At the age of 4, Joshua Bell stretched rubber bands around the handles of his dresser drawers so that he could pluck out tunes like he’d heard his mother play on the piano. When his parents discovered what he’d done, they gave him his first violin, a 1/16th-size instrument.
Ten years later, Bell made his professional debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra. At 17, he played at Carnegie Hall.
Now 36 and a Grammy-award winning violinist, he still speaks fondly of his maestro, Josef Gingold, and the lessons he learned from him.
A Russian immigrant, Gingold came to the United States in 1920. He had played under Arturo Toscanini and George Szell, later played with the NBC Symphony Orchestra and went on to become the Cleveland Orchestra’s concertmaster. But Gingold was a teacher at heart who treasured working with children, passing along his love of music.
Bell was 12 when he first became Gingold’s student, a relationship that continued for nine years.
“He helped me create a very personal relationship with music, but he did not teach me how to play every note,” Bell wrote. “Many teachers have students copy all their fingerings. Gingold gave me the tools to teach myself—chamber music, solos, anything.
“My teacher taught me that music could be more than a hobby. It could be a life.”
Perhaps the greatest lesson Bell learned from Gingold was the value of continuing education. Some teachers “spoon-feed these young people every musical idea. At some point they feel they don’t need teaching anymore, so they stop learning. Gingold was always learning. So am I.”
Those serious about following Christ in discipleship know that it, too, is a life, a way of life, life itself. We live it best and fullest when we realize we always have much to learn and stay closely connected to the Teacher.
The first followers of Christ could not have known all that was involved when Jesus said, “Follow me,” yet something was so compelling about Jesus that they agreed to follow him exclusively. He was their teacher, their maestro. The world was their classroom; interpersonal relationships often formed their lessons.
Unlike those early followers, we have the advantage of generations who have also followed, lived and learned. We have the wisdom of centuries of faithful Christians who’ve passed along acquired knowledge. We’ve had the benefit of Sunday schools, Bible studies, vacation Bible schools, campus ministries, mission trips and countless other Christian education opportunities.
Through all of those experiences, we’ve probably learned something about what it means to follow Christ. But none can match the lessons we learn when we respond daily to his call to “Follow me.”
Mark’s Gospel records for us in fast and forthright style snippets from Jesus’ life that show us how we best do that. It’s clear that following Jesus involves more than what we say we believe. It includes what we do and how we do it. And it all begins with an exclusive followship born out of unprecedented love.
Jan Turrentine is managing editor of Acacia Resources.