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  • Betsy James

When Instincts Lie


I have been gifted with and have developed (over the course of many years) some fairly reliable musical instincts. Most of the time those instincts serve me well - but on occasion they get me in trouble. My most recent struggle was with a karaoke track that one of my voice students was using for her recital song. All of my instincts told me that verse one would begin in measure 7 but alas, this was never the case. For some reason the composer decided to begin in measure 9, which felt all wrong but nobody asked me. Because I am so used to "leaning on my own understanding" I consistently began the song early and thus led my sweet little vocal student to begin incorrectly as well. It took several weeks of rehearsal before I was able to set aside my instincts and instead, submit to the composer's ideas - and even though the start felt unnatural, the song went much better when we started in the right place.

Just this morning as I was confessing a particular sin (yet again) I started to think about this song and about how my instincts sometimes lie. It is so easy to lean on our understanding and to falsely believe that a particular sin or wayward path is truth and life because everything in our heart and mind and body says, "yes, this is the way, walk in it!" And yet, those paths are not part of the Composer's design and invariably lead to chaos and mess and having to begin again.

My instincts, musical and otherwise, are not always wrong but when I come across an area that consistently trips me up, I need to put less stock in my feelings and more stock in God's word. I wonder how many times I will need to rehearse these tricky parts before I will be able to put aside my confused understanding and lean instead on Christ? How many times must I get it wrong before I get it right? I am thankful that the Lord is patient and that His mercies are new each morning, aren't you?

Our instincts are not always wrong but when they disagree with God's word we must be willing to lay them aside in order to take hold of Christ. I admit that I am struggling with this. I get it wrong about as often as I get it right, but when I think about my children I am more motivated. Just like my young voice student who followed me into the wrong place in the song, our waywardness affects multiple people - multiple generations.

Lord, help us to build our lives on the truth of Your word. Let Your truth be louder and weightier than our instincts and may we not be ruled by our hearts but may our hearts bow to You. Amen.

1 John 3:20 - God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.

Isaiah 30:20 - but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.


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