Tuning

Come Thou fount of every blessing. Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

“Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Today I had a rather atypical pastoral visitation. I was actually asked if I could help tune a guitar. The guitar belongs to the same lady who faithfully plays piano at our church. Both she and her husband are quite musical. I know them pretty well and love them just the same.

As it happens, I put new strings on my guitar today—and tuned those new strings for the first time. There’s nothing quite like the sound of new strings on a guitar. It always surprises me how much better fresh strings sound. Indeed, nothing sounds quite like a well-tuned guitar, all the strings vibrating harmoniously together with a simple strum.

That said, nothing sounds worse than someone trying to play an instrument out of tune. When a guitar is out of tune, fretting the strings in the right places simply won’t result in a beautiful melody or in a ear catching chord progression.

As it happens, more than instruments can get out of tune. So can we.

We get out of tune when anxiety or worry overtake us. It can happen when our everyday responsibilities fill our mind and absorb all of our attention.

When we think that somehow we’ve got to have (or do have) control over our lives and circumstances, we’re out of tune.

When we prioritize making money or having professional success, we’re out of tune.

When we try and address feelings of emptiness with food, sex, possessions, drugs, alcohol, or popularity, we’re out of tune.

When we pour ourselves into family, friends, and relationships, and live as though only this life matters, we’re out of tune.

When we ignore spiritual matters, and God gets pushed to the periphery, we’re out of tune.

We all have ways of getting out of tune. Our lives lack melody and harmony and rhythm. Sometimes we’re sensitive to it and sometimes not.

I try to keep from going to badly out of tune. I pray the Daily Office. I read Scripture and pray that my imagination and perspective are more shaped by its truth than by my circumstances or the goings on in the world around me.

I became interested in playing guitar when I found my mother’s old guitar in our apartment’s crawl-space. It hadn’t even been put in a case! Suffice to say, it was severely out of tune. I showed it to someone I knew who played guitar, to get help tuning it, but the action of the strings (the height of the strings relative to the fretboard) was so poor that tuning it became impossible. He couldn’t even comfortably press the strings to the frets and make a chord.

Eventually I got my own guitar.

Ever since I got my first guitar, I pretty regularly play and tune whatever guitar I happen to own. Taking care of it means it’s never severely out of tune. Usually, I only have to make minor adjustments.

See where I’m going? When we pay attention to our souls, and regularly practice the sorts of spiritual disciplines that orient us well according to God’s revelation of himself in Christ, then we will be more able to remain in tune with our Maker and Redeemer. The more this is so, the more we will also be sensitive to being out of tune. And the more we will experience the joy and peace of being in tune.

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