I was out of town last week, headed to an early morning meeting. I pulled off the exit hoping to find a place for a quick breakfast before I arrived.
Panera Bread? Perfect. I know it’s going to be a good day —so I swing in, order a breakfast sandwich and coffee. While I’m waiting I notice the guy down the counter making my sandwich is dancing. He’s not just swaying to the music, this guy is laying down some pretty complicated moves. His feet, hips, his whole body is involved in this dance. His knife is a drum stick and my sandwich is his drum pad. 6:30 in the morning and here’s a young guy, wide awake, dancing hip hop to the sound of Panera’s sleepy elevator soundtrack. Quite an amusing picture.
Then he brought me the sandwich and it made sense —he had little ear buds in. I ask him about it and he says, “Ah, man, I can’t listen to this stuff all day. It’d make me crazy. I gotta listen to my own stuff.”
Reminded me of the saying, “He marches to the beat of a different drummer.” Have you ever said that about someone? Has anyone ever said it about you? The idea being that there’s a normal rhythm or order people tend to follow but somehow one person breaks that norm —they hear what others don’t hear and they move according to what they hear rather than how others move.
Take Five by Dave Brubeck is one of my favorite pieces of music. Take a listen to it below:
What’s unique about Dave’s style is that he experimented with very different time signatures and played in multiple keys simultaneously. As a teenager, he’d ride horses on the large ranch his dad managed and from the saddle he’d listen to the rhythmic clip clap of the horses hooves and try to think of other beats to play against it in his mind. “Now, the horse might be keeping one rhythm for you,” he said, “but you can start another one and then think in another one.”
Dave wasn’t confined to a preset rhythm…You aren’t confined either. You can march to the beat of a different drummer.
This saying is actually from a poem of Thoreau’s, “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”
I submit to you that the path to joy proceeds along a route far different from the one most traveled, and if you are to ever experience true joy, you must first learn to hear that “other drummer.”
True joy is either always possible or always elusive because it doesn’t depend on your circumstance.
…And Here’s How the Different Drumbeat Enters
You don’t need to escape your present life to experience a completely different reality. It has nothing to do with a particular geography, position, person or specific ratio of pleasure to pain. True joy is not circumstantial…it’s dispositional. It’s a different drumbeat, a life set in rhythm to a different drummer.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 4:4-7
The apostle Paul here is laying out this radically different route to joy —assuring us that always and anywhere joy is possible.
Why? There is one single reason why you don’t need to exercise complete sovereignty over your life and take on all of the burdens and anxieties: God is near.
It’s really quite amazing. The longer and closer I walk with the Lord, the more I see His hand in creation —and the more I see His hand, the easier it is to trust Him. And there is a really important caveat to make here: Paul is writing to Spirit-filled believers. This only makes sense if God’s Spirit is alive in you. If God’s Spirit is not alive in you, it won’t make sense, and it will never make sense until the Holy Spirit regenerates your life. But when He does, you’ll begin to recognize what I mean by a different drumbeat. You’ll hear differently, you’ll move differently, and you will experience the fulfillment of these promises of joy and peace.
In verse 7, it’s as if Paul finds a secret place, “the peace of God that is beyond understanding.”
It’s beyond understanding when current circumstances don’t look like the perfect ground for joy and peace, but we know differently. We know that if we choose to hear that “other drummer,” though it may be a distant sound at first, the more we lean in to it, the louder it will become —and although outwardly our joy doesn’t seem to make sense, it is coming from another place. You’ve got the earbuds in, and you hear what others don’t hear. You see what they don’t see.
…And Then It Becomes Your Reality
Joy is not circumstantial, it’s not just a passive feeling when the ratio of pleasure to pain is highly in our favor. It’s dispositional. It’s a different drumbeat, a life set in rhythm to a different drummer.
Choose to hear it.
Our bodies constantly convert food into energy and discard everything else. It’s an automatic process. Our minds should do the same. Every circumstance, every situation is redeemable. We find the good, the pure, the noble, the upright, and we release everything else. The story we tell is always redemptive, it’s always a story of hope. But unlike our bodies, this process of conversion is not automatic in our thoughts, we have to choose it. Like Dave Brubeck said about rhythm, you can set your minds to hear a different beat and then think in it.
This is the process Paul is describing here:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. —Philippians 4:8
I invite you to pick up your ear buds and hear the other drummer today.