It's 1% Theory and 99% Practice
“It’s 1% theory and 99% practice,” my yoga teacher said as my head hung upside down in downward facing dog.
It’s in the doing. Practice is where the transformation happens.
I studied music from the time I was in the second grade all the way through college. I survived, though didn’t thrive, in two semesters of music theory in college. It’s foundational if one wants to make beautiful music, but the staves and notes and key signatures themselves are silent on the page and lack the ability to move us until someone practices and gives it life.
It’s the same with words. I love them, have built my varied professional life around them in some form or another. Language is powerful. But words alone on a page or ringing in the air don’t necessarily change me. The transformation is when I’m stirred by the word to some kind of movement - to lean in, to stand firm, to try again, to offer, to confess, to give, to receive.
There’s a story in Luke 17 of Jesus and ten lepers who kept their distance but cried out to him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” He looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priest.”
As far as I can tell, that’s all he said. He didn’t say, “Your faith has made you well” or “Your sins are forgiven” or any of the other things he sometimes said that ticked off the Pharisees so much.
They went, the story says, and while still on their way, became clean.
I’ve always heard this story taught or preached with the ‘moral’ being in the next part: Of the ten sick people, only one leper returned to to acknowledge the healing and thank Jesus. Gratitude, giving glory to God, that was the point. Fair enough: Gratitude is a good point - and a good practice.
But there’s more. Jesus looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves…”
Let yourself be seen- weak and sick, outcast that you are - let yourself be seen. And the healing happened “while still on their way.”
They begin to step toward an unknown, unannounced healing. They just put one foot in front of the next in the direction of the priest. They began a practice. They took a step toward letting themselves be seen. And then another step toward vulnerability. And then another step on a unknown path trusting only six words.
That is all Jesus said to them, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” And in the going they were healed.
I wonder if at least one of the ten hesitated and mumbled under his breath, “Well, is he going to heal us or not?” Or if another dragged his feet and said, “But what if the priest won’t look at us when we get there? Don’t you know we are outcast?” Did they walk in dread of the stares of others as they approached the village? The text gives us nothing except, “They went.”
They took the six words Jesus spoke, which I’m just betting they did not understand or think adequate, and in their confusion-fear-faith mix, they started walking. Whether it as immediate or after some doubting and questioning, we’ll never know, but they started walking in the direction of letting themselves be seen.
And healing started happening.
I feel like I stand there in the road and argue a lot with Jesus - or at least try to goad him into saying more, when clearly six words were enough. I want a paragraph with bold print key words, even better, a digital copy so I can touch the word and a Wikipedia page with explanations and definitions opens and a hosts of YouTube videos pops up to show me exactly what will happen to me if I do what he says. I’d like to see a mission statement, objectives to be met, and learning outcomes all stated clearly on the front end. Before I let myself be seen for healing and transformation, I want to know what will happen to me.
He doesn’t appear to work that way. The healing, the transforming - it all seems to happen in the doing, in the stepping into the unknown country without a clear picture of what happens if I let myself be seen.
It’s trusting the Voice that says let yourself be seen. And 99% practice.