Sustain

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”

– Psalm 55:22 (NRSV)

My mother taught me to play piano beginning at age four. After I learned the basics, she started teaching me to use the pedals, one of which is the sustain pedal. It’s the one that makes the strings sustain until the pedal is released. If the pianist keeps the pedal pressed throughout an entire song, the notes blend into all the other notes and it makes a big mess. Sustain is something that can’t be sustained all the time.

If we don’t understand this principle that also applies to life in general, we can get frustrated. Projects, relationships, and even meaningful moments have a sustain period much like sustaining piano notes for a measure or two. Even if the pedal is pressed indefinitely, the strings eventually stop vibrating and the keys have to be played again. There is a cycle. Melodies are played and the sustain pedal is pressed and released repeatedly. When things in life aren’t sustaining, it’s time to go to work playing the song again.

We see this cycle in our relationship with the Creator. We play the melody by praying and then that relationship sustains us through life. Again, it won’t sustain indefinitely, so we shouldn’t get frustrated and think God isn’t listening. Whatever is sustainable is only so because we are able to continuing playing its song.

So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music in some living form will accompany and sustain it and give it expressive meaning.

Aaron Copland