summer drills, we were learning how to walk. Literally. You see, in order to march and play an instrument, you have to be able to move without “bouncing”. If your whole body is bouncing up and down while you walk, it’s very challenging to keep a trumpet on your lips and sound coming out of the trumpet.
So to walk smoothly, you do an interesting heel-to-toe movement and really roll out your pace. But it’s also important that you not take too large a step or the movement isn’t as effective. To help us learn this pace, especially for us newbie freshmen, there was a place called “The Quad” set up outside the band room at one of the entrances to the school.
Basically the quad was 5-sided design (odd to call it a “quad”, right?) painted on the ground that had little hash marks every 18” or so (I’m not sure of the exact measurements). The point of the quad was to walk around it, over and over, making sure that on every step your heel landed on the next hash. The quad was teaching us how far to step, while allowing us to get comfortable with the rolling movement.
It was also a torture device and a fine source of punishment. On more than one occasion our band teacher, Mr. Jones, would be so frustrated with our lack of focus or attention, he’d simply point outside and say, “Hit the quad!” and then watch us walk for the next 20 minutes while he figured out how to get through to us. Freshman had to walk the quad more than anyone else, too, as we had the most to learn about marching. During that first band camp (two weeks long) I probably spent 40 hours walking the quad.
We had to endure the quad so that when performance time came, we were ready to show we knew how to “march” in-step with the music. The quad wasn’t the fun part of marching band, but without it, I’m not sure we ever would have had the right look. Some people would have been taking quick brisk steps out on the field, while others would have been strolling. The quad made everyone’s step look the same, so that on the field, we marched as a unit. The quad made it possible for us to compete.
Do you practice walking? Probably not, because unless you’ve had an injury or been in an accident, you’ve been walking most of your life and have it down pretty well. But what about walking in your faith? Do you ever practice that?
I think most of us treat the Overboard Life like a series of unconnected events. We kind of think that there will be these moments when we have to step out in faith, have to really trust God, but in-between those moments, life just kind of scoots by. It’s almost like we wait around for the marching band performance at the half-time of the football game, but we don’t spend any time in the quad before hand.
The reality is, when those big moments come to test our faith, we won’t be ready to march if haven’t been practicing before hand! In 2 Peter 1, Peter tells us how to practice exercising our faith:
“For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.” (2 Peter 1:5-7). Faith is the foundation, but we grow in our faith by “practicing” the others virtues. This is how we make sure we’re ready when the next test of our faith comes. Look what Peter writes next: “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” We practice so that we’re ready to produce.
How’s your practice going? Are you wanting to march without taking the time to work the quad? The best marching happens after we’ve prepared ourselves. Likewise, your faith will grow through practice, by adding to it according to 2 Peter, so that when the time comes to get out of the boat, you’ll already know how to walk on water. The Overboard Life isn’t a series of events where we exercise our faith in key moments, it’s a lifestyle we practice every day!
13 down, 27 to go.
Go ahead and take the plunge, life is better, every day, on the water!