When I was little, I bit and pulled at my fingernails. They stayed far too short, and still I’d pick at them. I don’t remember what it was that made me stop, but I do know that the change was sudden. I just decided I wasn’t going to do it anymore. Almost immediately, my nails began to grow long and strong, and for the next twenty-five or so years, I thoroughly enjoyed long fingernails. I never had a manicure or anything like that, but I would shape the nails and paint them and do my best to take care of them.
Until about two months ago when I chopped them all off.
Now, it might not seem like a big deal to you that I chopped them off. After all, nails grow back, right? And, my nails grow very quickly. In order to keep them short, I can’t go more than a couple of days without trimming them. So, at any point I could let them grow back. But, my determination was that I wouldn’t have long nails anymore. Why? Because I wanted to learn to play the piano.
I’ve tried many times to learn to play. I know music pretty well. Not advanced theory, mind you. And, I used to know more theory than I do now. But, I’m competent with music theory, and I can’t pick it back up easily. But implementation is a totally different story. My brain and my fingers communicate wonderfully about many things. But, playing an instrument is just not one of those things. It does not come naturally, and I have to work hard to make it work.
I’m sure I’ll never be an accomplished pianist, but I really want to learn to be somewhat comfortable on the instrument. But, to do so I knew I had to cut off those fingernails. Sure enough, it make a huge difference in my ability to rest my fingers properly on the keys, and it even allowed me to play the exercises with more strength. It was going to be worth the loss of my fingernails, I was sure.
Then came an odd week. Many extra tasks were on the to-do list, and I was facing a schedule that would reduce the amount of time at home to complete those tasks. So, several less important routine things had to be set aside for the week, including piano.
Three weeks later, I looked down at my hands and noticed something. My fingernails were long again. It suddenly dawned on me that I had not even thought about them since that week I intentionally put aside piano. I had gotten back to normal on most things, but obviously not piano. And not keeping my nails short. In fact, it had been so easy to fall back to the old normal that I hadn’t even noticed the piano was being neglected and my nails were growing long again. And I’m even sure that somewhere along the way I pulled out the nail clippers and file and shaped them without giving it a second thought!
Times come in our lives when we make firm decisions. We give up something. We change something. We determine to be different. To walk away from a bad habit. To establish new and constructive habits. To grow. To better ourselves. To draw closer to the Lord. But what happens when life gets in the way? What happens when we drift back and don’t even realize it because the old is so familiar? What happens then?
There’s only one thing to do. Start all over. This morning, I cut all my fingernails off again. Piano practice will probably not be on the agenda for a couple of days this week because of other things, but the nails had to go anyway. They had to be cut off to remind me of the commitment I’d made. It wasn’t a short-term, shallow commitment. It was something I wanted to make permanent. It can’t be permanent if I let my nails grow back every time I have to make a choice between piano and some of the more important things on my list. And, really, the issue goes much deeper than that. My dedication to keeping my commitment to learn basic piano is reflective of my commitment to stick to deeper, spiritual commitments as well.
What commitments have faded in your life? What do you need to reestablish? Don’t give up just because you’ve been temporarily derailed. Get up now and determine to get back to it! You won’t be sorry.