Monday, July 30, 2007

The Parable of My Father's Guitar

(For some reason blogger put this post in out of order. This is the latest addition to the blog

I've been contemplating my father's guitar and thinking about church.

A moment of confession. I love guitar music and have always wanted to play. My fear of failure always holds me back. My dad's guitar isn't anything fancy or expensive. It's a simple instrument and he taught himself to play on it. I hope to do the same thing.

When I pulled it out of the guitar case I realized we had a few problems. The tuners were loose and one knob's shaft was bent. The bridge at the bottom (that's the wooden thing that holds the pegs that hold the strings) was cracked. As I looked at the bridge I saw that either originally or as a repair someone had drilled two holes in in it and put a pair of small bolts in to hold it. The crack ran right between the two bolts, from one end to the other. And the pegs couldn't hold the strings properly.

I'm not a luthier (that's an expert who builds and/or repairs guitars) and I don't have much money for this project. So I did a little research. The tuners were easy and not very expensive. When I was done the guitar looked 100x better. Now I'll be able to tune each string perfectly. The bridge wasn't expensive but it worries me more. The peg holes need to be drilled (they're started but not the whole way through) and I'll need to glue it in place. That means preparing the wood on the body of the guitar, sanding it carefully to remove the old adhesive. The carefully aligning it. Making sure that the saddle, the piece the strings actually rest on, is set just right.

And I keep thinking to myself "It would just be easier to pitch this in the trash and get a new guitar. One that doesn't come with these 'inherited' problems."

The problem for me is that it's important that this was my father's guitar. There's some tradition there, and it helps me feel a little closer to my dad, who died several years ago. With a little care I may be able to pass it along to another generation for them to learn to play as well. To do that means I have to make a few sacrifices, I have to learn some new skills, and I have to care for the things that have been passed along to me.

As I thought about that guitar it struck me that it's a lot like the church. We inherit it from our parents (and those before). It's not always in perfect shape. Some things wear out or aren't able to do their jobs the way we want them done. Some ideas (or repairs) just haven't held up very well. It would be easy for us to just say "The hell with it. We're going to pitch all this stuff over the side and do a new thing. One that works for us."

To do that means we need to pitch our parents and all those others who came before over the side as well. It means we've decided that this is really only about us. And those who come after us? Well they get whatever they get.

Instead we should take a look at what we've inherited. The body is strong and the neck is straight. The tuners don't work properly any more but we just need a newer version of the same thing. The bridge is broken and needs replaced. The strings are stretched and no longer hold a note. New strings will make the guitar sound a little different but soon that voice will become familiar as it sounds the notes.

In the end it will look a little different. And it will sound a little different. The essence of the instrument will remain the same. It will be ready for me to pass along to the next player. Because in the end it isn't my guitar, I'm only caring for it for a while.



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